I’m salad dressing combo-making inept.
I grew up in a culture and age where salads were mostly either made with vinegar + salt + pepper or mayo. I don’t remember salads being a big part of our meals in Manila when I was young. We had our double starches (rice, bread and noodles — any combination of those) to go with the main courses. Fresh or steamed vegetables were dipped in sauces like vinegar with anchovies, soy sauce and calamansi (my favorite), or mayo and ketchup. I have a very good taste memory, but without any childhood recollection of taste combinations, I’m at a loss in a salad-inclusive North America. I even avoided volunteering to bring a salad to potlucks. It stressed me out just to think about it. [It still does.] I would gladly make you pie or cake. You can just see my deer-in-the-headlights look.
One of my cooking-related goals this year is to get in there, try as many dressings/salads (sorry, friends and family), and make some more until I can whip them together with ease. I have a 50% failing rate as far as my own rating system goes–I’m hard on myself, but that helps me keep improving. I still have a lot to learn.
This dressing I’m sharing today is not one of those failures. This is my go-to recipe over the past year, my saving grace when my mind is blank at the end of the day and we have some beautiful vegetables to eat fresh. It’s a light sesame ginger dressing that has been well-received during family dinners. If we can make the kids eat a few bites of veggies, it’s considered a win.
It tastes similar to the light dressing that comes with the house salad at a Japanese restaurant. If you like that, you will love this. There’s just enough boost of flavor, but it lets the vegetables shine. It’s good to start with some lovely produce.
- 4 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1½ tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon minced shallots or red onion
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar (you can also use maple syrup or honey)
- ⅛ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl and drizzle or toss with your salad ingredients. Add salt, pepper and sweetener according to your taste. Just remember that it would usually taste sweeter later on.
Vegetables: Works very well with tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, carrots, lots of salad greens (lettuce, arugula, etc.), sprouts, etc.
Nuts: Lightly toasted shaved almonds and pecans, pepitas, sesame seeds.
Dried fruits: Cranberries, blueberries, etc.
You can also add some fresh or fried tofu, seared beef or tuna, slices of chicken breast.