Different oils offer a wide array of flavors. A drizzle of an unexpected oil can take your salad from so-so to sensational.
- Extra virgin olive oil: For an all-purpose salad oil, you can't beat EVOO. It has a full-bodied flavor that can be peppery, fruity, grassy or flowery. Buy by color, not by price: Bright green oils are peppery and a little bitter, while yellow oils are warmer and have a buttery flavor.
- Nut and seed oils have a rich, toasty flavor that goes great with strong greens or Asian-accented dishes. Nut and seed oils are less stable than most. Store them in the refrigerator to avoid rancidity.
- Hazelnut oil: Made from roasted nuts, this is a rich oil and too heavy to be used alone. Mix it with extra virgin olive oil, which actually enhances the nutty flavor. A good complement to pears, artichokes and wild rice.
- Walnut oil: Moderate this assertive oil by combining it in equal parts with extra virgin olive oil or sunflower seed oil. Tames bitter greens; great with apples and pears.
- Dark sesame oil: Unlike light sesame oil, this is made from roasted seeds, which give it an aromatic intensity. Use in small quantities as a flavoring oil. Especially good with cabbage slaws.
- Sunflower seed oil: A good all-purpose salad oil with a mild nutty flavor that adds character to a dressing without dominating it.
- Grapeseed oil: A great choice for salad dressings because it emulsifies particularly well. When used in combination, its neutral taste really allows the flavors of walnut and hazelnut oil to shine through.
This condiment adds depth and acidity to your vinaigrette. A couple of things to keep in mind about vinegar are:
- The less acidic the vinegar, the less oil is needed to balance the dressing out.
- Bitter greens require less of an acidic edge from a dressing. Up the oil and/or lower the vinegar accordingly.
Your vinegar pantry:
- Apple cider vinegar: A tart, fruity vinegar that's great with grain salads, bacon or smoked fish; best paired with a lighter oil like sunflower or peanut.
- Balsamic vinegar: This sweet, low acid and full-bodied vinegar is best used to lend a sweet accent to other vinegars. The cheap versions easily become cloying when used alone, and the expensive ones are better saved for use as a condiment. Great as a salad vinaigrette, but also good at the end of a meal, drizzled over fresh fruit like raspberries, strawberries or melon. Don't forget to pass the pepper grinder.
- Distilled white vinegar: This harsh and powerfully acidic vinegar is not good for dressing salads save it for pickling or removing odor from your cutting boards.
- Rice wine vinegar: Its mild flavor and low acidity is a good match with Asian greens, mesclun or other delicate greens.
- Sherry vinegar: A high-acid Spanish wine vinegar that is full-flavored, nutty and complex. We highly recommend it.
- Red wine vinegar: This is an all-purpose, workhorse vinegar. Its powerful acidity makes it a good balance for heavy nut oils.
- White wine vinegar: Subtler than red wine vinegar. Team white wine vinegar with lighter, more neutral-tasting oils like grapeseed, safflower or sunflower.
- Herb-infused vinegar: We prefer just a white wine vinegar with some classic fresh salad herbs, like tarragon, chervil, parsley, basil, dill or cilantro, tossed in.
Is your salad dressing not all you hoped for? Try these additions to take it to the next level.
- Sharpen: capers, mustard, olives
- Enliven: shallots, scallions, chives
- Enrich: sour cream, plain yogurt, crème fraîche
- Sweeten: honey, roasted garlic, balsamic vinegar
- Punch up: crushed garlic, anchovies, black pepper
To accessorize your salad, try:
- Toasted nuts or seeds walnuts, pistachios, almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, plums and many others
- Smoked fish
- Crumbled bacon
- Sliced apples or pears
- Dried fruits: cherries, raisins, cranberries
- Grated or shaved cheeses: Parmesan, pecorino Romano, or aged gouda
- Crumbled cheeses: blue cheese, feta, queso fresco, goat cheese
- Sectioned oranges
- Hard boiled egg, sliced or crumbled
- Olives, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers
- Strips of leftover chicken or turkey
- Poached chicken breast, shredded or cubed
- Cooked shrimp or scallops