Although it’s hard for us food-purists to admit, there are some things that taste just as good store-bought at they do homemade. It is sad but true, that the little pre-made packages of chocolate chip cookie dough are a fine stand-in for the ones you make at home, and that certain brands of marinara sauce really do come pretty darn close to tasting like the batch that spent the afternoon simmering away on your stove. The Sabra brand hummus is definitely creamier than anything I have ever made in my food processor, and I doubt I will ever have the time or interest in making pickles that taste as good as the ones that come out the of Beit Hashita can (an Israeli brand, available at your local kosher market).
The same can most definitely not be said when it comes to salad dressing.
There is no substitute for the way a salad dressing that you make fresh, yourself, can taste. I have yet to find a store bought dressing, or dressing-mix that comes anywhere near to tasting as good as the dressings I make at home (believe me, I’ve looked — salad dressing is not my favorite thing to make…). The key is to make big batches of a few different options, so that you do not have to always prepare a dressing before dinner (they can be a little time consuming and add to your prep-time unnecessarily. Using fresh herbs (when called for) and good quality oils are also important because a little really does go a long way, flavor-wise.
Dijon and Anchovy Vinaigrette with Fresh Herbs
This very versatile dressing is from the Gourmet Today cookbook. I paired it with a big, meal-sized salad with mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, hard boiled eggs and homemade croutons, the recipe for which can be viewed here. I substituted whole, chopped anchovies for the anchovy paste since that was what I found at my local market. I highly recommend doubling or even tripling this recipe.
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 1/2 Tbs minced shallots (I used red onion)
2 tsp dijon mustard
Rounded 1/2 tsp anchovy paste (I chopped up one whole anchovy)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 1/2 Tbs finely chopped fresh basil
freshly ground black pepper
Mince garlic and mash to a paste with 1/2 tsp salt, using side of a heavy knife. Whisk together vinegar, shallots, mustard, garlic paste in a bowl until very well blended. Add oil in a slow stream until well blended. Whisk in fresh herbs, salt and pepper to taste.