We are all going to be eating a LOT of salads this summer so let’s take a little time early in the season to talk about what makes a great salad and how you can make one at home every time.
Today we are considering your basic green salad that includes some type of lettuce or other tender green such as baby spinach, additional items (tomatoes, cucumbers, nuts, fruit, etc.) and salad dressing.
I have a formula for salads that gives you a lot of flexibility, uses what you have on hand and works spring, summer and fall. I pair it with an equally versatile homemade salad dressing. I know that time pressures sometimes make store bought salad dressing a necessity, but in my book, homemade always makes a better salad when you can swing it. If you don’t like nuts or seeds, then leave them out. If you don’t have dried fruit on hand, let it out. While I like the the different textures and tastes this salad combination presents, you need to design it for your tastes and preferences.
Create Your Own Salad
- 8 cups of lettuces/greens (mixed baby greens, boston lettuce, arugula, baby spinach)
- ¼ to ½ cup toasted nuts or seeds (pecans, pine, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin or sunflower seeds roughly chopped)
- 1 piece fresh fruit sliced or diced (apples, pears, oranges, pomegranates)
- ½ cup dried fruit (dried cranberries, raisins, other dried fruit)
- 3 to 4 oz cheese crumbled (chevre, blue cheese, good cheddar, feta – use what you have available!)
Mix together the first four ingredients. Toss lightly with salad dressing – do not overdress. Put on individual salad plates and sprinkle with cheese, or, if serving in one large salad bowl, sprinkle cheese on top and serve.
Here are some great combinations:
- Arugula, pecans, orange, dried cranberries, and chevre
- Spinach, pinenuts, dried cranberries, pear, and blue cheese
- Mixed greens, walnuts, apple, raisins, and cheddar
Create Your Own Salad Dressing
- 1 t Dijon mustard or country-style Dijon mustard
- 2T Vinegar (sherry, fruit infused, red/white wine, cider, champagne)
- 1 t Optional Flavoring (one or more of the following: finely diced shallot or garlic, fresh herbs such as tarragon, thyme, or basil)
- 1 t Optional Sweetener (honey or maple syrup) If you don’t use the sweetener, I recommend just a pinch of sugar)
- Salt and pepper to taste (I always find that it needs more salt than I expect because so little dressing needs to cover so much lettuce)
- 6 T Oil (Extra virgin olive oil or canola oil)
Whisk together the first five ingredients. While whisking, drizzle in the oil. If you really want to get the oil and vinegar to mix together and stay mixed, start with just a drop of oil, whisk it in. Then another two drops; whisk. Three more drops and whisk again. Then start drizzling very slowly while whisking.
To make a creamy dressing, sometimes I will add couple tablespoons of yogurt or crème fraîche to the above recipe. You can also add a tablespoon or two of leftover cranberry sauce, fruit jam, or ½ t of curry powder and a tablespoon of chutney. With the basics down, the variations are endless.