top of page
How to Dress a Salad for Company

What makes a satisfying salad? Aside from great vegetables, it's all about the dressing. Making a dressing is sort of like playing mad scientist: mix a little of this with a little of that, taste, adjust, taste, and repeat until you've got just the flavor and texture you're looking for. Here's some dressing advice from our kitchen.

To begin, think about what it is that you're going to dress:

  • Crunchy, full-bodied salads often want a creamy or boldly flavored dressing. Examples: Little Gem or Summer Crisp lettuces, beets, cucumbers, carrots, fennel, tomatoes, radicchio, or turnips.

  • Tender, milder, and more delicate salads want a lighter or subtler dressing. Examples: salad mix, arugula, herbs, and more delicate lettuces.

Next, choose your dressing ingredients. Feel free to substitute one fat or acid for another, depending on what's in your pantry. Your goal with the dressing is to strike a balance between fat, acid, and salt. 

  • Fats: olive oil, grapeseed oil, avocado, yogurt, nuts, buttermilk, sour cream, cheese, mayo, egg yolk, walnut oil

  • Acids: red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, sherry vinegar, rice vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream

  • Seasonings: mustard, miso, tahini, toasted sesame oil, herbs, blue cheese, parmesan cheese, feta cheese, lime or lemon zest, capers, honey, anchovies, pickles, fish sauce, garlic, shallots, scallions, onions

  • Salt: add it until the dressing tastes good on a piece of lettuce (or whatever veggie you're dressing) — then, when dressing your salad, add more salt to taste.

Here are a few salad dressing tips that make a big difference:

  • Always macerate shallots, scallions or onions in ice water or vinegar or lemon juice for 10-15 minutes. This mellows the sharp onioney flavor. 

  • Taste as you go. Take a leaf of lettuce, a slice of tomato, or whatever vegetable you're about to dress, dip it in the dressing, taste, and adjust for salt, fat, and acid. Whereas the dressing will often taste strong on its own, it might taste perfect on the thing you're about to dress. 

  • Make more than you need for one salad. Always have a jar of homemade dressing in the fridge for impromptu salads or use it as a dip for vegetable snacks throughout the week. 

  • Dress your salad in a BIG bowl and make sure the vegetables you're dressing are really dry. If your salad greens, etc. are at all wet, then your dressing won't stick to them and you'll wind up with a not-flavorful salad and a watery pool at the bottom of your bowl. Here’s the salad spinner we like to use (though a clean pillowcase works in a pinch) — don’t overload it and really spin it fully dry. Begin with a little bit of dressing, and then use clean hands to gently toss everything together. Taste and add more dressing as desired. Make sure every bit of your salad is nicely coated in the dressing, but not swimming in it.

We often don’t use recipes for dressings, but here are a few that are definitely worth following:

bottom of page