How to make a perfect salad at home

One thing we are known for is our yummy salads.  With the holidays coming up, I’d thought I’d pass on some ideas for you to use when you entertain.  A great salad, like a great dessert, can be the highlight of your meal. 

First of all, making a great salad is all about the ingredients. You must have absolutely fresh, high quality lettuce. The organic spring mix and hearts of Romaine that we use here in the Café is widely available at your local supermarket. I think salads that have several kinds of lettuce are most interesting, but that’s a personal choice. The one thing I feel strongly about regarding the lettuce choice is to avoid iceberg lettuce for this type of salad. It’s tasteless, has no nutritional value to speak of, and doesn’t go well with this type of dressing, at least in my opinion.

Second, to have that Denica’s quality taste, you must have absolutely top quality (read: expensive) extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If you can get imported olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Italy or Spain, get it. If you don’t absolutely love the flavor of the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar you have on hand, don’t ever use it on a salad. Top quality balsamic vinegar and olive oil is something I always have in my cupboard.

Third, I think a great salad needs a few additions for complexity of flavor besides the oil and vinegar.   In my salads I like to include a savory, a sweet, and a crunchy addition.  It can be crumbled gorgonzola cheese, pecans, good quality olives, feta cheese, goat cheese, sliced sweet onions, edamame, marinated peppers, persimmon, pears, pomegranate seeds,  or any number of other tasty items.

This salad must be prepared right before you are going to serve it. Don’t let it sit around with the dressing on it. Now, here’s how to make that fantastic salad:

Denica’s Salad at Home
(2 servings)

3-4 handfuls absolutely fresh salad greens, preferably a mixture of baby greens
1-2 Tbsp  of the best quality extra virgin olive oil, enough to barely coat greens
1-2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-3 Tbsp of one Savory addition:

Crumbled feta cheese

Crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese

Imported kalamata or other flavorful olives

Marinated artichoke hearts

¼ cup of one Crunchy addition:

Toasted or candied nuts (almonds, walnuts,   pecans and pinenuts are my favorites)

Pomegranate seeds

Homemade croutons or tortilla strips

Sesame, pumpkin or sunflower seeds

½ cup of one Sweet addition:

(I am partial to whatever seasonal fruit I can find)

Strawberries or raspberries

Mango chunks

Pear- ripe bosc or comice, or asian apple pears

Fuji apples

Persimmon (the hard kind)

Use a large metal bowl to toss salad, not the plates you will be serving it on. Put lettuce in bowl, drizzle over the olive oil and toss. If lettuce is not all coated with oil, add a tiny bit more oil and toss again. Drizzle over small amount balsamic vinegar (I put my thumb over the end of the bottle so I don’t get too much), toss again. Taste a piece of lettuce to see if there is enough vinegar, and add more if needed.  Carefully toss in your additions, and season salad with pepper and arrange on two serving plates.  Enjoy your salad!

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