Hot summer days call for simple recipes. We like to eat lots of plate salads. Basically, we scrounge the refrigerator for anything that looks like it could go on a salad plate. The basics are simple – greens of some sort and any fresh vegetables you might have on hand. But we also add leftovers to our list. Cold potatoes, cooked green beans, left over frittata, cooked grains like rice or quinoa, can all be added to a composed salad. It’s also a great time to break out the pickled or marinated vegetables you might have on hand – that smoked picked okra (smokra) that your best friend gave you when she came to visit or the artichoke hearts tucked away on the top shelf way in the back behind the yogurt.
Then, to pull all these disparate ingrediants together, you just need a simple salad dressing. My favorite and most flavorful dressing is a mustard vinaigrette because it’s great on any salad green but it’s strong flavor really highlights cooked vegetables as well. It has a bit of a French feel, like you’re making a Salad Nicoise but without the fuss of worrying about if the salad really fits any definition whatsoever.
What do you need? A handful of fresh herbs from the garden or farmer’s market. Parsley is a must and flat leaf is my preference but you’re chopping it fine so just use what you have on hand. A little thyme or oregano can add a little excitement. Garlic chives? Sure why not. Just make the bulk of the herbs parsley. Wash the herbs, place them on your chopping board. Add a tablespoon or two of capers to the pile. If you don’t have capers, just hunt for a picked vegetable of some kind, even a gherkin if you must. Then find a shallot, chop it into a couple of pieces and add it to the pile. No shallot? How about a green onion? Or even a small clove of garlic for a real kick. Just something from the allium family.
Take that pile and your favorite chopping knife and mince away. You want to mince until the pieces are tiny and all mixed up. You want to be able to taste a small bite and not pick out a single flavor but taste a blend of them all.
In a small bowl, place a teaspoon or two of your favorite mustard – we like dijon with whole mustard seeds, a country mustard if you will. But your favorite mustard will make it your dressing so feel free to experiment. Add a tablespoon of sour cream or yogurt or whipping cream or half and half. Do you get the idea? You use what you have! Whisk this together with a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Okay, so you don’t have red wine vinegar. Improvise! Cider vinegar might be a little strong but you could dilute it with a little water. Balsamic is a little sweet but it could work. White wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, all are viable options. Be brave and try what you have.
Add your minced herb mixture to the bowl. Then grab your best olive oil. As you whisk, drizzle olive oil into the bowl. Whisking as you add the olive oil makes the mixture emulsify or stick together. That means you won’t have to constantly whisk your dressing at the table. You’ll need 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup of olive oil. The final dressing should be clingy – the more oil you drizzle and whisk, the thicker your dressing will become.
I hope this is a simple recipe that you can add to your go-to list. Enjoy!