Salad (Dressing) Days

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

On those sweltering, dog days of summer, there’s nothing better than a cold, crisp salad to perk up appetites. Take inspiration from the many kinds of lettuces at supermarkets and farmers’ markets, as well as the variety of colorful summer vegetables, to fashion a custom salad.

A salad makes the ultimate, no-cook summer supper. Just add some protein, such as julienned strips or cheese, to turn a side salad into a main dish.

A salad is also a convenient way to stretch a little bit of leftover cooked meat to create a second dinner. Slivers of rotisserie chicken pulled from the carcass, slices of cold grilled steak from yesterday’s barbecue, or wedges of hard-boiled eggs from breakfast can be repurposed with some salad greens to make a simple main course.

I rarely buy bottled salad dressing, since it’s so easy and more economical to make it myself. I usually just serve my salad with oil and vinegar:

  • 3 parts extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 part wine vinegar (red wine, white wine, sherry or balsamic)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the salad greens into a salad bowl, add the dressing ingredients, and toss. I measure the 3 to 1 ratio in the spoon of my salad tossers. With a little experience, you’ll get the hang of how much dressing you need—just enough to coat the leaves lightly. Too much dressing will puddle in the bottom of the bowl and make a salad soggy.

Taste the salad and if it’s too tart, add a little more olive oil or a tiny bit more salt. Salt has a wonderful capacity for toning down tart flavors. But add extra salt with restraint, a little at a time, tasting as you go, because over-salting will ruin your dish.

Throughout the years, we have featured many salads on Special Fork. A search on our blog site found 337 entries for “salad.” Today, I’ve pulled some of the dressing recipes from these salads as stand-alone recipes. While there are suggestions for what would partner well with these dressings, feel free to be creative and mix and match.

Ben Mims’ Buttermilk Dressing
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Juice of 1/2 lime
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk together until smooth.

This dressing was designed to serve 4, and used for a salad of beets, radishes, chives and butter lettuce.

Sunny Tanatanyanon’s Thai Dressing
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients; whisk together until smooth.

This dressing was designed to serve 3 to 4, and used for a salad of iceberg lettuce, English cucumber, mint leaves, shallots, lemongrass, Thai bird chiles, grape tomatoes and canned tuna.

Lori Powell’s Light Ranch Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or to taste
2 teaspoons finely chopped sweet onion
½ teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients; whisk together until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Keeps about 2 weeks.

Makes about 1 cup. This dressing was designed for all-purpose use.

Sandy’s Japanese Miso Salad Dressing
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons white miso
¼ teaspoon Asian sesame oil

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients; whisk together until smooth.

Makes about ¾ cup or enough for about 6 small side salads. This dressing was designed for a salad of iceberg lettuce and shredded carrots, the kind of simple salad you find at an inexpensive Japanese restaurant.

Spago House Dressing
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sherry wine (or red wine) vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup walnut oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk together the balsamic and sherry vinegars, mustard, shallot and thyme. Slowly whisk in the oils and when emulsified (thickened), season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate in a covered container. It will keep for 3 to 4 weeks. When ready to use, whisk again.

Makes 1 cup. This dressing recipe, from Wolfgang Puck’s famous restaurant, Spago, is from Chef Andrew Hunter, former VP of Culinary development for Wolfgang Puck.

Katie Barreira’s No-Measure Red Wine and Shallot Vinaigrette
1 part finely chopped shallots
1 part red wine vinegar
3 parts olive oil

Add the ingredients to a transparent squeeze bottle in the order listed. Use the 1-1-3 ratio to eyeball the amounts. Add enough shallots to fill ¼ of the bottle, and then add enough vinegar to completely submerge the shallots. Finish by pouring in the oil, leaving a bit of space at the top, this will help the dressing emulsify when shaken.

Before pouring the dressing, use kitchen shears or sharp scissors to snip the lid’s tip, just wide enough so that the shallots can escape. Then toss the greens with a pinch of salt and pepper and just before using, cover the bottle’s tip with your pointer finger and shake vigorously to combine the oil and vinegar.

This dressing was designed as an example of how beginning cooks can use a squeeze bottle, and for a salad of escarole, toasted walnuts and shaved ricotta salata.

Ben Mims’ Simple Caesar Salad
2 cloves garlic, minced (or pressed through a garlic press)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg yolk (optional)
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine garlic with lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce and let sit for about 5 minutes (doing this allows the juice to mellow a bit of the raw spiciness of the garlic). Add the egg yolk and anchovy paste, if using, and whisk until smooth. While continuing to whisk, slowly drizzle in the oil until dressing is smooth and creamy; season with salt and pepper.

Makes enough dressing for 4 side salads. This dressing was designed for the classic Caesar Salad of romaine lettuce, croutons and shredded Parmesan cheese.

Special Fork is a recipe website for your smartphone and PC that solves the daily dinnertime dilemma: what to cook now! Check out our recipe database for quick ideas that take no more than 30 minutes of prep time. Follow us on Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Posted: Jul 12th by Sandy_Hu