3 Tips for Dressing the Perfect Weeknight Salad
Avoid wilted greens and overpowering dressing.
After a long day at work, the idea of cooking once you get home isn’t always appealing—and that’s where salads come in. Firing up the stove is optional, unless you’re craving seared or sautéed toppings; ingredients can be chopped and prepped in minutes. Over the years, we’ve developed countless salad recipes, from radicchio tossed with Manchego vinaigrette to spinach and smoked salmon salad with lemon-dill dressing. One of our recent favorites comes from senior food editor Mary-Frances Heck, who developed a simple salad recipe for F&W Cooks—the best part? It’s ready in 10 minutes.
For this recipe, technique is everything. "Begin with the acids: For balance, use at least two vinegars or citrus juices," says Heck. "Then add a drizzle of honey or a pinch of sugar—the sweetness will help to balance the acids’ bite. Finally, rapidly incorporate the oil (for best flavor, use a mix, such as grapeseed plus a good olive oil or a nut oil, such as walnut) to form an emulsion."
Heck’s recipe calls for raw hard vegetables, leafy greens, fresh herb leaves, and an emulsified vinaigrette, among other ingredients. It’s perfect for a low-lift spring night and serves four people, in case you’re in need of a quick family meal. But with a salad this simple, you want to make sure it’s well-balanced with the dressing so you can avoid wilted greens. Heck included some tips for “dressing for success” in our March 2019 Makers issue—check them out below, and save the full recipe for your next meal.
Choose lighter acids for tender greens
“Match tender greens with light dressings made with lighter-tasting acids, like Champagne vinegar and citrus juice, and lightweight oils, like grapeseed.”
With hardier greens, make a thicker dressing
“Pair hardier greens with thicker dressings, which are achieved using smaller quantities of more-pungent vinegars, like red wine vinegar or unfiltered apple cider, and denser oils, like unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil or toasted sesame oil,” Heck writes.
Taste the ingredients individually
“Before making the dressing, taste the vinegars and citrus juices individually to elevate their tart, sweet, and bitter qualities. Taste the vegetables and evaluate their flavors, especially their sweetness, too. Use a touch of sweetener, like sugar, honey, or agave, to soften acidic or bitter flavors, amp up sweet ones (we’re looking at you, spring carrots), and add richness.”