During my early days of cooking for myself, the only dressing I knew how to make was the olive oil and balsamic vinegar combo. It’s simple and healthy, but it wasn’t the best for salads. The oil would stick to the veggies while the balsamic would collect at the bottom of the bowl, making the last bites of the salad super salty and the rest of the salad taste bland.
This is because oil doesn’t blend with water (or vinegar in this case) and needs a third ingredient to hold the two together, creating a creamy and tastier dressing. This third ingredient is referred to as an emulsifier and comes in many forms such as eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, honey and maple syrup. For example, that Caesar salad dressing? The mustard, mayonnaise and egg are keeping the olive oil and lemon juice from separating.
Once you get the hang of making an emulsified dressing, you’ll start to see endless combos of dressings you can make using ingredients in the pantry. At its most basic, whisk together one vinegar (e.g. cider vinegar, Japanese soy sauce and lemon juice), one oil (e.g. olive oil, canola oil, avocado oil) and one emulsifier, and you’ve got homemade dressing. Add additional flavourings such as herbs, spices, chilies, garlic and ginger for a further boost.
An emulsified dressing is not only good for salads, but great for grain bowls and this summery cold soba salad with crunchy shaved zucchini and carrots. Soba, Japanese buckwheat noodles widely available at Asian grocers or the international section of supermarkets, cook up in half the time as spaghetti and can be served hot or cold. What’s also great is that soba are typically sold pre-portioned in little 90-gram bundles, taking out the guesswork of measuring.
Soba noodles tend to be softer than Italian pasta, so they taste best when contrasted with a crunchy vegetable such as carrots or zucchini. To up the protein levels fit for a meal, I added cubes of chilled tofu (no cooking required). Serve this up tonight, or save it for tomorrow for a packed lunch.
Chilled Soba, Tofu And Vegetable Salad
In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, canola oil, soy sauce, maple syrup and sesame oil until emulsified. Set aside.
In a medium-sized pot, bring water to a roaring boil. Cook soba until al dente, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and rinse noodles under cold running water until chilled.
In a large bowl, toss dressing with noodles, separating the strands if they stick together, and shaved zucchini and carrot. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with chopped green onion and sesame seeds.
Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Makes 1 serving.