I’ve come to the point in my life where I figure the old adage “honesty is the best policy” is the way to go. So I am freely admitting here that I am a salad dressing snob. I remember my first experience with Ranch dressing as a kid. I loved it. Move over Wishbone Italian, there’s a new dressing in town and it tastes like a creamy, herb filled celebration! I recently purchased a bottle of Ranch to have on hand for those nights when I just don’t feel like making a dressing. My first thought was, did I not have taste buds as a child? How could I have loved this gloppy, not really creamy, more like gluey drench? And please keep all those fat free (read flavor free) low cal bottles out of my sight.
I realize that times are busy. We are all busy. But really, are we so busy that we can’t take 2 minutes to whisk some olive oil, a little dijon, whatever vinegar strikes your fancy, a dash of S and P and a pinch of sugar together? Trust me, that’s all there is to it. If you don’t have olive oil, use canola. If you don’t have vinegar, squeeze a lemon in that bowl and whisk your way to the lightest most delightful dressing your baby greens have ever been bathed in.
The key to a great dressing is quality oils and vinegar.
A good Barrel-Aged Balsamic Vinegar is worth the couple extra bucks over the standard two dollar bottle. It pours like syrup, not water and has such depth of flavor your taste buds will sing. A good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil won’t break your bank either and its smooth taste compared to the bitterness of some less expensive oils will bring the vinaigrette together like nobody’s business. There’s also a myriad of infused oils and vinegar to play around with. One of my favorite splurges is a vinegar I get at the farmer’s market, white Balsamic with pear. I could drink it all by itself but when whisked with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) a little dijon and fresh cracked pepper it’s kind of ridiculous. Drizzle it over a simple spinach salad with toasted pecans, green onions, and some shaved parmesan and you’ve got a real gem. Two minutes. Not kidding. So worth it.
Spinach Salad with Beets and Balsamic~
1/4 cup Barrel-Aged Balsamic Vinegar
⅓ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
1 T honey
3 T shallots, finely chopped
Fresh cracked pepper and pinch of salt
6 cups baby spinach, baby arugula or spring mix
3 oz crumbled feta
½ cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
4-6 small pickled beets, quartered and thinly sliced
Whisk oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add chopped shallots and stir. Make at least 1 hour ahead. Dressing keeps for two days in the refrigerator. Pour some dressing in the bottom of a large salad bowl. Add the greens and gently toss to lightly coat. If serving family style, add the rest of the salad ingredients and toss again. If making individual salads, fill bowls with tossed greens and put feta, beets and pecans atop the greens. Give each salad, or large salad a few grinds of fresh cracked pepper. Serves 4-6.