Teaching myself to cook, one recipe at a time.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spinach Salad with Homemade Greek Dressing

About a year ago, inspired by our upcoming wedding, Andy and I decided that we needed to finally do something about losing weight. We turned to Nutrisystem, which basically gave us pre-made meals in tiny portions, kind of like Lean Cuisine but without having to store it in the freezer. To these, we added massive amounts of fruits and vegetables, as well as dairy (i.e. yogurt). We both lost significant amounts of weight and went back to eating real food, albeit with better understanding of what appropriate portion sizes actually are.

The reason that I'm mentioning all this is that it got me into the habit of eating a spinach salad every day at lunch. Spinach is one of those foods that the Nutrisystem plan allowed endless amounts of, so I took advantage of that. It's not the only thing that I eat at lunch, but it is something that I eat most week days at lunch, topped with dried cranberries, sliced almonds, and whatever sliced veggies I happen to have available (though usually just the cranberries and almonds).

I started off obeying Nutrisystem's plea for fat-free salad dressings, but let's be honest. Those taste like crap. I still have a bottle of fat-free red wine vinaigrette in the fridge at work, and I'm not sure I'll ever finish it. It only gets touched in that brief interim when I run out of other dressings and haven't yet bought more. Then I moved into low-fat dressings, but they're only somewhat better. When I moved into full-fat dressings, I began looking forward to my salads every day. They simply taste better, and people around me keep telling me that fats aren't as evil as they were when I was a kid. My absolute favorite is a Greek vinaigrette that I have been buying regularly for a while now.

But of course I keep running out, so I've been curious about making salad dressing for a while now. And when I found a recipe with the following description, I had to at least try it:

"This is the 'secret' Greek dressing recipe from the pizzeria that I work at... This is the best dressing I have ever tasted, people offer to buy it constantly, but if we sold it we wouldn't be able to make enough to use in the restaurant!"

The original recipe called for 1 1/2 quarts of olive oil and 2 quarts of red wine vinegar, in addition to all the spices and seasonings. Obviously, that's way too much, so I scaled it down from 120 servings to 20 servings, leaving me with 1 cup of olive oil and 1 1/3 cups of red wine vinegar. Much better.


Of course, I read after the fact that I wasn't supposed to add the vinegar until the end. Ooops.

To that, I added: garlic powder, dried oregano and basil, salt, pepper, onion powder, and Dijon mustard. If my scaled-down amounts said 2-3/4 teaspoons of something (which it did for several things), I pretty much just measured 3 teaspoons but left the last one not completely full.


The biggest thing that was running through my head this whole time is that I was adding insane amounts of each seasoning to the mixture. It seemed crazy to add that much of everything, but re-reading the glowing description encouraged me to keep going with the insanity. But it looked all right when I mixed it up.


I gave it a quick taste when I was done mixing it up, but the thing that most got my attention was the dry, crispy, crunchy basil and oregano that stayed in my mouth and weren't very pleasant. I spit them in the sink and decided to allow them to soak up fluids overnight before giving the dressing a real try.

The dressing separated a bit once I let it sit for a while.


Petrified that the bottle I'd bought from the grocery store would leak on the way to work, I wrapped the dressing in a plastic bag and secured it with a rubber band. When I got to work, I set it on a side table and tried to ignore it. By 11:00 AM, though, I couldn't wait any longer to add it to this salad:


Mmmmmm, course 1 of my lunch at work.


The dressing was GOOD. My only complaint is that it was very tangy, so next time I'll either do equal parts of oil and vinegar, rather than having more vinegar than oil, or else add some sugar. But Kanchana, my coworker, tried it and said that it was perfect as-is. Either way, I left the bottle at work for us both to share and will be drawing from it until it's gone.

EDIT: Since I've had a few requests for the recipe, here it is. I have scaled it down to 20 servings from the original 120, so the amounts are a bit strange, but work with me.

Absolutely Fabulous Greek Dressing
1 cup olive oil
2 3/4 tsp garlic powder
2 3/4 tsp dried oregano
2 3/4 tsp dried basil
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp salt
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp Dijon-style mustard
1 1/3 cup red wine vinegar (though I would reduce this to 1 cup)

In a large container, mix together the olive oil, garlic powder, oregano, basil, pepper, salt, onion powder, and Dijon-style mustard. Pour in the vinegar and mix vigorously until well blended. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

[From allrecipes.com]

1 comment:

  1. Nice! Looks delish. :)

    I haven't bought a bottle of salad dressing in a few years now. Once you see how easy it is (and fresher tasting/healthier), it's hard to go back! If you want to sweeten it up a little, sometimes I add honey, or like you said, use less vinegar. Another one I make a lot is lemon juice/olive oil/garlic/whatever seasonings are laying around. There are so many variations on vinaigrette dressings, it's fun to play around with it. nomnomnom.

    PS: Yay for dropping the fat free dressing. I'd much rather have more calories and some nutritional value than a bottle full of preservatives and artificial ingredients. :)