With spring come the first tender greens and weather warm enough that we want to eat something cool for lunch or dinner. Yes, these are our salad days. Bowls of color, crisp and vital, bursting with life and the promise of new things to come. As much as I want to dive in, first -- in the words of Julie Andrews as Maria -- we must start at the very beginning: salad dressing.
I know that many people might think of dressing as something that goes on last, as an afterthought, or something to gild the lily. How very, very wrong they are. Dressing, as everyone knows, is the fundamental tie that binds the salad together. One can wear a nice suit, but it's the shoes and jewelry that make the outfit.
A few years ago I had to participate in one of those silly introduction games like we used to play at summer camp, only this was about 15 years too late to be fun. There was a slightly unusual twist that probably would not have gone down well with the pre-teen set: this game was "If I were a piece of furniture, I would be a ___". We went around the room, most people saying mundane things like "I would be a bed because I like to sleep" (I can't remember mine -- I must have even bored myself). However, one person said, "If I were a piece of furniture, I would be a wardrobe." I knew exactly what he meant.
On these lines, the true salad connoisseur knows that however important the separate ingredients, they are nothing without the dressing.
Favorite salad dressing:
1 C. olive oil
1/4 C. balsamic vinegar
1 T. whole grain mustard
1 clove garlic, bruised
Fresh herbs if desired (either a sprig of rosemary to marinate in the dressing, or chopped parsley, basil or tarragon to throw in at the last minute)
Exact quantity of vinegar should be adjusted depending on how strong it is.