My family sat down to dinner together almost every night when I was growing up. The food was always homemade and always bountiful–usually a meat dish, a potato, and some sort of steamed vegetable concoction from frozen food giant Birdseye. We lacked for nothing, except for one thing: salad.
We just didn’t have it.
Despite my mother’s attempts to serve up healthful and “cancer-fighting” foods like steamed Brussels sprouts, she never once put salad on the table. It’s not that she didn’t eat it–at restaurants, she’d have the blue cheese-slathered wedge salad that was de rigueur–she just didn’t serve it at home.
So I grew up thinking that salads were for restaurants, where they could source oodles of toppings–potatoes, fruit, beans, cheese, nuts–at scale, and where things like arugula, kale, baby spinach, and frisee were in the hands of specially-trained chefs.
I carried the no-salad-at-home tradition into adulthood until I met the Vegend, whose at-home salad skills far surpass any human’s. His base is almost always arugula, which can last quite a while in the fridge. (Plus, just before it’s gone bad, he whips it into unbeatable pesto.) His typical toppings include farro, roasted peppers, tomatoes, corn, chickpeas, and avocado. Hard boiled eggs, butternut squash, potatoes, and string beans also join in on the fun.
He tops off the salad with a mustardy dressing that’s so good you’ll want to dip it, spread it, and pour it onto everything you’ve got. We’ve described it here.
Note: the below is the general guide that he shared with me when he was away last fall. It may seem like not enough guidance but trust me, it is.
Acid–Options include white, white wine, or champagne vinegar and/or lemon juice
Flavor–Salt, pepper, and chopped garlic or shallot
Dijon mustard (about 1 teaspoon to start)
Fresh herbs of your choice (optional)
Pour the acid into a measuring cup. Add the flavor and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Add the mustard and stir vigorously. This will give you a sense of the taste and texture before you add the oil.
Add about two times the amount of olive to the acid mixture (for example, if you have 1/2 cup of acid, add 1 cup of oil to end up at 1 1/2 cups total. This is a lot of dressing!). Blend with an immersion blender or with a whisk until it emulsifies. Add fresh herbs, if using.
Toss with your salad and reserve some on the side for dipping bread, crudite, or pretty much anything else.