This is the first salad dressing I ever remember eating. It was a staple around my house growing up, my mother's regular salad dressing. Why it's called New Orleans dressing, I'm not sure. It probably came out of some magazine my mom read in the late 50s, when they named dishes intriguing names like that. As a young person, I knew little about bottled salad dressings because my mother would have never even thought of buying such a thing. Besides there were few out there to buy in those days anyway.
Bottled salad dressings and traditions have certainly changed since then. Now there are literally dozens available at any given super market, and I confess to having depended on them for many a year as a young adult. Such a variety! So easy! Why on earth would I make one from scratch? Don't be silly.
Those times have changed for me, thankfully, and I'm now doing so much more home cooking and concocting since that usually means better quality of food as well as having control over ingredients-- two good reasons to be mindful of when buying anything prepackaged. But a third reason is because I finally realized I was paying some fairly high prices on things that I could make so simply at home, at the same time leaving out preservatives and chemicals and added whatnots that I don't want or need. Sugar and salt in particular are typically in overabundance when it comes to dressings and other condiments. I'm now of the mind that if I can make it easily at home, I'll do it. Believe me, you can't get easier than New Orleans dressing.
And such a delicious vinaigrette! And an equally delicious marinade. And the ingredients? No overload of bad stuff here. Salt? One teaspoon per cup. Sugar? One-half teaspoon. Pepper, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, oil and vinegar. Nothing special, you say, and I'd agree except for one thing... the magic ingredient. Smoked paprika. It makes all the difference. Surprisingly so. I've never tasted a bottled vinaigrette that tastes like this, and this recipe has been around over 50 years.
And although I had to double-check with the selfish part of myself as to whether I was really willing to give this away to the world, I decided it was for the world's good.
This week's recipe for The Food Matters Project was Mark Bittman's Mexican Fruit Salad with Grilled or Broiled Fish, chosen by Sarah of Food & Frederick (For the other Food Matters Project members' takes on Bittmans recipe, click here). However, given that I just got home last night from a trip, did not want to face the grocery store today, and yet wanted to rejoin the FMP group that I've had to be away from in recent weeks, I decided I could at least come close in making a salad dressing that could be used with fruit and fish, even though I had no fruit and fish in the house. So I decided to add a little chipotle chile powder to the original recipe to get into the Mexican spirit of the thing, shown as an option in the recipe below, and it worked beautifully.
This dressing is so versatile, the only clichéd limit is your imagination. My mother used to serve it in the hollowed-out bowl of half an avocado. Oh my, but that's a good way to serve it, and with that added kick of chipotle, how I wish I had an avo in the house. Likewise, if I had some fruit in the house, the kind typically seen in Mexican-style fruit salads-- maybe some cantaloupe, mango, pineapple, for example-- I could certainly see this as a wonderful dressing for that as well. And needless to say, as a marinade for fish or chicken, how could you miss?
But today I'm just going to use what is in the house, which means that for now, I'll just have to content myself with a splash of it on a lovely light dinner salad and dip of it with warm bread. But you know, somehow I don't think I'm going to feel deprived at all.
New Orleans Dressing and Marinade
Makes one cup ~ easily doubled
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder (optional-- adds a nice little Mexican kick)
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup good quality olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Measure all ingredients into a glass bottle or other container with a lid. Shake well till blended.
Benefits from a little rest time to allow flavors to blend.
Store leftovers in refrigerator. Keeps well!