Best-Dressed Summer Salads

Summer salad. Photos by Keri White

With summer produce at its seasonal peak, now is the time to showcase it!

Salad for supper is a great idea when the temperatures rise, and we all want something light. Topping a salad with a grilled protein is a great way to add some heft to the meal, but sometimes we just want the veggies.

Often the dressing is an afterthought, whether it is a bottled version, a splash of oil and vinegar or something in between. I know, I know, we are rushed, we have hungry impatient families, we don’t want to mess up the blender. But hear me out.

I have found that when I devote energy to a dressing and integrate interesting and unique flavors, the veggies it is tossed over are less important, and there is not as much need to add so much to the salad itself. Suddenly, a simple bowl of greens with a few tomatoes and slices of cucumber is singing under a delicious dressing and the croutons, nuts, cheese, toasted chickpeas, et cetera, are no longer needed.

Another key consideration: Salad dressing keeps for several days, as vinegar is a preservative. So if you make a large batch, it will get you through the whole week, and suddenly that once-used blender is not so burdensome.

Black Olive Vinaigrette Dressing
Makes a generous ½ cup or enough for several large salads

Use the seasoned, pitted, oil-cured olives here; this is a great hack because the oil is already flavored.

¼ cup pitted olives
¼ cup oil from pitted olives
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Pinch salt
Generous sprinkle black pepper

In a blender or mini chopper, mix all the ingredients until smooth. Pour the dressing into a sealable container, and refrigerate it until ready to use.

Miso Ginger Dressing
Makes a generous ½ cup, or enough for several large salads

¼ cup miso paste (I use white,
but any type is fine)
1-inch piece fresh ginger, finely grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
¼ cup canola or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar

Mix all the ingredients well with a fork, or puree them in a blender or mini chopper, if desired. Refrigerate the dressing in a sealable container until ready to use.

Mustard-Onion Dressing
Makes about ¾ cup

This takes a bit longer than the other two because it involves pickling the onions first, but it is worth it!

For the onions:
1 small onion, sliced
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
Water, if needed
Pinch of salt

For the dressing:
Pickled onions
¼ cup grainy mustard
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup olive oil
Pinch salt
Generous sprinkling of pepper

Place the onions in a sealable container. Sprinkle them with salt and add the vinegar. If the onions are not submerged, add enough water to just cover. Refrigerate them for several hours or overnight. The onions should be soft and have a pickled, mild flavor.

Place the onions in a blender or mini chopper with all the remaining ingredients, and puree until smooth and creamy. Store the dressing in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Each of these dressings pairs beautifully with simple greens, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and shredded carrots. I’ve also tossed in the occasional nasturtium (those beautiful, orange edible flowers), some scallions or chives and whatever raw fresh veggies are lying around, such as green beans or broccoli.

The true test was last week when I had a family visit with their three teenage boys — the kids all went back for seconds and thirds on salad tossed in these dressings, even when mac and cheese was on the table.


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