My signature dish

My mother-in-law asked me if I have a signature dish. I waited holding my breath. Because I have no signature dish - that I could think of.  I was surprised when my husband answered "Salad".

But it's true. We eat salad with many a meal. And my husband actually adores, devours my salads. I have a flexible formula I've evolved that makes the typical restaurant garden salad pale by comparison.

I like to build my salads in individual bowls.

First, a feathery layer of baby spinach or baby greens or chopped romaine or baby arugula or some combination of the above.

Second, a fat dollop of grated carrots (grated by a rockin' salad shooter from the '80s).

Third, a few chunks of red bell pepper.

Fourth, half a handful of deliciously ripe grape or cherry tomatoes (never, never put tomatoes in the fridge!)

Absolutely necessary: several manzanilla olives, sliced. The tang is perfection.  For variety kalamatas can be fun too.

Bonus, if we've been good: some chopped avocado.

Sprinkle salt and black pepper on top (makes a difference!).

Slather on dressing and toss.

Good salad dressing, homemade dressing, is crucial.

Easiest balsamic vinaigrette:
Mix a squirt of dijon, plus a little salt and some pepper, with a few tablespoons of red wine vinegar and a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Then whisk in an approx equal amount of olive oil. Taste and adjust.

Upgrade - Jamie Oliver's Bashed Basil and Pine Nut Vinaigrette (in my imprecise rendition)
In a mortar and pestle or a food processor, grind up a tablespoon of toasted pine nuts, a few basil leaves, a clove of garlic, a little salt and a little pepper. Then mix in equal parts balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

My apologies to people who like precise recipes, but this is truly the way I make it. ;-)


  1. I love to eat good salads, but I'm not good at making them. By the time I've gotten the main dish made (which usually already has some kind of veggie in it), I just don't have the energy to put into a salad. So we often just have a handful of torn lettuce leaves, if anything. I agree about tomatoes, though - same goes for berries.

    You've inspired me to work harder on salads.

  2. Hey Amy, I left out one little secret. Often (when I'm being good) I'll make a whole batch of these at once. So instead of making two individual bowls of salad, I'll make six or eight. Then they sit in the fridge (without dressing and tomatoes of course) for easy use throughout the week. The last few years I've been trying a little more industrial/batch techniques for cooking. Do it once, eat it more than once.

  3. I'm so glad you shared this with us. I'm going to try this! Sounds and looks delish!

    Happy Weekend,