Recently, I learned something new about dressing a salad from an article about an Italian restaurant in New York City. With a surprise ingredient [warm water] and a special twist in the assembly, there is now a best-ever-homemade-salad-dressing to have on hand at home. This one tops them all. So dump those bottles of preservative laden grocery store sludge.
Full disclosure: I have poached and improved a recipe from Via Carota resto in Manhattan’s West Village. The New York Times article stated that people who ordered the “Insalata Verde” swore the dressing was delicious enough to eat on its own by the spoonful. I had to see what the fuss was about.
Via Carota is a charming Italian restaurant featuring exposed brick, cozy wood, and ambient decor. There are no reservations. It is almost always packed. Plan on waiting for a table or try to slip onto a stool at the bar.
I invited my Manhattan based sister-in-law to join me for lunch. We decided to split the “Insalata Verde” as it is a veritable mountain of fresh greens, enough for two, or more, people. We were deep in conversation when the salad arrived.
Digging in, we continued talking until I finally blurted out, “Let’s debrief this dressing. All I taste is oil and salt. Where are the other flavors? I wouldn’t eat this with a spoon, even metaphorically.”
Too much oil and salt for my taste, but an inspiring blend of other ingredients became an even better salad dressing in my own kitchen.
The ingredients are common and usually in most home pantries. Except, perhaps, for aged sherry vinegar and shallots.
There are a couple of quirks to the assembly. The first is to rinse minced shallots in cold water. Second is to add one tablespoon of warm water to the vinegar and shallot mix and let sit briefly. And third, the greens should be slightly damp before dressing them. For this, a salad spinner is handy.
Use any amount of the freshest greens you can find. A combination of butter lettuce, endive, romaine, red leaf lettuce, watercress, spinach, arugula, and/or the jumbo mixed box of salad found in every supermarket.
The recipe makes enough for more than one use, unless you are preparing salad for a crowd. It tastes even better the next time it is used. And the time after that.
The tweaks I made to the original recipe are minimal. Cut the oil, double the garlic, adjust the salt. Modify to your own tastes. Be creative–spoon it over vegetables, or meat, or inside a sandwich as the bread spread.
The dressing is loaded with substance in the form of solid bits of shallots and mustard seeds. The small addition of warm water softens the vinegar edge and smoothes the blended flavors sublimely.
Lastly, here are three reasons you never need store bought dressing.
- Ten minutes of delicious homemade dressing preparation is a good use of time.
- Dinner guests and family will rave about a simple green salad. Every single serving.
- With a jar already in the refrig, meal planning is simplified.
Make the Best Green Salad Dressing Ever just once. Then you will understand the urge to dip in and eat it off a spoon.
BEST GREEN SALAD DRESSING EVER
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 2 T. plus 1tsp. aged sherry vinegar
- 1 T. warm water
- ½ C. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 ½ tsp. whole-grain mustard [with seeds]
- 1 ½ tsp. honey [optional, but I always use it]
- 2 sprigs thyme, washed and stripped [or use dried thyme leaves]
- 2 cloves garlic, finely grated
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Wash the greens in cold water and discard any stems or brown pieces. Spin in salad spinner, wrap in clean dishtowels, and set aside.
- Rinse finely minced shallot in mesh strainer under cold water. Drain. Place in a bowl.
- Add sherry vinegar and the tablespoon of warm water. Let sit for two minutes.
- Whisk in oil, mustards, honey, thyme, grated garlic, and a pinch of salt.
- Taste and adjust salt and vinegar as needed. Using these measurements, I have not found it necessary to adjust anything.
Place prepared greens in a large serving bowl and drizzle dressing over, tossing to lightly coat. I don’t like a heavy coating of dressing, so drizzle to your taste. Generously grind black pepper over the top. Toss again. Taste and serve.
Refrigerate remaining dressing in a glass jar. If the refrigerator temperature is very cold and the olive oil has slightly solidified when you want to reuse, let sit at room temperature to warm and liquify.
For the abridged version when short on time and ingredients, simply whisk together:
1 diced shallot, 2 T. vinegar of choice, 2 T. Dijon mustard, 6 T. extra virgin olive oil, S &P. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.