Cooking Class with Chef Ivan Flowers: Lesson Eleven - Salad Dressings

By Chef Ivan Flowers,

Last week we tackled artichokes and learned a few ways to cook with them. This week you are going to learn how to make a variety of salad dressings.

Now that summer is here we are all trying to eat lighter and healthier. For many of us, myself included, that means lots of salads. And let’s face it, what makes most salads is the dressing! I know there are many delicious commercial salad dressings available, but trust me, nothing is better than a salad dressed with homemade dressing.

Additionally, if you read the labels of most commercial dressings they are loaded with salt, sugar and preservatives. In this class I will teach you three salad dressings, but remember, you can use the techniques you learn and create your own signature dressing.

Let’s get cooking.

First, I will teach you how to make a Caesar dressing. The one I’m teaching you has no anchovies, so it is vegetarian and can be eaten by those that have seafood allergies. This recipe will make a quart of dressing that will stay good in the fridge for up to ten days.

Let’s start with the ingredients. First, get out your blender and make sure it is completely dry inside. If there is any water in it, the dressing won’t emulsify.

Next, you will need ½ cup of pasteurized egg yolks. Now, these are available in most grocery stores and they are pasteurized to kill any contaminants. If you can’t find them, then you can use three regular egg yolks.

You will also need one teaspoon Dijon mustard. This will work with the lecithin in the egg yolks to emulsify the dressing.

Also, two tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 cup of water, one cup of good Parmesan cheese, one tablespoon garlic puree (equal ratios of garlic and canola oil blended until smooth) 24 ounces of canola oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Why do we use canola oil and not olive oil? Two reasons, first is it is a light flavor, so it will let the other ingredients in your dressing shine. Secondly, it is light in viscosity, so it blends easily with other ingredients.

Let’s make the dressing!

Into the blender put the egg yolks, mustard and garlic puree. With the blender on medium-high, slowly drizzle in HALF of the canola oil. The dressing at this point will be very thick. This is the point where that ½ cup of water comes in. With the blender on medium, add in the water. You will see the dressing loosen up a little and be a little less thick. We do this because it creates the space we need to add the cup of Parmesan and lemon juice, but still keep it emulsified. Add in the Parmesan and lemon juice and blend again on high speed.

Finally, put back on medium-high and drizzle in the second half of the canola oil. Don’t forget your salt and pepper at the finish! This is not only great on salads, but makes a delicious spread on sandwiches.

Next, I will teach you a very good, all-purpose dressing. This is great on salads, but can also be used on fish, veggies and chicken. What I’m about to teach you is one of my favorite dressings. Again, this recipe makes a quart and the dressing will stay good in the fridge for up to ten days (if it lasts that long!).

Here is what you will need: a blender, the juice of two oranges, two lemons, two limes, tablespoon Dijon mustard, teaspoon granulated garlic, teaspoon red wine vinegar, 24 ounces canola oil, cup fresh baby spinach, two packets low calorie sweetener or one tablespoon sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

In the blender put the mustard, all the citrus juice and the sweetener. With the blender on medium-high, drizzle in all of the canola oil. Once combined, add the garlic and the ½ cup spinach. Then blend until completely mixed into the dressing.

Why the spinach? It is a little secret I use! It adds fabulous color and helps to keep the dressing emulsified, while adding virtually no flavor. Finally, salt and pepper to taste. I like this on a summer salad of strawberries, celery, sweet onion, tomato, avocado, arugula, romaine and goat cheese.

Last, I will teach you a quick dressing you can make without a blender, a cilantro-lime vinaigrette. In a large bowl combine one bunch cilantro finely chopped, ½ cup canola oil, juice of three limes, one teaspoon finely minced shallots (if you don’t have shallots use in equal parts, garlic and onion), pinch of sea salt and fresh black pepper. Whisk all ingredients vigorously and use immediately. If you want to make it ahead, add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, this will keep it from separating.

There you have it, recipes and techniques that will take you through the summer with deliciously dressed salads. As with any technique or recipe, the most important component is the cook’s heart. The heart is what creates delicious.

Chef Ivan Flowers brings 25 years of fine cuisine experience to Top of The Market, San Diego. Prior to becoming Executive Chef at Top of The Market, Chef Flowers owned Fournos restaurant in Sedona, Arizona, named a top 25 restaurant in Arizona. He was also Executive Chef at L’Auberge de Sedona, the AAA Four-Diamond, Four Star award winning restaurant. Flowers has created extraordinary cuisine for some of the finest restaurants in Arizona, including T. Cooks at Scottsdale's Royal Palms Resort and the Phoenician's Mary Elaine's and Different Pointe of View.

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