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:
First, extra virgin olive oil, and toss the greens.
Then salt and toss again. (yes, my fancy electric salt grinder has a light LOL)
My “quantity” of salt is when I can visibly see the granules on the lettuce.
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.
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.
Dressing a salad
- 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.
- Sprinkle with salt and toss again.
- Sprinkle lightly with vinegar and toss again. Sample and add vinegar and/or salt as preferred.
Once you get the hang of this, try it on massaged kale!
I also like it to help balance out any main dish that is really rich, like Hasselback Chicken.