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How to Make Herbed Vinegar and Salad Dressing

by: Jill Richardson

Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 19:11:05 PM PST

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I have a confession. I don't really like salad. I, Jill Richardson, healthy eater, vegetarian, do not like salad. More accurately, I don't like MOST salad. I don't like pre-made dressings, iceberg lettuce, or even the more exotic types of lettuce if they are wilted. I find salad bars boring. I don't really want to eat lettuce with cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and shredded carrots topped with ranch or thousand island.

But I do like salads if they are made right. In the house I just moved out of, I made a salad to share with my roommates a few times, and they raved about how good they were. One roommate, who thought my eating habits were extreme and strange, told me that one salad I made was "the best salad she ever tasted!" OK, so I guess that's my standard for how good a salad must be before I feel like eating it.

Because it's the new year and I'm thinking about resolutions and things like that, I decided to make salad tonight. Then I got an even better idea and made some herbed vinegar so that I'll have less work to do the next time I decide I want some salad.

Jill Richardson :: How to Make Herbed Vinegar and Salad Dressing
Salad Step One: Greens
Lately, I've been making salads with the freshest greens I can find: fresh-picked weeds from my yard. Yep, you read that right. Mostly I've been going for dandelion greens and chickweed. Before long, in the place I just moved out of, I would have had plenty of lettuce to harvest from my garden too. But in the meantime, the weeds were the first thing to come up so I was eating them.

If you want to eat your weeds - or your neighbor's weeds - just try to pick something that you know hasn't been sprayed with pesticides or peed on by a dog. And go for a plant you recognize and know is edible like dandelion. I'm not advocating anyone make a burmudagrass or mystery weed salad!

Without any good weeds to choose from, today I went to the farmers' market and picked up a bag of fresh-picked mixed greens.

(Another salad green I like is kale, but that's a different type of salad entirely. I chop it up and toss it with sea salt, olive oil, and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Add red pepper flakes if you like them.)

Step Two: Dressing
Because I'm on a virtuous kick of aspiring to eat salad a lot, I decided to make a bunch of dressing and keep it in the fridge. I always use basically the same recipe but of course you can vary it. I got the idea from a local restaurant that serves a green salad with fresh mint and a mustard vinaigrette.


  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • White wine vinegar
  • Stone ground mustard
  • Honey
  • Whatever herbs I can get my hands on

Mix approximately equal amounts of the first three ingredients. Then taste it and add more of whatever you think it needs. I probably put in more olive oil than the other ingredients. Then add a bit of honey. Again, taste it and add more to taste.

I use olive oil because I like the flavor, but you could also use other oils, like flax or avocado. If you use flax, beware that it is highly perishable. If you make a dressing with flax and you don't eat it all immediately, store it in a tinted container in the fridge.

Last, chop of whatever herbs you've got and add them. I've usually got rosemary, oregano, and thyme on hand, but I've also added basil, parsley, and dill. You can add mint as well, but I prefer to add whole mint leaves to the salad so that you get big bursts of mint all at once while you eat.

Salad dressing!

Voila! Gourmet homemade salad dressing, and it was easy. Now, you too can make salad for your asshole roommates and have them proclaim it the best salad they've ever eaten.

Step Three (Optional): Other Stuff
I'm not big on putting other stuff in my salad, but there are a few things I like. I like pomegranate seeds, mint leaves, and avocado the most. I guess it's a good thing I live in California.

I wouldn't say no to pecans and goat cheese either. Petals of edible flowers are also pretty and they impress your guests, but I'm not a big fan of the flavor of many of them. I'd go with dandelion and calendula as the most tasty, but nasturtiums are often the most available. (They tend to be peppery - the name nasturtium comes from Latin for "nose twister.")

But as long as I'm not your dinner guest, you don't need your salad to please me. So add whatever you like to it.

Herbed Vinegar
Tonight, as I made up a bunch of dressing to keep in the fridge, I had a great idea. Every time I make dressing, I have to go hunting down herbs. Why don't I save time by getting a big bunch of herbs now and making herbed vinegar? Then next time I want salad dressing, I can skip all of the harvesting and chopping that goes with it!

To make herbed vinegar - as you might have guessed - you need herbs and vinegar. You fill a jar part way or entirely with herbs, cover them in vinegar, and then wait until the vinegar takes on the flavor of the herbs. Some recipes call for waiting two weeks, some say six weeks. Some say to shake the jar every day (in which case, make sure the jar's lid is not metal), and others don't. Some recipes say to store it in the fridge, and almost all say that you should not store it in direct sunlight.

One recipe I saw online recommended filling a jar one-third full with stronger tasting herbs, or entirely full with mild tasting ones. I decided to do both.

First, I went to my old garden at my ex's house and got a bunch of herbs:

Then I gently washed and patted dry the strong-tasting herbs, coarsely chopped them, and filled the jar one-third full with them. I used thyme, rosemary, oregano, mint, and garlic.

Thyme. The leaves are so small that I left them on the stem.

Rosemary. I guess I'm only going half way to Scarborough Fair, because I don't have any parsley or sage.

Garlic. I went with three cloves.

A blurry picture of oregano. It's not my favorite herb (thyme probably is) but it tastes good here when mixed up with everything else.

Mint. The devious herb that takes over your garden. This guy needed some pruning so I grabbed a bit of it to use here.

Next, I grabbed a few mild-tasting herbs, chickweed and dandelion, and filled the rest of the jar with those. I used those more for their vitamins than their flavor. Because I am living in a sad, new, weed-free place, I had to used dried dandelion leaves instead of fresh.


Last, I poured the vinegar over my herbs and screwed on the lid. It's a metal lid, which is bad because the vinegar will corrode it. That means my homework in the next few days is finding a different, better lid. I'll probably go with a Tattler plastic BPA-free reusable canning lid. Another solution is using a pretty glass bottle with a cork - but I think that's a better idea once the herb flavors are already in the vinegar. It will be a lot easier to get the herbs out of a fat mason jar than a skinny bottle opening.

Voila! I should probably stick a label on here that says what's in it and the date I put it together so that several weeks from now I'll now when it's done.

For now, I stuck the jar in my cabinet next to my kombucha-to-be, so they can keep one another company as they brew. I'll use this vinegar next time I make salad dressing.

UPDATE: I just had a funny realization. In addition to using this vinegar in salad dressings, it would also work medicinally as a compress or in the bath to treat sore muscles. Vinegar helps draw out the lactic acid, from what I've read, and thyme, chickweed, and rosemary are all great for sore muscles.

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My salad revelation involved kale. (4.00 / 1)
The kale and ricotta salata salad at Dove Vivi in Portland.  Just the kale, a little cheese and a lemon shallot dressing.  I doubt any salad I ever eat again will even come close to approaching that beautiful thing.  Unfortunately, I only had it once, but this is the recipe, so I can attempt to recreate it one of these years.

All other salads should just retire.  Heh.

Anyway, yeah.  I've never been much of a salad fan, either, though I've tried.  My 'other stuff' tends to be mushrooms and dried cranberries or raisins.  A habit I picked up from eating lunch at Whole Foods salad bars four to five times a week for a couple years in the mid-aughts.

I should really try making my own dressing.

Voila! I should probably stick a label on here that says what's in it and the date I put it together so that several weeks from now I'll now when it's done.

Also, so the FAA inspector doesn't fine you.  Oh wait, I'm just having flashbacks to a billion training sessions at a past Boeing job.  ;-P

I've never eaten at Dove Vivi. How did (4.00 / 1)
you like the cornmeal crust?

[ Parent ]
Dove Vivi pizza... (0.00 / 0)
Their main offerings were very good, once I adjusted my expectations from what I, a North Jersey native*, think of when I think "pizza."  It's probably more appropriate to call that style a casserole, as they say, and in my opinion, but again to each their own.  I mean no offense to anyone.  ;)

It was a while back now (2009?), when I went there for dinner with a bunch of fellow Portland foodies, but the main things I remember are that the 'slices' (such as they were / are) were quite filling (the thick cornmeal crust!), and the sauce and the toppings were all excellent.  That kale salad is actually what still stands out most to me, though.  Make of that what you will!

I'd definitely go back again if I had the chance.  Still not sure why I never did.  Probably because it was in a tough location on Glisan for me to get to from Creston-Kenilworth, and every time I was in a pizza-like mood I had Gladstone Pizza right across the street.

Dove Vivi does daily rotating 'slices' (two is more than enough of a meal) as well, or at least they did up until as recently as last year.  So you don't have to buy a whole pie (the word is that they do not hold up well at all to-go).  Get there one day if you can!

*well, actually, I was born and spent my first few years down the shore in South Jersey, but let's not pick nits!

[ Parent ]
You know what I just realized? (4.00 / 1)
I tend to do a lot of salad-ish soups.  One of my major food obsessions this year has been Italian Wedding Soup (although typically with about three times the amount of greens you'd find in a restaurant version), and I like to throw a lot of kale and other greens into all of my soups.  Maybe it's not so bad that I'm not much of a salad fan, after all.  I still get a ton of greenery in other ways.

Oh! (0.00 / 0)
And Chinese and Vietnamese soup places, too, with which I've also become obsessed lately.  I use every last shred of green stuff on those comically towering pho salad plates...

[ Parent ]
Your basic dressing (4.00 / 2)
is the same basic dressing I make. I use it on salads and also as a condiment on sandwiches. The key to salads is to have the dressing and major greens complement each other.

Right now I'm eating a lot of salads made only of mustard greens (specifically Red Giant right now, although some arugula may make it's appearance here soon).

Normal people scare me.... But not as much as I scare them.

That dressing is similar to my go-to salad dressing. (4.00 / 2)
Mine is 2/1 oil to vinegar ratio and no honey. I do add black pepper and a bit of kosher salt. I make a jar and keep it in the fridge.

What kind of vinegar did you use to make your herbed vinegar? Is it regular white vinegar?

I used white wine vinegar (4.00 / 1)
Most recommendations I read said to use apple cider, but some said white wine or others are OK. Most agreed that white vinegar is not OK, but my hunch is that's just a matter of not liking the flavor as much as fancier vinegars.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
I like a sweet vinegar for my dressings and marinades (4.00 / 2)
I like seasoned rice vinegar, or if I don't have that, I'll back sweeten brown cider vinegar with sugar and molasses. Unsweetened vinegars give me terrible heartburn and a stomach ache any more.  

Normal people scare me.... But not as much as I scare them.

[ Parent ]
I don't like any dressing on my salad (4.00 / 2)
I like a mix of different greens (including arugula!),with cherry tomatoes, walnuts and blue cheese scattered on top.

A really good salad is the green mix above with a lightly poached pear sliced on top, and crumbled goat cheese or shreds of parmesan and nuts on top of that.

Another idea is to make polenta and while the polenta is cooking chop up kale and beet greens (especially gold beet greens) heat a clove of garlic in some olive oil, saute the greens until nice and soft and pile on top of the polenta with a generous grate of parmesan...

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