Vinaigrette Dressing

My salad days may be in the attic, but a good salad is still a part of every day. Since the dawn of my cooking life, a routine salad always means soft greens with vinaigrette dressing. I wish I could remember who introduced me to the golden elixir, good olive oil, and its alchemic magic when combined with red wine vinegar. Maybe it was the Greek family that ran the market for the Basque sheepherders, or my distant Italian great aunt, or an ancient issue of Gourmet magazine. That watershed defined salad, removed olive oil from the medicine cabinet and has stayed with me ever since.

dressing mixed

For me and my children, salad after dinner never means coleslaw or Waldorf, but simply green salad. We may add dill, basil, arugula and tarragon as they leaf in the garden or true ripe tomatoes and cucumber in late summer, but nothing satisfies like fresh soft lettuce and vinaigrette dressing.

I’ve never been able to understand the popularity of bottled salad dressings. They’re usually composed of compromised ingredients, sold at inflated prices where you’re mainly paying for packaging and advertising. When a salad can be dressed simply with a pinch of salt, a twirl of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon why would anyone go with Kraft?

greens ready

For less than the price of most bottled dressings you can buy excellent olive oil, reasonable vinegar, and sea salt. The additions of wine and Dijon mustard are nice but not essential. It takes no more than two minutes to stir the sauce in the bottom of your salad bowl. Pile on the leaves washed and spun dry, and toss when you’re ready. Not a dressing to make ahead, it’s best when fresh, since good olive oil will solidify when chilled. This salad is light; it’s pure; it’s inexpensive and for us it’s usually dessert.

Vinaigrette Dressing

1 clove garlic

salad tossed

generous pinch coarse sea salt

1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar

½ tablespoon white wine (optional)

generous ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In the bottom of a wide, shallow salad bowl, crush the garlic with salt using the back of a spoon. Add the vinegar, wine, mustard and mix well. Swirl in the olive oil. (Add a little chopped scallion or a few shaves of red onion and let marinate in the dressing if desired.) Pile washed, dry salad leaves on top and toss in the dressing when ready to serve.

Enough for 2-4.



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