Killer Salads

I’ve been making some killer dinner salads lately and I’d like to share with you my technique.

I subscribe to the “stuff” philosophy of salad-making which is, essentially, that the best part of a salad is the “stuff,” not the lettuce. So my salads have no lettuce: just lots of stuff mixed together in a bowl with a homemade vinaigrette. The salad above, for example, has chopped up carrots, peppers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, bacon, avocado and blue cheese. The salad below, on the other hand, has peppers, carrots, onions, green beans, and chickpeas:


So here’s how I make a great salad. Buy your ingredients–they don’t have to be fancy or even from the farmer’s market, I got mine from my crappy Key Foods–bring them home and wash them and dry them well. Then cut your ingredients into big pieces and throw them into a bowl.

In a smaller bowl, place an egg yolk (that’s my dressing secret), a big spoonful of spicy French mustard and about 2 Tbs of balsamic vinegar with salt and pepper and whisk together. Then, slowly, drizzle in–drop by drop–your favorite olive oil, whisking all the time. If you do it correctly, it’ll stay thick and emulsified and you’ll ahve a creamy, tangy, colorful dressing for which to dress your salad.

Then pour about half the dressing over the vegetables, crumble on some really good blue cheese (the kind that has a name–like Danish Blue, which I used), grind some pepper over the bowl and mix it all together with a big spoon. Taste a bite and see if it needs more dressing, if it needs more cheese. Adjust accordingly and serve with some crusty bread which you’ve heated in the oven.

It may not be the healthiest salad on the block, but its certainly a healthier alternative to that fast food burger you were thinking of scarfing down from immoral cows.

Bon appetit.

15 thoughts on “Killer Salads”

  1. I just put my dressing in a container with a lid and shake the heck out of it before I add the oil. Then I add the oil and shake again. The mustard helps it stay emulsified.

    Both look great to me! I love the “stuff”!

  2. What defines a salad? When I think of the word, slices of pear, feta cheese, and balsamic vinegar don’t come to mind, if that makes sense. It just seems to be a fuzzy category that includes any old combination of foods. But maybe that’s right?

  3. For me, what makes a good salad is NOT USING LETTUCE. I just do not like lettuce. Am I alone in this? I LOVE other salad ingredients and a variety of vegetables. I can pull together a salad from pretty much anything else in the produce section… just not lettuce.

    I’ve been using lemon juice/olive oil/salt/pepper as a dressing a lot lately, but the mustard vinaigrette is surprisingly delicious too. One of my fave salads is from Molly over at Orangette: avocado, cilantro, endive, radicchio, and chevre, with a mustardy dressing. DAMN that salad has gotten me through many a tired evening!

  4. … Teaches me to read the second half of the article before the first half. I guess I’m VERY much not alone in this.

  5. Salad is one of my favs,and your pictures made immmediatley hungry. A really great dressing is Bersteins Italian mix it with all kinds of veggies and top with crumbled blue cheese. Its so good, you don’t need lettece:)

  6. I like baby spinach instead of lettuce. Here’s a good salad I “stole” from a bakery/deli: spinach, parmesan cheese, mandarin oranges, pecans (or almonds or walnuts), and deli turkey. You can use any kind of dressing you want – to each his/her own!

  7. Adam this is just what i needed! I’ve been in a salad rut recently and I’ve been bothered about it. I just haven’t really been making anything new or inspired in a few weeks. Thanks for the tip!

  8. I love all the “stuff” on salads too. One tip– take an extra minute to steam or microwave some of the “hard vegetables” (ie: carrots, broccoli) so they are a bit softer but still have a nice crunch or bite to them. It also brightens the colors.

    Also- make a double amount and let the second half marinate in the refrigerator until the next day. (reserve bacon until serving) Oh mama mia! Soo gooooood!

    And yes! The cheeses and avocado really kick make the salads luxurious, don’t they. mmmmm…..

  9. Sounds great. I make my dressing in the food processor and add the oil through the hole in the top while the processor is running. I always use red wine vinegar instead of balsamic, but I’ll have to give that a try now! This sounds like a great salad for a single person to make, mind if I mention you in my Cooking Single blog at

  10. Yum! I make a similar dressing, but I use a food processor (my favorite kitchen gadget). I add all the ingredients except the oil, then I pour that through the hole in the top while the processor is running. It emulsifies it perfectly. I’ve always made mine with red wine vinegar, but I can’t wait to try balsamic now!

    By the way, these sound like great meals for the single cook. Mind if I post a link to here on my Cooking Single blog at I just started it Friday!

  11. My complaint with salads at those pick-your-own salad bars is always that there is not ENOUGH lettuce in that bowl – too much goodies. The lettuce or spinach in salad breaks up the richness of everything else. Leafless salad is good too, but IMO as a side dish, not a main course.

    A recent fave which has gone into heavy rotation is this one from the Jan/Feb Everyday Food Mag Turkey Meatball Salad with Roasted Peppers and Parmesan. Sounds odd but its so good. Esp with a package of enoki mushrooms thrown in the broiler for the last few minutes, and since its always in my fridge, Pecorino Romano instead of Parm. You pre-make and freeze the meatballs so its a good handy dinner when you’re too beat to make anything else but don’t feel like having scrambled eggs and beans for dinner. Unfortunately its not on the web, so I think if I posted it it would be a copywrite issue. If you can find it, though, make it, its good!

  12. When I was a kid we used to go down to Greektown in Detroit for dinner once in a while. They always had two greek salads on the menu – one with lettuce and one without lettuce. I’m going to make a salad sans lettuce tonight.

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