How to Dress a Salad

I was visiting one of my oldest friends, Kate, recently and we were in the kitchen.

I was trying hard not to interfere.

She was making pizza – an airy yet crisp crust slathered with a rich tomato sauce – and she asked me to dress the green salad.

I automatically did what I always do – gently massaged a little salt into the leaves, sprinkled and turned a judicious amount of red wine vinegar through them and then did the same with some olive oil.

All with clean hands of course.

When we sat down to eat she was amazed at how good it was.

“Why didn’t I know this before?”

“Please tell me how to do it!”

I couldn’t remember when I’d started to do this as a matter of course  – it kind of snuck up on me and I think I was inspired by various Italian cookbooks.

Looking at Marcella Hazan’s “The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” – I think I’ve taken her way of dressing simple potato salad and applied it to other vegetables including fresh leafy greens.

The proportions remain about the same as a vinaigrette -about 1 part vinegar or lemon juice to 3 parts olive oil, and a couple of shakes of a salt cellar or turns of a grinder.

I don’t put much on at all – maybe a one or two teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice and a tablespoon or a tablespoon and a half of oil.

This is for a green salad in a fairly large bowl – say six large handfuls of leaves.

Any vinegar will do but I prefer red wine or cider vinegar as they are more mellow than white.

You must eat a green salad dressed like this straight away.

Other more robust vegetables will stand this method for longer!

This lettuce is just beginning to yield leaves. I pick the outer ones and leave the plant growing

I’m writing this because I’ve just picked the first leaves off my late sowing of lettuce which I will be covering with fleece in the next week or two as it gets colder.

The fresh crisp leaves are a delicate green flushed at the edges with a champagne pink and burgundy.

I’ll be eating this for lunch with the remainder of my black cherry tomatoes and some chopped cucumber  – I found what must be the last two of the outdoor ones hiding under the parent plant’s leaves.

I may add a little finely sliced red onion and some fennel tops – my late sowings of that vegetable are starting to look a bit stronger now even though I planted them in the shade of a cob nut tree that badly needs coppicing.