Dressings are probably the #1 Best Thing to Make Instead of Buy. All you need is an oil, an acid, and maybe some spices or condiments. Oils can range from extra-virgin olive oil (great with everything!) to unrefined peanut and sesame oils (fantastic with Asian dishes) to delicate nut oils like walnut and pistachio that add an unusual dimension to any dish. Acids can be vinegars — red wine, balsamic, apple cider, brown rice — or citrus juices. Most of those acids are on the sour side, but some are sweet, like orange juice or cocktail grapefruit juice. (Even apple cider vinegar is sweet when you compare it to other vinegars.) Spices can be dried or fresh; condiments can range from soy sauce to Dijon mustard, depending on what kind of flavor you’re looking for.
For this easy chopped salad, I made a simple Dijon vinaigrette. Mustard is a great addition to acid-and-oil dressings because it’s an emulsifier, which means it helps the vinegar/citrus juice blend with the oil (two substances that stubbornly refuse to merge). Think of mustard as the ultimate culinary ambassador. Raw egg yolk can fill that role, too, but unless you get your eggs from a trusted source, I wouldn’t advise eating them raw. If you do have a great source for eggs, though, you can make some beautifully blended dressings!
Chopped Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette These are just general suggestions for your salad elements. Feel free to use whatever proportion you find appealing, or even add more goodies.
For the salad (for two people):
Red leaf or green leaf lettuce, chopped
Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful of roasted and salted cashews
2 radishes, cut into thin slices
Feta cheese, cut into chunks (sheep’s- or goats’-milk Feta cheeses have the most flavor)
For the dressing (for two people):
1 T. red wine vinegar
1/2 to 1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
Toss all salad ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, thyme, and mustard. Slowly whisk in the oil until you have a smooth dressing.
Toss salad with dressing and serve immediately. If you like, garnish with a fresh sprig of thyme or oregano.