How to Dress a Salad Well …

Just down the street … the Hollywood Farmers’ Market in my corner of Portland is hopping on Saturday mornings!

Summertime lends itself to glorious green salads, right??  According to the principles of Chinese medicine, though, eating raw veggies isn’t the greatest for health because they are considered cold in nature.  The idea is that healthy digestion is like a nice warm roaring fire, processing everything that comes down the hatch.  You don’t necessarily want to cover it with a cold, wet blanket.  This is a challenging concept to get across to many people, who connect lots of raw greens with robust health.  The truth is, I think most of us would benefit from getting in more vegetables in whatever form they take!  But I have seen many people clear up longstanding gas and bloating issues by starting to lightly cook their veggies with nice warming spices like ginger and cinnamon that stoke the digestive fire.

Look at this gorgeous bag!  Yaaay!! Spotted in the CSA line at a local health center, where I have an acupuncture rotation this summer.  I love that they bring fresh veggies right to the clinic!

The thing is, a salad doesn’t just have to be a bowl of raw stuff, does it?  Let’s expand our salad horizons … I eat cooked greens for most of the year, but there IS something spectacular to the vibrant aliveness in a fresh salad green picked straight from the ground.  In the summer, when I try to stick to my local farmers’ market for vegetables, I will often compromise and add steamed broccoli, beets, roasted chunks of squash or sauteed zucchini on top of a bowl of fresh lettuce … or pile chunks of fresh tomato and lots of herbs on top of a plate of stir-fried veggies.  Either way, I like to have a wonderful, tasty dressing to top it all off — full of the flavor and healing, digestive properties of herbs and spices.  And salad dressing is one of those things that can be chock full of junk if you use the store-bought varieties.  It takes just a minute to make your own, which will support your digestion and add to the nourishment of the veggies rather than topping them with unpronounceable factory ingredients.

Get to know your vinegars and you will learn which bright acidic burst of flavor you like with which spices and veggies … yum!

This week’s recipe gives you the basics of how to make a simple vinaigrette … on which you can compose endless riffs to suit your salad (or stir-fry, or steamed vegetable) fancy.  Add sliced hard boiled egg, avocado, a bit of leftover shredded chicken or crumbled baked tofu, kidney/gabanzo/ or black beans, chopped nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds on top of your vegetables for a quick bit of protein and a full meal.

Fresh herbs blended into salad dressing are a lovely summertime treat, but you can benefit from all sorts of dried aromatic & warming herbs and spices all year round …


  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • few shakes of tamari, soy sauce, or Bragg’s liquid aminos
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 3-4 sun dried tomatoes
  • handful of fresh herbs (fresh basil is especially nice this time of year!) or 1-3 teaspoons dried herbs (oregano, thyme, basil, tarragon, rosemary, cilantro, dill, chives, etc…….)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Other nice things to blend in to send the flavor in different directions … kelp flakes, chili powder, smoked paprika or fresh jalapeno, Thai fish sauce and a chunk of fresh ginger, fresh lemon or lime juice, capers, anchovies, cumin or caraway seeds, nutritional yeast … what else can you think of??

My favorite way to make salad dressing is just to plop everything in the blender and whiz for a minute.  I usually make the amount above and use it for a few days.  I put it in the fridge overnight and leave out during the day so the olive oil stays liquid.  If you don’t want to use a blender, you can dice the herbs, etc. or mash in a mortar & pestle, then put everything in a mason jar with tight lid and shake hard.  This will be a bit chunkier dressing but just as good … and waaaay better than store-bought!  OH, and P.S. — the old trick of rubbing your wooden salad bowel with a garlic clove and handful of herbs is really delightful.  Like a good cast iron pan, keep the bowl well-oiled, and it will hold memories of summer evenings long past ….

Tess and I made this salad for a recent family get-together in Maine.  My hometown now has a farmers’ market, and the gorgeous greens and herbs are all local.  Hooraaay for the Dover Cove Farmers’ Market!!!

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