Why Ina Garten Uses Two Different Oils In Her Caesar Dressing

Salad is a classic side dish staple, but too often it remains just that: on the side. 

Salads get discounted as secondary assets to a meal, which is pretty unfair considering the dish's cultural influence. A starter salad is the promise of an elaborate and indulgent meal to come. An entree salad is chic. Fran Lebowitz jokes, "A salad is not a meal. It is a style," and there are countless ways to dress them. NBC News reports that avocado oil and peanut oil are some of the dressings most-reached-for by home and professional chefs alike –- but is it really necessary to splurge on these small-batch oils with higher price points? Professional chef Ina Garten of Food Network fame says "no." In fact, those oils aren't even her first choice. In an interview with TODAY, the Barefoot Contessa herself lets us in on her shockingly simple secret for making Caesar dressing that steals the show at the dinner table. Step aside, filet mignon.

What's the secret?

Caesar dressing is a decidedly simple base for a simple salad: garlic and egg yolk. Garten's first tip is to bring all the ingredients to room temperature, because, she says, "what you're doing is basically making a mayonnaise."

In a food processor, combine 2 teaspoons gray Poupon, 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, 8-10 anchovy filets, and ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice. Puree to combine.

Here's the secret step that sets her Caesar dressing apart. Instead of 1½ cups vegetable oil, Garten mixes ¾ cup olive oil and ¾ cup canola oil. Why it works, she says, is because "the olive oil has great flavor and the canola oil is light." The Association for Dressings and Sauces (yes, really!) defines a "mayonnaise dressing" as containing at least 30% vegetable oil and 4% egg yolk. Garten takes a fresh spin on an old classic by substituting equal parts olive and vegetable oil instead. The effect is lighter density and a flavor-packed-punch. According to OliveOil.com, the best olive oil for creamy salad dressings is a mild extra virgin olive oil. Its flavor profile makes for a more decadent dressing than virgin olive oil, which works better in vinaigrettes. 

Slowly incorporate the oil mixture into the dressing, incorporate ½ cup parmesan cheese, and it's finished: a simple salad dressed with simple, quality ingredients. If the savory olive oil taste leaves you with a sweet tooth, Garten recommends limoncello over vanilla ice cream for dessert.