Shake It Up with Summer Salads and Dressings

Photo credit: Kelsey Denby

There are few things more satisfying and delicious than a salad made fresh from your own garden. However splendid, this summer, step outside the usual greens, tomatoes and cucumbers, and add new flavors and textures to shake up the standard recipe. Really, any vegetable harvest can go into a salad: onions, squash, carrots, radishes, beans, kale, chard, and beets.

Tonight we’re making a chunk watermelon salad with sliced Vidalia onions, Kalamata olives, Feta cheese, black pepper and a Balsamic vinaigrette lying on a bed of spinach.  Something sweet became savory. Watermelon with mint, lime and a drizzle of local honey is a phenomenal dessert salad.

Other things to toss into a salad: crunchy Chinese-style noodles, toasted or sugar-glazed nuts, any kind of seed, herb, or edible flower, and summer fruits and cheeses.

Once the salad’s made, it’s time to dress it up. Match the dressing to the tastes in the salad and the rest of the meal. Basil in the salad served with pesto pasta. Try a savory dressing on a sweet salad, or a sweet dressing on something more base or salty– served with a protein or by itself with a crusty loaf of bread.

  1. The jar. A small, lidded Mason jar will do, or a pretty bottle with a strong stopper.
  2. The formula. A 1:3 ratio of vinegar to oil: one tablespoon of vinegar to three tablespoons of oil; Balsamic vinegar and olive oil is a good start. Neutral oils like canola or grapeseed with apple cider, white or red wine and rice vinegars. Peanut or sesame oil and soy or ACV are fantastic with a little bit of Tahini, Dijon mustard, minced garlic and honey (recipe below.)
  3. The taste. Add finely diced herbs and spices a half-teaspoon at a time until the dressing is to your liking. Add liquids and pastes such as honey, orange juice, Tahini and mustard a tablespoon at a time. For a creamy dressing, add 2-3 tablespoons of mayonnaise, sour cream or plain yogurt. Otherwise, try these tastes:
    • Oregano, basil and garlic for Italian
    • Lemon and pepper brighten any basic dressing
    • Cajun or Thai seasonings add spice
    • Try red pepper flakes and turmeric too
    • Grate fresh ginger or lime peel
    • Honey and Dijon mustard are classic together
    • Orange juice and ginger are sweet and tart

Tahini Apple Cider Vinegar Salad Dressing


  • 6 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs ACV
  • 1 Tbs Tahini
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard

Add all ingredients to a jar, cover tightly and shake until emulsified; enjoy with fresh greens and chunks of apple.

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