You know what impresses me? When someone creates a delicious, Natalie-Cole-style salad. As in: unforgettable. Yes, that unforgettable. Unforgettable, in every way. The lettuce. The dressing. The little gems of fruit and beads of salt.
An extrodinary salad is not something one throws together at the last minute. It takes great care and attention to detail. It also costs a few bucks. If you have a garden, then you are on your way. Otherwise, make your way to the local farmers market. It's summer. Get. Out. Side. (Or, as my favorite writer would say to me: Mary, leave your natural habitat-- the couch--behind).
Do not underestimate the value of your greens. Buy the best ones you can afford. Treat yourself and avoid the bagged stuff. I know, I'm guilty of buying bagged greens, but when I can, I spend some dough on lettuce.
Add fruit. Peaches, blackberries, strawberries, apples, watermelon, oh my, I've never met a fruit that I didn't like in my salad. Include some nuts. Make sure to toast them; their flavors will bloom and astonish your tastebuds. I'm partial to sliced almonds, whole walnuts, or crushed peanuts. Don't forget something salty, like fried, crispy onions, croutons, or bacon.
Make your own dressing. It's easy. Recycle a little glass bottle with a cap and use it to shake up your ingredients. All it takes is oil and vinegar to start with. Use a 3 to 1 ratio of oil to vinegar. That's three parts oil and one part vinegar. Or maybe you like a 2 to 1 ratio? Whatever the case, buy the best ones you can afford. Add some salt, pepper, herbs, sugar. Shake it up and taste as you go.
(Yes, those are poppy seeds above. Can you believe the size of their pores? The woman at the Clinique make up counter would look upon them with great scorn).
Do not overdress your beautiful greens. This is a hard one. I'm constantly overdressing my salads. A good rule of thumb: if the vinaigrette is weighing down your lettuce, then you have overdressed.
My salad (pictured above) features toasted almonds, peaches (the first of the season!), blackberries, mixed greens, crispy onions, and poppy seed dressing. It was a memorable salad.
Poppy Seed Dressing
From Sunset Magazine
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. champagne vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. poppy seeds
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbs. grated sweet onion
Whisk ingredients together. (Or add them to a bottle and shake it like a maraca).