Aerobic Dressing


No pain — no gain is the best way to describe this delicious salad dressing that is so totally worth the effort. Shake out your arm muscles and have ready:

A wire balloon whisk, a deep wide-bottom bowl, an egg yolk or two, a 1/2-inch strip of anchovy paste, 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard, a bit of flaked sea salt to bash into a crushed garlic clove, and a generous grind of black pepper. That’s the support wear, the undies if you will, for your dressing. The preparation. The warm-up. Whisk it together thoroughly, including the garlic clove that you’ve bashed in a mortar and pestle to a creamy texture in the salt.

Now comes the tart-wear: every dressing needs acidity. Vinegar. I use white wine vinegar. Sauvignon Blanc white wine vinegar by Aspall. I’ve tried all other sorts and varieties. White wine vinegar with tarragon. Champagne vinegar. White balsamic. Raspberry balsamic. I have wasted so much money on vinegar, and yet I always come back to bog standard white wine vinegar. I do have some lovely bottles and impressive non-drip spouts though, thanks to the Oil & Vinegar shop.

And the tart-wear is followed by a slick, glistening cover-up: oil. I use a combination of 1/2 rapeseed or vegetable oil and 1/2 mild olive oil. The light and mild olive oil, by the way, does not mean reduced calories. It simply means that the flavour is light and mild. Both rapeseed and olive oil are high in Omegas, which is important for good heart health. I measure 100ml of rapeseed or vegetable oil into a measuring cup, and start sloshing-dribbling it into the bowl with the beaten egg yolk, vinegar, mustard, garlic, etc. I place the bowl at a tilt with a towel wrapped around the bottom to keep it at an angle and to prevent it scooting across the work surface. Drop by drop is the way to start, beating the oil with your whisk into the vinegar mixture like a desperate jockey on a hobby (rocking) horse. This is the aerobic bit. Soon your heart will beat at a good pronounced pace, your arm muscles will scream “You know you can buy this stuff without any effort whatsoever, right?” and your shoulder will whimper like a big cry baby.

When you’ve whisked the last of that 100ml oil into the mixture, measure out another 100ml of olive oil, and start whisking again … telling your muscles “No pain – No gain, sissy!” Whisk-whisk-whisk, until the dressing starts to thicken. Remember to add it slowly and whisk rapidly after each addition with an aim to emulsify the ingredients together into a thick, velvety luxurious fluid. It should start thickening up when 150ml in total is added. Whether you add the remaining 50ml is up to you. The more oil you add at this stage, the thicker the dressing but the milder the flavour. Taste and adjust seasoning. It should be clearly on the tart side or the flavour disappears into the salad greens after you toss everything together.

You’ll end up with about 250ml of delicious salad dressing. It’s fairly close to a Caesar dressing but not quite as fishy tasting because whole anchovy fillets aren’t used. Anchovy paste is much milder. Keep refrigerated for up to 4 days.


Ingredients and Method:

1-2 large egg yolk at room temperature (2 gives richer flavour)

1 small squirt of anchovy paste – about a half inch

1 garlic clove crushed with a pinch of salt into a paste

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

a generous grind of black pepper

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Whisk the above ingredients together thoroughly, and measure into a cup:

100ml rapeseed or vegetable oil

Add slowly, drop-by-drop, whisking after each addition until the measuring cup is empty. Now fill the same measuring cup with:

100ml olive oil

… and again — add slowly, drop-by-drop, whisking after each addition until the dressing starts to thicken, at which point you can add the oil more quickly. Taste and adjust seasoning, keeping in mind that the dressing should be very tart and acidic so its flavours stand out on its own merit. Toss dressing into dry salad leaves and herbs. Dressing won’t stick to wet leaves.

Note: a tablespoon of minced shallots in the dressing is also tasty.


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Joanna says:

    I recognise the mixing bowl, I have those ones too! One day when I am feeling strong I will do this or can I cheat and use a mixer?

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      I bought my Rosti bowls in Denmark in 1980. I’m delighted to see that they’re now appearing in shops in the UK. In Denmark, these bowls are sold with clear, tight-fitting lids, which is darned brilliant. Don’t know why they don’t do the same here. I bought some extra lids in June when we were there but they don’t fit nearly as well as the bowls actually produced in Denmark.

      Try it with your mixer, and tell me if it works for you. Don’t use a handblender though; tried that once and it turned to stog. Sort of quasi-mayo. I rescued it from the bin by turning it into aïoli. 🙂

      1. Joanna says:

        Rosti bowls rock! Sorry I’m revving up for my return to Twitter. I feel a small squee coming on at the thought of lids too 😉

        1. Misk Cooks says:

          Ah. A da’Mitchism. Look at the bottom of your Rosi bowls and tell me the sizes (usually shown as 500ml, 700ml, or 1.4L or 3L etc. We’re off to Denmark in early September. So far as I know that’s the only place you can buy the lids.

  2. drfugawe says:

    I’m ready to try any new salad dressing, and I shall give yours an audition – my garden lettuces are preforming splendidly, given that our rains have not yet ceased, and summer has not started.

    In your vinegar trials, have you tried rice wine vinegar? It’s my current fav, however, I even like the ‘seasoned’ kind better than the regular (this is also called ‘sushi’ vinegar, and may not be quite so good for your spouse, since it has sugar added.). Rice wine vinegar is among the vinegar world’s mildest, which may not be what you are after as well, but ….

    Given your Nordic roots, I’m surprised at your timid approach to the rich, full flavor of the anchovy – I’ve always been quite disappointed in the lack of flavor in all the anchovy pastes I’ve tried – I’ve taken to using small tins of the real thing – but then you have to soon find some use for the remainder.

  3. Misk Cooks says:

    Hi! Yes, I use rice wine vinegar (unseasoned) for my Danish cucumber salad at

    It’s too mild for an oil emulsion, in my opinion, as its flavour is overpowered. It could certainly also be used in the carrot salad instead of lemon juice as they have a similar acidity.

    What dressing do you often use on your salad leaves?

    1. drfugawe says:

      At our house, I’m the dinner chef, and my wife is the salad wench – we have periodic favorites, and tend to go overboard on one for too long, get tired of it, and move to another. I admit to a current obsession with the rice wine vinegar, which I often use sans oil. San’s current fav is any creamy cheese dressing (whenever calories are not a concern). But our mutual choice for a ‘go to’ dressing is a simple vinaigrette,

      1. Misk Cooks says:

        Is that a blue cheese dressing? I LOVE blue cheese dressing. Do you have a good recipe? I’ve yet to find one that’s as good as the one I always had years and years ago. I think it was made by “Marie’s Dressings”.

  4. Melanie says:

    I love Caesar dressing, but never tried making one from scratch. Maybe I’ll give this a try. Of all my vinegars, I use and like white wine vinegar the most too. I only have two homemade dressings I do and I’m pretty tired of both right now. We needed something new to dress our greens with. Thank you!

    1. MiskMask says:

      Hi Melanie, and welcome! I hope that you do try it. It’s very tasty. Although I’ve never made it using an electric mixer, I suspect that it’s possible if your arm complains too much. The whole process does give it a good ol’ workout, that’s for sure. What two homemade dressings do you use right now?

      Again, thank you for stopping by and adding to the discussion. 😀

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