Ok, if you're a food blogger who's reading this you may be thinking, what a boring topic for Kalyn to be writing about. The truth is, the longer I've been writing this blog, the more amazed I am at what some people want to know about cooking. I recently had some friends for dinner and made this simple salad. They all wanted detailed instructions about how I had done it, so I realized it might be something a lot of "normal" people (i.e. not food bloggers) might like to have explained.
First of all, making a great salad is all about the ingredients. You must have absolutely fresh, high quality lettuce. Many places now sell the lettuce mix pictured above (often called Spring Mix) which I used to make my salad. If you live near a Farmers Market, or grow your own lettuce, even better. 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 restaurant quality taste, you must have absolutely top quality (read: expensive) extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If your city has a store that imports olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Italy, go there to get it. You can actually get some pretty good choices in most supermarkets in the U.S. too, if you're willing to buy the most expensive one they have in stock. Salt Lake has a wonderful import market called Granatos where they will actually let you taste the olive oils before you select one; what a great idea. 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 restaurant quality salad needs one flavor addition besides the oil and vinegar. In the salad above I used gorgonzola cheese, but it could be pecans, good quality olives, feta cheese, goat cheese, sliced sweet onions, edamame, marinated peppers, 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:
Restaurant Quality Salad at Home
3-4 handfuls absolutely fresh salad greens, preferably a mixture of baby greens
1-2 T best quality extra virgin olive oil, enough to barely coat greens
1-2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
fresh ground black pepper
2-3 T crumbled gorgonzola cheese or other flavor addition of your coice
Use a large metal bowl to toss salad, not the plates you will be serving it on. Put lettuce in bowl, drizzle over one tablespoon of 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. Season salad with pepper and arrange on two serving plates. Crumble a small bit of gorgonzola cheese over each salad.
Enjoy your salad!