Dressing a Salad

salad with cucumber and tomato

Like most Americans, I always thought of salad as a bed of greens and a bunch of veggies slathered with salad dressing from a bottle. But when I read that the Italians take an entirely different approach, I needed to give it a try.

The basic idea is: stop thinking of dressing as being separate from the salad. Dressing is a verb, not a noun. So the process of “dressing” is the treatment you give to your salad greens before eating.

This is how it works: oil, salt and vinegar. Now, each person feels these ingredients should be used in a specific order, but that’s where the agreement ends. Some start with oil, some with vinegar, etc.

Here’s my approach:

salad greens in a white bowl

First, extra virgin olive oil, and toss the greens.

adding salt to the lettuce in the bowl

Then salt and toss again. (yes, my fancy electric salt grinder has a light LOL)

close up view showing salt on lettuce

My “quantity” of salt is when I can visibly see the granules on the lettuce.

adding vinegar to salad in a bowl

Sprinkle/splash with red wine vinegar and give a final toss.

If you notice, I do this only with the greens. If I want a few veggies I add them after the vinegar.

salad with cucumber and tomato

I tend to keep it simple: a little cucumber and tomato, possibly a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Another little toss and it’s done.

If I’m having my salad with salmon or other fish, I substitute lemon juice for the vinegar. Other vinegars also work. Try white wine vinegar, balsamic, or champagne vinegar.

Leave it to the Italians to sum it up nicely: A ben condire l’insalata, ci vuole un avaro per l’aceto, un giusto per il sale e uno strambo per l’olio.

Loosely translated, this means, “To properly dress a salad, you need a miser to add the vinegar, a judge to add the salt and a spendthrift to add the oil.” In other words, be generous with the oil, add just enough salt and be very sparing with the vinegar. Let your taste buds tell you the right amounts.

So give it a try. You’ll get the hang of it in short order.

Note: I’m perfectly happy using this simple approach to salad dressing. But some people (ahem, The Carnivore) prefer more flavor from the salad dressing. In that case, you can add another dressing of choice. This will create an additional layer of flavor to the salad.

pin for dressing a salad


salad with cucumber and tomato
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Dressing a salad

The simple Italian approach to dressing your salad greens!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time10 mins
Course: Salad
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 2
Author: Sula
Cost: cheaper than bottled dressing!


  • big bowl
  • spoons or forks for mixing


  • 4 cups mixed salad greens
  • 1-2 TB extra virgin olive oil or to taste
  • 1 tsp salt to taste
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar to taste


  • Place washed salad greens in a bowl. Add oil and toss gently to coat.
    salad greens in a white bowl
  • Sprinkle with salt and toss again.
    adding salt to the lettuce in the bowl
  • Sprinkle lightly with vinegar and toss again. Sample and add vinegar and/or salt as preferred.
    adding vinegar to salad in a bowl

Once you get the hang of this, try it on massaged kale!

A simple salad like this is a great complement to a seafood main course, such as Baked Pineapple Salmon, or Salmon with Whole Lemon Dressing.

I also like it to help balance out any main dish that is really rich, like Hasselback Chicken. And terrific with Butternut Squash Spaghetti Bake.


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