My salad days have only begun!
May 25, 2012 6:17 AM   Subscribe

Your very best salad dressings and salad recipes needed!

So I've been on a salad kick like you wouldn't believe, but it's always basically the same salad - spinach and arugula (rocket!) and various spring-mix kinds of greens, walnuts, a few tofu chunks and either balsamic vinaigrette or a sesame-oil/tamari dressing. What else is out there?

1. Salad dressings - anything delicious that does not contain meat; I would prefer vegan dressings, but to be honest I occasionally fall off the wagon.

2. Salads - heavy on the greens! I like salads with nuts, too. Don't hold back - exotic ingredients are fine. Vegan is good, but recipes with a little cheese are okay too, since I can substitute for that (or, as above, fall off the wagon into the cheese tray).
posted by Frowner to Food & Drink (39 answers total) 120 users marked this as a favorite
Lots of gado-gado recipes out there: think veggies with peanut dipping sauce. I like it with fresh green beans as one of the veggies. Some recipes call for boiled egg, you don't have to include it if you don't want to.

Your current salad actually sounds pretty good.
posted by gimonca at 6:29 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I should note that my personal idea of gado-gado usually involves mostly fresh, raw veggies, not boiled so much.
posted by gimonca at 6:31 AM on May 25, 2012

Fill a 12-16 ounce glass jar with 1/3 balsamic vinegar, 2/3 good quality EVOO, and 1/2 minced shallot. Cap the jar and shake well. Funnel as much as you can into a cruet or tall thin bottle for easier pouring.
posted by Currer Belfry at 6:32 AM on May 25, 2012

I don't have suggestions for put-together salads, but some of the things I like in a salad are dried cranberries, feta cheese, slivered almonds (especially if they've been toasted with garlic! yum!), bell peppers, and well-salted halved cherry tomatoes.
posted by Night_owl at 6:35 AM on May 25, 2012

I love this napa cabbage slaw in the summer, non-vegan because of the buttermilk.

Also, I've been making a lot of kale salads like this lately. Don't forget to massage your kale! It makes it easier to eat, and a little less bitter. The tahini-lemon dressing that she uses here is so, so, so tasty.
posted by lotus-eater at 6:36 AM on May 25, 2012

I've found mirin is a great ingredient for salad dressings of many kinds (definitely with sesame oil)and actually not bad used as is, either.
posted by Segundus at 6:38 AM on May 25, 2012

Escarole (wash really well! It gets dirty up in there!) + mix with olive oil, 3-4 cloves crushed/smashed garlic and lots of salt. Yum! The escarole is bitter enough that you don't need an acid like vinegar.

1 part red wine vinegar, 2 parts olive oil (not sure the exact ratios, I make this in a pretty standard sized good seasonings salad dressing bottle), 1 clove garlic chopped, ~1-2 tsp of mustard powder, a couple crushed of black pepper and a pinch of salt.
posted by fermezporte at 6:40 AM on May 25, 2012

The salad section in Appetite for Reduction is aces, if you have (or want to buy) that book. Her green garlic goddess dressing has become my go-to for practically everything.

I also made a terrific salad from Viva Vegan last week. It is:
- spinach
- thinly sliced red onion
- tomato
- avocado
- tempeh asado (tempeh marinated in broth, garlic, cumin, oregano and then fried)
- creamy ancho dressing (vegenaise, reconstituted dried chiles, lime juice, and ketchup, which somehow comes together in an incredible way - google books link to recipe)
posted by something something at 6:44 AM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

I make this salad all of the time. The dressing and combination of ingredients is delicious. It always gets lots of compliments. Sometimes I make it Spring Mix instead of Romaine and it's just as delicious.

Summer Romaine Salad with Lime-Garlic Dressing
posted by Fairchild at 6:53 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

2 teaspoons of sugar, one teaspoon of vinegar, a little bit of salt and a little more pepper. Simple and delicious.
posted by Akke at 6:54 AM on May 25, 2012

Lately I like my salad with slices of orange and raw fennel, escarole, and just a bit of something from the onion family (shallots, green onions. . . something mild); for the dressing, I use olive oil, champagne vinegar, and a bit of the orange's juice. Sprinkle some pistachios on top for a bit of crunch.
posted by katie at 6:55 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry, 2 teaspoons of sugar, four teaspoons of vinegar, a little bit of salt and a little more pepper. Simple and delicious.
posted by Akke at 6:55 AM on May 25, 2012

When figs are in season, I love a mixed greens salad with cut up figs (roast them a bit for extra points), goat or blue cheese, and a vinaigrette of fig-flavoured balsamic, olive oil, S&P, and a little honey (sugar or jam* would work too). Nuts are a good addition if you like, though I usually don't bother.

For an asian dressing, whizz up garlic and ginger with olive oil, a little sesame oil, a splash of OJ and a dribble of soy sauce. (I use a mini-food processor).

Peanut sauce: 1 cup each peanut butter and hot water, 1/4 cup each rice wine vinegar, soy sauce (or tamari), and honey (molasses works too), 1 tsp cayenne. Combine over low heat. May need to thin it out more with water to use on a salad, but this also works as a sauce over noodles / skewers.

My favourite Greek dressing: smash 1 or 2 garlic cloves and let it steep in: 1 TBS red wine vinegar, 1 TBPS lemon juice, 1 tsp dried oregano, about 10 cranks of freshly ground pepper, and salt to taste. Slowly whisk in 6 TBSP olive oil and let that sit for about 15 mins (longer is fine - I keep a bottle of that in my fridge and just don't take the garlic out). Great over quinoa/orzo salad or as a marinade too.

Thinned out hummus (a little extra oil, a little more water/veg broth, and more lemon) is a quick dressing if you keep hummus on hand. Really wanna try Thoom (aka: that garlicky white sauce you get on falafel) soon.

*Actually, jam is a really quick way to turn any vinaigrette into a fruit-flavoured vinaigrette.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 6:58 AM on May 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

Oops, you should also add some rice wine vinegar to that asian soy/orange dressing above. Sorry. Back to my coffee now.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 6:59 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

We do a salad with yummy tender baby greens (or romaine), red onion, granny smith apples, avocados and goat cheese. A good dressing is Annie's Raspberry Vinaigrette, mmmm.
posted by mibo at 7:23 AM on May 25, 2012

This butter beans with feta is sensational. Yotam Ottolenghi's got plenty more where that came from.

As for vinaigrettes, I like em sharp and strong. Crush a clove of garlic. Mush it up with some good salt. Add mustard, a good amount of white wine vinegar and freshly ground pepper. Shake to mix. Finish off with a healthy dose of extremely high quality olive oil. Shake well. Taste and add more oil or vinegar to taste. Leave to sit for half an hour so it can learn to love itself. Eat it.
posted by ZipRibbons at 7:24 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've been making a salad lately that is all vegetables and no greens, but you could easily add greens to this one. The blanching part is key-- don't skip that step.

Cut up broccoli florets and asparagus tips; blanch (about a minute each).
Blanch whole corn cobs (about two minutes). When cool, cut kernels from cob.
Cut up red pepper (or anything else that adds a crunchy texture).
Defrost or otherwise prepare a handful of shelled edamame.
Add anything else you like.
Mix and chill.

Dressing (oil-free), all ingredients to taste (idea of proportions given below):
Coarse ground dijon mustard (about a half a cup)
Honey (about a quarter of a cup)
Teaspoon of sugar (optional)
Tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar
Tablespoon or so of fresh-squeezed lime juice
Dash of cayenne

Whisk together, pour over chilled vegetables and mix well.
posted by mireille at 7:33 AM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, yeah-- salt and pepper, of course.
posted by mireille at 7:34 AM on May 25, 2012

If you keep a good stock of dressing ingredients on hand it's fun to play around! I like good honey, chili oil, mustard oil, fish sauce, saffron oil and then I add interesting spices - lemon powder is great in the summer. You can also toss the nuts in spices - pecans in cocoa powder with a hearty green like kale is great.

Also, don't forget you can eat more of the green or vegetable than people usually do. You can chop up the stem portion of a green for some crunch or add the leaves from celery or carrots.

Panzanellas are nice and hearty as well!
posted by theuninvitedguest at 7:38 AM on May 25, 2012

You may want to cross-check a thread posted a few years back. Lots of great salad ideas in there. My go-to salad dressing recipe for my favorite salad (also shared there) is:

Apple Vinaigrette:

Combine equal parts good apple cider vinegar, boiled cider*, and canola oil. Start with a third of a cup of each. To this, I add a pinch of salt and pepper, a hearty pinch of brown sugar, shake it all up in a mason jar before pouring over salad. Rosemary and/or diced sweet onion optional.

Using 1/3C of each of the "liquid" ingredients, the dressing makes enough to serve a large salad for four. It also keeps very well in the fridge.

*If you're not in the Northeast USA, and you don't want to buy a jar online, just get a good quality apple juice (Trader Joe's Gravenstein juice works great) and boil it in a non-reactive saucepan until it's reduced by at least half. You'll know it's done when it starts to sheet off the back of a spoon. It tastes intensely apple-y and keeps for ever (and ever) in the fridge.

The salad I pour it over is made by tossing several cups of mixed baby greens and/or butter lettuce with thinly-sliced vidalia onions, dehydrated apple chips, pecans, gorgonzola and garlic croutons. If you fall off the vegan wagon, it's yummy with chicken/bacon.
posted by muirne81 at 7:56 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

    Salad of spinach with dressing of green onions, 1/2 each of an avocado, chopped tomato and red pepper with some oil and vinegar. Coleslaw with cabbage, carrot and sliced kale, ideally topped with toasted sesame seeds, walnuts or other nuts. Tofu marinated in dressing of salsa with oil and vinegar added to it, on top of greens.

posted by Listener at 8:02 AM on May 25, 2012

I always keep some canned items on hand for when I'm out of fresh veggies - kidney beans, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, olives.
posted by radioamy at 8:09 AM on May 25, 2012

Well, that was three kinds of salads, and I was using an html code for ordered list that worked on preview.
posted by Listener at 8:11 AM on May 25, 2012

my favorite salad is whatever kind of leafy green--probably arugula and romaine--black beans, cheddar (easy to leave out), zucchini, tomatoes, avocado, red onion, salsa, hot sauce. the avocado and salsa combine to make a deliciously creamy dressing.

arugula--butternut squash--apple is an awesome fall combo. i make a curry buttermilk dressing that's basically buttermilk, yogurt, curry powder, a little honey, a little olive oil, salt and pepper. not sure how to make that vegan but it's probably possible.

if you're eating eggs, arugula--soft boiled egg--toast--salt and pepper.

i like arugula.
posted by editrixx at 8:40 AM on May 25, 2012

there was a thread awhile ago about nutritional yeast that included a salad dressing recipe, and it's really good! i'm sure, being a vegan, you're well aware of the wonders of nyf.
posted by genmonster at 8:46 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I make my own buttermilk ranch which starts with a base that can be used for a lot of creamy dressings. Here's the base (from memory)

1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1/2 Cup Mayo
1/2 Cup to a Cup of Buttermilk

Combine Sour Cream and Mayo with Salt and Pepper to taste. Slowly Buttermilk until you get the consistency and flavor you want. This really needs an acid to bring out the flavor. But that's one of the variation

This is where I start. For a basic Ranch I'll add:
Lemon Juice
Fresh Dill (or a lot of dry dill if that's what I have)
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder

My usual variation is to replace the lemon juice with Balsamic Vinegar which adds both a sweetness and tang. Depending on the sweetness level of your balsamic you may still need a bit of lemon juice or something like red wine vinegar to keep the tanginess). I also add some paprika and sometimes some very finely ground garlic.

You can also take the base and add blue cheese (no acid) to get a great fresh blue cheese dressing.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:25 AM on May 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

We like playing with dressing ingredients, but our standard, everyday, super quick, no worries blend is: 1 to 1 olive oil and balsamic vinegar, dash of sea salt and pepper, squirt of dijon mustard, a squirt of Worcestershire (delete for vegan dressings) AND ( a tip we picked up from a friend) a tiny squirt of ketchup, which helps bind everything and (used in moderation) adds a nice flavor -

For times when we want to get a little fancier, I'm definitely trying out bitdamaged's buttermilk ranch above...
posted by jalexei at 9:29 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Add a couple shakes of ground cinnamon to a regular balsamic & olive oil vinaigrette. You won't taste the cinnamon; it just adds a nice roundness to the dressing.

Go to the NYTimes site and search for "101 salads" -- you'll get lots of interesting new combos to try, courtesy of Mark Bittman.
posted by dogrose at 9:33 AM on May 25, 2012

(I should clarify -- many of Bittman's combos aren't vegan. But most are or can easily be made so.)
posted by dogrose at 9:38 AM on May 25, 2012

My favorite dressing, which works well on salads both hot and cold, is:

1/4 - 1/2 tsp mustard (any kind)
1 clove of minced garlic (or as much as you like)
1/4 c lemon juice
1/3 - 1/2 c olive oil (depending on how lemony you like your dressing)

I like to whisk it all together because I like using a whisk, but my dad likes to put it in a jar with a tight lid and shake. It's also great over quinoa, brown rice, roasted potatoes...
posted by shamash at 10:18 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for departures from the standard salad with greens, I made this asparagus salad is amazing. You can leave off the parmesan no problem. I added a splash of honey to the dressing, in addition to all the listed ingredients.
posted by ActionPopulated at 11:15 AM on May 25, 2012

Awhile back, my mother in Santa Fe sent me some goodies from Oleacea Olive Oil. I can tell you that the combination of their Apricot Balsamic Vinegar and Butternut Squash Seed Oil is heaven on a salad.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:24 PM on May 25, 2012

Cubes of Gjetos (Yay' toast) is a real treat. If you like goat cheese, it's caramelized goat cheese, made from goat whey.
Trader Joe's carries a Champagne, Pear, and Parmesan dressing that's great. It's less than $3, in the refrigerated section with other salad fixin's.
Miso is a great ingredient in dressing. lots of recipes on the intertubes.
posted by JABof72 at 3:18 PM on May 25, 2012

Mizuna greens
Cut up fresh strawberries
toasted pine nuts

dressed with some olive oil lime juice maple syrup dressing, about
5 parts olive oil
one part lime juice
two parts maple syrup
a bit of kosher salt
whisk together, put on greens and toss, add strawberries and hot pine nuts

Also good with dried cherries or cranberries in place of strawberries, if you don't have them available
posted by ch1x0r at 3:51 PM on May 25, 2012

We make this sala from Cook's Illustrated a lot, which normally has chicken but you of course can skip that.

Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1carrot , peeled and shredded
1/2 head medium Napa cabbage, sliced thin ­crosswise (about 4 cups)
1/2 large red bell pepper , stemmed, seeded, and sliced thin (about 1 cup)
1 cup bean sprouts
2 scallions , sliced thin
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup chow mein noodles

Shake the vinegar, 1 tablespoon oil, hoisin, soy sauce, and ginger together in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

Toss the carrot, cabbage, red pepper, sprouts, scallions, and cilantro in a large serving bowl. Shake the dressing to recombine, pour it over the salad, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with the chow mein noodles before serving.
posted by waitangi at 4:15 PM on May 25, 2012

I cannot overstate how buying very high quality and/or infused olive oil and vinegar transformed salads for me. This is by far my brand of choice. I have yet to buy one I don't like. Here is my basic recipe:

Equal parts olive oil and vinegar
Dash of mustard
Fresh garlic (add a ton if you really like garlic)
Lots of salt (don't under salt add twice as much as you think trust me you can taste it before you add it to the salad to make sure it's not too much. If you can really taste the flavors of the olive oil and vinegar you don't have enough salt)
Some fresh pepper
Fresh lemon juice (optional)
posted by whoaali at 6:06 PM on May 25, 2012

I found that adding some miso to my standard vinaigrette gives it a little somethin' somethin' that keeps my dressing rotation from getting too boring.
posted by karlos at 5:07 AM on May 26, 2012

This is the favorite at my house. A little different, and good for lots of things besides salad, too.
Hollyhock's Yeast Dressing Recipe
Hollyhock's most popular salad dressing.  Dark and intensely flavored, this dressing is versatile and rich in B vitamins.
Combine the first 5 ingredients in a blender until they are thoroughly mixed. While still mixing on high, pour the oil in a slow, steady stream.  Add all the oil or stop when a desired consistency is reached.  When refrigerated, the dressing will keep for up to 2 weeks. Makes 2 1/2 cups.

1/2 cup nutritional flake yeast
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 T crushed garlic
1 1/2 Cups sunflower oil*
Nutritional flake yeast comes from molasses (it grows on molasses) and is rich in B vitamins. Do not confuse it with brewer's yeast, its darker and powdered cousin.
I don't know what that * is there for.
Hollyhock is on Cortes Island.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:09 AM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lately I like my salad with slices of orange and raw fennel, escarole, and just a bit of something from the onion family (shallots, green onions. . . something mild); for the dressing, I use olive oil, champagne vinegar, and a bit of the orange's juice. Sprinkle some pistachios on top for a bit of crunch.
posted by katie at 6:55 AM on May 25

Following up on katies suggestion, thinly julienne raw fennel, slice a nice juicy but firm orange, drizzle evoo and the best damn balsamic you can afford -($40+ for a bottle that will last you a year becuase each time you use a teaspoon)............ Mix, then coarse grate some parmesano reggiano. Delish.
posted by lalochezia at 10:23 AM on May 26, 2012

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