Let’s start with one change that anyone on a budget can make: stop buying bottled salad dressing.
Vinaigrettes and dressings are so easy to make — the one we are giving you is here is more complicated than most and it still doesn’t take much time — that it’s a shame to buy one in a bottle. Besides, the ones in bottles are not only expensive, but they’re also full of gums and preservatives to keep them shelf-stable. You can do better.
Easiest good salad dressing in the world? Put 1/4 cup of any good acid — lime or lemon juice, any vinegar you like, or a combination — into a jam jar. Add a teaspoon of mustard, a teaspoon of honey, salt and pepper, and about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of oil, depending on how sharp you want the vinaigrette. Put on the lid tight and shake it all up. Salad dressing.
This one is for when you want a slightly more complex flavor. I love the sweetness of the honey softening the apple cider vinegar with the tang of the rosemary. If you don’t have a blender, use that jam jar.
We mostly use olive oil for our dressings, in part because we buy it by the gallon at a restaurant wholesale store. But use whatever oil you can afford. There’s nothing wrong with canola if it’s what you have. You can also blend canola and oil or grapeseed oil. That is up to you.
If fresh rosemary is too expensive right now, you can use 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary for the fresh rosemary here.
A good salad dressing is great for greens and slaws but also on grains, roasted vegetables, roast chicken or fish, and as a dip for fresh vegetables. This is the kind of batch recipe we make for Feeding Our People, our recipe subscription service for people who love to cook in community. Having something like this in the refrigerator makes simple meals delicious, all week long.
Cook the shallot. Set a small pot over medium heat. Pour in 2 teaspoons of oil. When the oil is hot, add the sliced shallot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shallot has caramelized — warm brown everywhere but not burnt — 10 to 15 minutes. Add the rosemary and cook until the scent releases itself into the room, about 1 minute.
Pour in the apple cider vinegar and stir up the shallots and rosemary. Add the honey and stir. Simmer the vinegar for a moment then take it off the heat.
Make the vinaigrette. Pour the vinegar mixture into the blender. Add the mustard. Put on the lid. Turn the heat on low. With the blender running, slowly drizzle in the remaining oil until it is fully incorporated.
Taste the vinaigrette. Want it sharper? Add more vinegar. Softer? More oil. Sweeter? More honey. Make this yours.
Pour the vinaigrette into a jar and save it in the refrigerator to use it any time you want.