First A little salad story
My love for salad runs deep. Even as a child I loved salad. I'd run home from school and make a massive antipasto to nosh on while watching reruns of The Addams Family. In those days my salads consisted of iceberg lettuce, tomato wedges, cucumbers, Italian meats and provolone cheese. I would drown them in my favorite Italian dressing. I couldn't get enough of zesty, herby vinaigrette like Ken's or Wishbone. My vegetables would literally be swimming in puckery vinegar, and I relished every bite.
Although my family was meat and pasta centric, at family gatherings there was always a giant salad at the buffet. One of my favorites was the chopped salad that my Grandmother Evelyn made. Although she didn't cook much since my Grandfather Bill was the chef, her signature chop salad was a true beauty. She lovingly chopped a bevy of colorful veggies in small pieces to top the lettuce. Her salad was my first "eat the rainbow" memory. It had colorful bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and sometimes olives, all chopped in flawless, uniform sizes. This was also my first exposure to homemade dressing. She always made a punchy vinaigrette with oil and vinegar to go with it. This dressing inspired my Basic Herby Vinaigrette Recipe.
My Grandmother Evelyn was the ultimate Queen of the castle. Even in those days, when women usually took the back seat, she wore the pants in the family. Both strict and kind, she was a force to be reckoned with. She has been gone many years now. But the memory of her strong character and mischievous, crinkly eyed grin stays with me. And of course, I think of her every time I make a rainbow chop salad and my Basic Herby Vinaigrette.
This vinaigrette is less oily, sweeter and more herby than her dressing but is still a tribute to her memory. I will always treasure the memories of simpler times. Memories of Sunday morning visits with my Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and cousins. I remember big family gatherings. Giant buffets packed with delicious foods like meatballs and baked pastas and giant rainbow salads. Everyone would be chattering and laughing, in a line to fill our plates, bellies and hearts. One in a comic blunder for the ages, I shook a capless bottle and bathed my small cousin Allie in dressing.
This Basic Herby Vinaigrette is my go-to dressing. It is zesty, herbal, slightly sweet and quick to make. You will never go wrong with this flavor combo and formula to make dressing. Take my vinaigrette recipe and make it your own. Tinker with the amounts, the type of vinegar, the spices. I hope you make a dressing that you love and share it with your family. Make treasured memories of eating delicious, colorful and healthy food. Even if you think salad is "just a side dish", you may spark a lifelong fascination with fresh for someone. That is the biggest gift you can give.
Basic Herb Vinaigrette Recipe
- 2 tbsp xtra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp maple syrup you may sub another sweetener
- 1 tsp dry Italian spices
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 pinch black pepper
- ad all ingredients to a bowl
- whisk until slightly emulsified