At last, do-it-yourself, tasty, low-fat dressings worth pouring on top of a salad

September 14, 1994|By Jane Snow | Jane Snow,Knight-Ridder News Service

Can't someone come up with a low-fat salad dressing that tastes better than the slimy, chemical concoctions sold in grocery stores?

Yes indeed. In just two days, without the help of a chemistry set, we came up with recipes for three low-fat and three fat-free salad dressings that actually taste like real food. The flavors sparkle with the tang of fresh lemon juice and just-picked herbs, instead of commercial weirdo ingredients such as guar gum, whey solids and the ever-popular lecithin.

Yeah, yeah, you've heard it before. Dozens of new cookbooks have recipes for low-fat salad dressings, and they taste like runny yogurt, right? These are different:

* Vinaigrette: A classic oil, vinegar and mustard dressing minus most of the oil.

* Basil Vinaigrette: Same thing, but with extra garlic and fresh basil added. This heady, powerfully flavored dressing would taste great on pasta salads or steamed vegetables.

* Tomato Vinaigrette: The only dressing made from a cookbook recipe, with slight modifications. The main ingredient is tomato soup, which sounds awful but produces a flavor close to that of French bottled dressings. Tasters preferred it over another version made with fresh tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and other hoity-toity ingredients.

* Creamy Italian: Unctuously rich and creamy, maybe the best of the bunch.

* Ranch: Tastes like the real thing.

* Honey Dijon: Sweet, with just a faint bite from the mustard. Try it on fruit salads.

The calories per tablespoon range from 23 for the Creamy Italian to 15 for the Tomato French. Fat content ranges from 1 gram to a trace.

The vinaigrette that is the foundation of four of the dressings was inspired by a recipe in "Steve Raichlen's High-Flavor Low-Fat Cooking." But instead of replacing most of the oil with chicken broth, which tends to dominate the flavor, we replaced it with a combination of chicken broth and dry white wine (Buy a split (2-glass bottle) of Sauvignon blanc), and doubled the mustard. One tablespoon of olive oil is left in, to lend texture and flavor.

Also, instead of mincing such ingredients as garlic and shallots, we used a blender. This not only is easier, but it purees the ingredients, releasing more flavor.

To achieve a creamy texture in the Italian and Honey Dijon, fat-free sour cream is used instead of the yogurt or cottage cheese often recommended. A good brand such as Land O Lakes has a mild flavor that doesn't jump out at you like yogurt, and a thicker texture than pureed cottage cheese.

It's important to use good-quality ingredients in these recipes, to make up for the missing oil. When top-quality, each ingredient helps seduce the taste buds with flavor.

So use fresh-squeezed lemon juice instead of bottled, imported Dijon mustard with a real bite, and good red wine vinegar instead of the tasteless bargain brand. After all, it's better to splurge on ingredients than on calories and fat.

NB These dressings will keep about two weeks in the refrigerator.

Low-fat Vinaigrette

VTC Makes 3/4 cup

1 shallot

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

salt, fresh-ground pepper

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons Sauvignon blanc wine or other dry white wine

3 tablespoons chicken broth

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Puree until smooth. Pour into a lidded jar. Chill for at least two hours, for flavors to develop.

5) Per tablespoon: 16 calories, 1 g fat.

Low-fat Basil Vinaigrette

Makes 3/4 cup

1 shallot

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 cup torn, lightly packed basil leaves

salt, fresh-ground pepper

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons Sauvignon blanc wine or other dry white wine

3 tablespoons chicken broth

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Puree until smooth. Pour into a lidded jar. Chill for at least two hours, for flavors to develop.

5) Per tablespoon: 18 calories, 1 g fat.

Low-fat Creamy Italian Dressing

Makes 1 1/4 cups

1 shallot

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

salt, fresh-ground pepper

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1 large green onion, green and white parts, cut into pieces

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons Sauvignon blanc wine or other dry white wine

3 tablespoons chicken broth

1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

Combine all ingredients except sour cream in a blender. Puree until smooth. Pour into a bowl. Beat in sour cream with a fork until smooth. Pour into a lidded jar. Chill for at least two hours, for flavors to develop.

7+ Per tablespoon: 23 calories, .75 g fat.

Low-fat Honey Dijon

Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 shallot

1 clove garlic

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

salt, fresh-ground pepper

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup sweet white wine, such as a German wine or extra-dry sparkling wine

1/4 cup chicken broth

3 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

Combine all ingredients except sour cream in a blender. Puree until smooth. Pour in a bowl and beat in sour cream with a fork. Pour into a lidded jar. Chill for at least two hours, for flavors to develop.

4( Per tablespoon: 17 calories, no fat.

Ranch Dressing

Makes about 3/4 cup

1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

1/4 cup nonfat milk

1 tablespoon real mayonnaise

1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice

L Combine all ingredients and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate.

Per tablespoon: 19 calories, .8 g fat.

Tomato French Dressing

Makes 3/4 cup

1 can (10 ounces) condensed tomato soup, undiluted

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 clove garlic

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Puree until smooth.

Refigerate for up to a month.

Per tablespoon: 15 calories, a trace of fat.

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