What makes a salad spectacular can be summed up by one very important question:  Are you eating for pleasure?  Are you like me who wants to delight in not only the way a dish is presented but also by it’s flavor, aroma and overall purpose of each ingredient on the plate?  I ask this because many people have an unhealthy relationship with food. Some eat to feel good.  Some eat because they have to without regard to whether the food tastes great or not.  And unfortunately many people have unhealthy eating habits.  I will save that for another post.  This post is about why you would eat a salad.  Because I want you to eat a  salad and thoroughly enjoy it and in order to do so you must start with the right salad dressing.  If you already have a favorite that you just can’t wait to drizzle over your greens, awesome!  If you would like to try a few different home-made options that will keep fresh for a few days in the fridge then read on.

To me a salad has to serve a purpose.  It should provide enough nutrients, have a nice variety of topings and the dressing must be off the chain.  Because let’s face it, we are not bunny rabits and my taste buds need to be happy.

So where do you start with the right dressing?  You need an acid and a fat.  Your acid can be lemon, lime or orange juice as well as vinegars in all their glorious varieties.  Your fat can be anything from olive oil, vegetable oil, melted coconut oil, avocado oil, etc.  You can also use an emulsifier or thickener such as dijon mustard, avocado, a little mayo, and even egg yolks as in Ceasar dressing.  Once you have these basics the rest is just playing around with the ingredients.

My basic dressings will have equal amounts of fat and acid. Sometimes I’ll use two different acids such as vinegar and lemon juice, for example.  It all depends on what I want to achive and what I’m pairing my salad with.  You’ll also see me adding a bit of honey to balance the acidity.

The Fun Stuff

Once you have the basics down the sky is the limit.  Cilantro, basil and even fruit are great additions to any salad dressing.  A little salt and pepper to taste or perhaps some dry herbs will really make your salad want to dance.  If I feel like adding canned beans as one of my toppings or corn I might go with a vinegar or lime-based dressing.  If I’m going the fruity route by topping with berries I will use lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar or orange juice.  Shaved cheese, meat toppings, dried fruit and nuts are all amazing additions to your salad.  Below you will find a few basic recipes and also a photo of my lunch which was a big salad topped with leftover steak, farro and quinoa and a side of avocado.  The base is romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes tossed with cilantro dressing.

Recipes

Cilantro dressing
1/4 cilantro leaves
Juice of two limes
4-6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon of honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Blend all ingredients and enjoy

Avocado dressing
1/3 ripe avocado
Juice of 1 lime
6 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Blend all and add more oil if needed

Creamy lemon dressing
Juice of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon dry thyme
1 teaspoon honey
6 tablespoons olive oil
Blend together

Sweet coconut dressing
4 tablepoons coconut white balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons avocado oil (or something not overpowering)
Pinch of salt
Whisk together

Balsamic vinaigrette
Equal parts aged balsamic vinegar and olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
A pinch of dried Italian seasoning
Whisk together

Steak salad with cilantro dressing

Steak salad with cilantro dressing