Dress It Up

Make your own salad dressings to up the wow factor in-house

There are two times of the year that salad sales in restaurants spike. The first spike is a short-lived one, and that’s the first week in January when people are making their New Year’s resolutions. The second one is now and lasts all summer! With great salad options on your menu, salad sales can be very strong all year. If you’re smart, you’ll make your way to the drawing board or, in our case, the cutting board and create some amazing salads that your guests will fall in love with. Take a look at your existing inventory and see what you have that will be the perfect addition in creating some fresh and vibrant new salad options.

Making your own salad dressing might seem like too much work, but you’ll be amazed when you find out how incredibly fast, simple and cost effective it is. So many pizza operators use dressing packets or cups, and I’ll admit that they are very convenient. The reality, however, is that premade dressings will always cost more and will never be as good as what you can make yourself. Premade dressings are required to include in its long list of ingredients (that most people can’t even pronounce) some type of preservative, which is not generally delightful to the palate.

Once you get your salad menu down, we can get to the component that ties it all together and gives the salad life. I always thought it was lame that a restaurant will have only one house dressing. Impressive? Hardly. To me, it’s stating that we’re either too lazy to make the rest of them or we simply are not talented enough. Not only is it cheaper and tastier, it’s a no-brainer. To add to the awesomeness of house-made dressing, you now need to find some nice little pint-sized containers to fill and sell them! Make sure you put a sticker with your restaurant’s logo and phone number on it. Think of the advertising dollars you have spent over the years trying to get your name in front of your customers to remind them “We’re ready to serve you!” When your customers open their refrigerator at home and see your logo 6-10 times a day, that’s a really good thing. Let me give you some of my favorite dressing ideas that are simple and very popular with my customers.

Many of my dressings start with mayonnaise as the base and I build from there. Honey Lemon dressing is one that I use on a Honey Lemon Pecan Chicken Salad or simply as a choice of dressing on any salad.

For a small batch, mix:

Honey Lemon Dressing

2 cups of mayo
1/3 cup of honey
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup of water
2 tablespoons of fresh or freeze-dried chives

That should take you about 60 seconds to make. Once you tweak the recipe, you’ll want to multiply the recipe to start with a gallon of mayo.

Here’s another great dressing called honey ginger dressing. Besides being a choice for all salads, I use this one on a honey-ginger almond chicken salad.

You can use the exact recipe for the honey lemon dressing, except you want to eliminate the chives. Once you have that base mixed up, add 2 teaspoons of ground ginger and ¼ cup of teriyaki sauce and it’s as simple as that.

We make our own creamy Caesar that our guests rave about and here’s how we do it.

Again with a small batch to get you started, mix:

Caesar Dressing

2 cups of mayo
2 cups of zesty Italian dressing
½ cup grated Parmesan
1½ teaspoon granulated garlic
½ teaspoon ground pepper
3-4 shots of Worcestershire sauce

Toss this dressing with your chopped romaine leaves and garnish with croutons and shredded or shaved Parmesan for an amazing Caesar Salad. Offer grilled steak, chicken, salmon or shrimp as an easy add-on.

Ranch is such a popular dressing, and once I realized how fast it is to make and that what I make is better than any ranch on the market (customers repeatedly let me know it’s the best ranch they’ve ever had), I just had to make it myself.

The funniest thing is that my buttermilk ranch doesn’t even have any buttermilk in it. The first time I decided to make it, I wanted to use buttermilk but didn’t have any. I realized that I can emulate buttermilk by using half & half with a little vinegar, so here’s my recipe. This time I’m giving you the large batch version:

Ranch Dressing

1 gallon of mayo
1 quart half and half cream
½ cup white vinegar
1 cup water
½ cup granulated garlic
1 cup onion powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
½ cup finely chopped parsley or freeze dried

It’s really that simple! You can use this ranch as a base for an Avocado ranch or a Chipotle ranch. Be creative.

Now get in the kitchen people and make your own dressing. Pour them into two-ounce soufflé cups with lids for side salads and four-ounce cups for large salads. You can use pint-sized containers for jumbo catering salads and for customers to take home your freshly made dressing to enjoy. Get your name and logo on it so you’ll get some extra advertising.

Jeff Freehof owns The Garlic Clove in Evans, Georgia. He is a frequent contributor to Pizza Today and a speaker at the Pizza Expo family of trade shows.

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