Make it Yourself...Salad Dressing Oils

When you make salad dressings yourself, it doesn’t take long to accumulate a variety of recipes and ingredients too.  Here are some of my favorites that I keep on hand, and a little information about some I don’t keep, but still like.
Always protect your oils from light and heat by storing them in a cool, dark place. When shopping, look for oils in metal or brown glass, which provide the best protection from light. Alternatively, you can transfer oil from its original container to a metal oil canister with a spout.  I keep my sesame and walnut oil in the refrigerator to prevent rancidity.
Olive Oil: Extra-virgin olive oil is pressed from olives without the use of chemical solvents at cool temperatures (below 86°F) that don't alter the nature of the oil. Some good extra-virgin oils are available in the supermarket at a reasonable price. I don’t buy it in very large bottles, as I have had some go rancid, an expensive lesson.  
Vegetable Oils: Neutral, nearly flavorless vegetable oils, including canola, sunflower, and safflower, are good choices when an olive oil would dominate a dressing.  I haven’t found a dressing yet where olive oil doesn’t work for us.
Nut Oils: Oils made from nuts—often lightly toasted walnuts, hazelnuts, or almonds—smell and taste great. With their pretty big price tag, it's good to know that a little goes a long way. It's also possible to mix nut oil with a neutral vegetable oil to get the desired nuttiness without spending a fortune. Nut oils also go rancid easily, so buy them in small containers from a trusted source that has a high turnover, and store them in the refrigerator. To achieve a similar nuttiness (but not the smooth texture), incorporate some freshly toasted nuts into your dressing and purée it in a blender.
I only buy walnut oil, I also use it in one of our favorite walnut breads, and so I can justify keeping it on hand.  It is delicious!  I buy toasted walnut oil for the best flavor.
Sesame Oil: Asian toasted sesame oil packs a lot of flavor, so you only need to use a small amount. Look for dark brown oil, not the pale oil made from untoasted seeds that's often available in health food stores. Sesame oil can go rancid easily, so buy it in small bottles from a store with high turnover, and store the oil in the refrigerator.
Other Fats
Bacon Fat: Bacon fat is rendered by cooking bacon slices in a skillet and should be used while it's still hot, but after the crisp bacon is removed. You can also save rendered bacon fat and keep it chilled, then melt it whenever you want it. Keep in mind that the smokier the bacon, the more fragrant the fat will be.  I always keep any fat from baking bacon; we use it for eggs too.
Tahini: A purée of raw sesame seeds, tahini is integral to Middle Eastern cooking, and offers a nondairy way to add creaminess to dressings.  Buy tahini in Middle Eastern markets or supermarkets with high turnover, and store it in the refrigerator.  I had to find mine in Whole Foods, where they keep it with the peanut butters.
Here are some our favorite salads with homemade dressings:
Israeli Salad with Tahini Dressing 

German Potato Salad with Bacon Dressing

Cracker Crisp Salad
Brown Rice with Tomatoes, Basil and Champagne Dressing

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