This is, quite possibly, the only balsamic dressing recipe you'll ever need. Not kidding.
My friends almost always say "Salad, please!" when I ask what to bring to a gathering. I'm more than happy to provide a healthy, nourishing dish for the ones I love, to go alongside the hotdogs and mac 'n' cheese.
Like all great things in life, making a memorable salad is an art. Indeed, I've made enough salads in this lifetime that I'm able to share some tips with you. Using the instructions below, you too can make endless combinations of great salad dishes that your family and guests will love. No boring salads here!
HOW TO BUILD THE BEST SALADS
START WITH THE GREENS: A tub of store-bought mixed organic greens will make a perfectly good salad but sometimes I want to get a little more creative. For example, shredded lucinato kale with romaine lettuce, arugula with a gem lettuce, or butterhead with spinach. Mixing greens with different colors, textures, and flavors makes a great salad.
ADD OTHER VEGETABLES: Once you've chosen your greens, you can add other leafy vegetables such as endive or radicchio (also known as Italian or red chicory); shredded red cabbage or grated carrots; grilled or roasted vegetables such as zucchini, brussels sprouts, corn or sweet potato; boiled or steamed vegetables such as mini potatoes or green beans; pickled vegetables such as beets, carrots, onions or radishes; or marinated vegetables such as artichoke hearts or mushrooms. So many options to enjoy!
ADD NUTS AND SEEDS: These can be raw or toasted, preferably organic. Some of my go-tos are walnuts, pecans, pistachios, sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
ADD OTHER PROTEIN: Nuts and seeds obviously contain some protein, but there other great protein options for a salad as well. Think shredded, cubed, marinated, seared, steamed, or diced proteins such as chicken, fish or shrimp, tofu, or tempeh. Another great protein addition would be hard boiled egg.
In addition, pulses (beans, peas, or lentils) are great in mixed salads. Black, cannellini, chickpeas,
ADD A GRAIN: Grains make a salad more filling and more of a complete meal. Farro, bulgur, freekeh, couscous, pearl barley, and quinoa are some of my favorites. (If you haven't yet, try our Farro Summer Salad!) Most importantly, be sure to cook the grains according to the directions. The cooked grains need to soak up all the water and be fluffy. Overwatering yields soggy grains and is not recommended, in general and definitely for a salad.
ADD DAIRY: Dairy adds a salty creaminess that ties everything together. There are so many great cheeses that work: various kinds of feta, shaved parmesan or asiago, blue cheeses, goat cheeses, cubed and shredded cheeses like cheddar or havarti, burrata or mozzarella cheese, and vegan cheeses.
ADD FRESH HERBS: You can add dried or fresh herbs like dill, flat-leaf or curly parsley, cilantro, mint, basil, thyme, oregano, or tarragon. Herbs add great pops of flavor and are some of the healthiest foods you can eat.
ADD FRUITS: This can be either fresh fruit or dried fruit. I'm not a huge fan of using too much fruit in a salad, as I lean toward the savory. But many people really enjoy adding fruit like blueberries, strawberries, apple slices, dried cranberries or currants.
ADD THE DRESSING OR VINAIGRETTE: Most great salad dressings can be made at home if you have these core main ingredients on hand: some kind of healthy oil, some kind of vinegar, citrus like lemon or lime, dijon, herbs, garlic or ginger, salt and pepper, yogurt or sour cream to make a creamy dressing.
THE BENEFITS OF DAILY OMEGAS
I use Udo's Oil in all my homemade dressings because it's an easy way to get my daily omegas. Essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 play many important biological roles in our body, and therefore health.
I make all my dressings at home. So many commercial salad dressings use RBD oils, the very oils we tell you to steer clear of. We write in more detail about what exactly RBD oils are and how you can avoid them on our My Big Fat Greek Dressing recipe page.
And there are other questionable ingredients lurking in store-bought salad dressings, which is why we always encourage you to make your own. Plus, fresh is best. Better for health and they just taste better than anything I've ever purchased from a store.
This Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette also makes a great dipping sauce for a crudité (pronounced kroo-dee-teh), the French word for a platter of raw vegetables and dipping sauce.
Here, I've paired this Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette with a salad of mixed lettuces, apple slices (Honey Crisp, Fuji, or Pink Lady are all good choices for a salad like this), red onion slices, pecans, crumbled feta, and a small handful of dried cranberries, as shown in the image. However, it pairs well with many salad combinations so create whatever your heart desires
So, go ahead and drizzle this salad dressing onto whatever you assemble for the next salad. And if you are totally pinched for time, I promise you that this dressing on a simple bed of mixed greens still does the job, just fine.
CREAMY BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE
2 tablespoons Udo's Oil 3·6·9 Blend
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1 medium garlic clove, crushed with a press or minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Place all ingredients in a small blender, like a Magic Bullet or equivalent, and blend until smooth. Alternatively, whisk until well combined.
- Taste to assess the seasonings, and adjust accordingly.
- Drizzle the desired amount of dressing onto the salad and toss. Place extra dressing in a well-sealed glass jar and use within a week.
Recipe by Usha Menard, photo by Magdalena Bujak.