Some helpful hints to make your salads better:

1. When using a whole head of lettuce, or greens from a bag, make sure to soak them for at least twenty minutes in very cold water.  Dry the greens well, then store them in an open plastic bag.  

2. When you are ready to use it, wrap the lettuce in paper towels and store it in the refrigerator for several hours.  This will absorb the excess moisture.

3. Always tear lettuce for tossed salads.  Cutting the lettuce greens will give the lettuce a wilted look and leave it with a bitter taste.

4. If your greens are wilted, or old, douse them with hot, but not boiling water, then immediately immerse them in cold water with a little bit of vinegar added to it.

5. Just before serving, season your salad greens with salt and pepper.  This will enhance the flavor of the greens.

6. If you don't have a recipe, the perfect proportion of oil to vinegar is two parts oil to one part vinegar.  Don't add the oil to the vinegar until you are ready to serve the salad.  Add the oil in a thin stream, whisking as you add it.  Then toss on the salad immediately. Use your salad dressing sparingly.  A thin coat of dressing will enhance the greens without overpowering them.

7. The water in tomatoes tend to thin out the salad dressing, so add tomatoes at the end after you have tossed the salad.

8. Serve salads on a platter, instead of in a bowl.  Then add all of your colorful ingredients such as vegetables, nuts, fruit, or even croutons.  This way they can't sink to the bottom, and will be evenly distributed on everyone's plate.

A great salad is dressed with a great salad dressing.  Save a lot of time by making a double or even triple batch of your salad dressing.  It keeps very well in a tightly closed jar in the refrigerator.  If you like, you can add a teaspoon or two of chopped garlic to give more flavor.  You can also use the dressing as a sauce or marinade for chicken or pasta.

The simple vinaigrette dressing is also known as the basic French dressing.  This is a temporary emulsion of oil and vinegar seasoned with salt and pepper.  The standard ratio of oil to vinegar is three to one.  Bear in mind that oils and vinegars have unique flavors.  Some of these flavors are stronger than others and may need to be used in different ratios.  Olive oil goes well with red wine vinegar.  Nut oils go well with balsamic and sherry vinegars.  Oil and vinegars naturally repel each other.  Adding the oil in a slow stream to the other dressing ingredients, whisking as you add it, will cause the oil molecules to unnaturally form an emulsion with the vinegar.

By adding herbs, spices, shallots, garlic, mustard, or other things to your simple vinaigrette you can enhance its simple flavor. 

Preparing a Vinaigrette:

1.  Choose an oil and vinegar that compliment each other as well as the foods that they will dress.

2.  Combine the vinegar, seasonings and any other flavorings.

3.  Whisk in the oil.

4.  Allow the finished dressing to rest a few hours at room temperature before using so the flavors will blend.

5.  Re-whisk before using.


When I was younger it was my job to make the salads before dinner.  If there was a lemon in the house, I always made this one.

Makes 2 cups

  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) good quality Dijon-style mustard
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup olive oil

In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice, shallots, mustard, salt and pepper.  Add the olive oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly to combine.  Serve immediately.


This recipe is my friend Elizabeth Barry's favorite dressing.  You can make it ahead, keep in a tightly closed jar, and use it as needed.

Makes about 2/3 cup

  • 1 tablespoon good quality Dijon-style mustard
  • ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) cabernet red wine vinegar, or other good red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced parsley
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Put the mustard in a small bowl.  Whisk in the vinegar, salt, pepper, and herbs to taste.

Add the olive oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens.  Adjust the seasonings.  Serve immediately.