Salads and Homemade Dressing

by Brenda Langton, Tastemaker in Residence - Tips from Brenda’s Spoonriver Cookbook

Buy whole heads of Bibb, leaf, and romaine lettuce and wash them. This will usually save you money, and you will end up with a much fresher salad than with the prewashed bagged salad mixes (which you really should wash anyway).

Some of our favorite simple additions to greens include:

grated carrots (no need to peel them)

thinly sliced red cabbage

thinly sliced fennel crisped in cold water for a while

red or sweet white onions

green onions

thinly sliced



alfalfa, clover, broccoli, or other sprouts



orange or grapefruit pieces

apples or pears

nuts, such as walnuts, pistachios, toasted almonds, and pumpkin seeds

chickpeas (canned are fine)

goat cheese, feta, or bleu cheese


A simple vinegar and oil dressing uses about 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil. We sometimes like to use fresh citrus, apple, or any number of juices instead of all vinegar. Replacing some of the vinegar with juice allows for a lighter dressing because you can add less oil. Try adding mirin, honey, or a splash of maple syrup for a touch of sweetness. Mustard adds a spark of spiciness, but dissolve it in the other ingredients before adding the oil.