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On Salads

By now you’re probably wondering if I weigh 400 pounds. There is a lot of sugar and butter and cheese on this site. First of all, I don’t eat all of it myself. I share. And whenever I eat something like a grilled cheese [1], or lasagna [2], I balance it out with a big salad. I am more worried about chemicals and preservatives entering my body than I am sugars or fats. I have almost eliminated industrial food from my diet (there are some things I am unwilling to give up, like: cheerios, dried pasta, and the occasional coke (preferably bottled in Mexico)). I am lucky, I live in a city with great bakeries where I can buy freshly baked organic bread and I have access to lots of stores and markets. It isn’t so difficult for me to avoid prepackaged foods. I know not everyone is so lucky.

An easy way to start improving your diet is with salads. I eat some sort of a salad for/with dinner every night. They are a great opportunity to improvise and they are so good for you. But it is important to make your own salad dressing. If you never listen to me about anything else, please start making your own salad dressing tonight. Even the best bottled stuff isn’t very good. The fact that they have such a long shelf life is enough to scare me away. I haven’t bought a bottle of salad dressing in years and am happier for it. Building a salad dressing takes less than 5 minutes, and you can make enough to last you for a couple of days. It is so superior and gives you control over what you are putting into your body: no weird oils, no corn syrup, no preservatives. Trust me on this one.

My everyday dressing is a basic vinaigrette. The process is simple and it starts with a shallot. Mince a shallot or two, depending on how much dressing you want. If you don’t have a shallot, go get one. Or try using a little minced garlic. Or both. Add some vinegar: red wine, champagne, apple cider—whatever you like. Add the vinegar early so the shallot can start macerating and flavoring the vinegar. Add some salt, pepper, and herbs. I often add dried oregano or any fresh herbs I might have on hand, (dill, oregano, thyme, sage, etc.) Follow that with some Dijon mustard and honey. Or not. Finish with some extra virgin olive oil, the most common oil to vinegar ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, but I prefer more of a 1 to 1 ratio. I love vinegar. Shake or whisk to combine and you have a delicious fresh vinaigrette.

The salad pictured is from a recent dinner. Arugula, Radicchio, fennel, blood oranges, marcona almonds and ricotta salata. I used some rice wine vinegar and crushed fennel seeds in the dressing. It was delicious. Give it a try. Another good dressing idea from Thanksgiving is here [3]. You’ll quickly get used to making dressing yourself and can adapt it to your tastes. Go make a salad!