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Learn To Cook At Home - What Makes A Salad Great?

Hear that? Summer is officially starting!

What does that mean for you, food-wise and cooking-wise?

Well, it’s going to get hot and with all the climate change happening, you can’t deny it anymore, guys, it’s here. Like I said, with all the climate change, it’s going to be hotter than ever so no one wants to heat up their kitchens with ovens and stovetops so let’s get creative and keep up our learn to cook at home vibe.

How about salad for dinner?

I know, I know, but I’m not talking about rabbit food. There are a lot of super cool (pun intended) dinner salad ideas out there. Part of that is dressing your greens and what not, properly.

Specifically, I’m going to introduce you to DIY salad dressing. No, this is not something that only chefs do. You can and should do it at home. And you can do it with five ingredients or less! If you want to watch it all come together, scroll down for the video.

Ingredients to make a salad dressing

Here they are:

  • a clove of garlic or minced shallot or in this case, chopped garlic scapes

  • a heaping teaspoon of Dijon mustard

  • 1/2 cup +/- wine vinegar, red here but you could use white or another variety

  • a tablespoon of brown sugar or white or honey or get the idea

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 1/2 cup +/- canola oil (or other flavorless oil

  • 1/4 cup +/- extra virgin olive oil

Personally, I love a good homemade salad dressing or vinaigrette. I lean more to the vinaigrette side but I’m good with creamy mayo-based dressings, too. There are also plenty of other ingredients that can make your dressing creamy too but that’s a topic for another time.

Vinaigrettes are easy, fast, and full of possibilities. Technically, should you whisk the oil into your other ingredients? Yes, BUT you don’t have to! If you’ve got a jar with a tight-fitting lid, you’re in business. The only caveat – you have to shake your dressing every time before you use it, but you’d do that anyway, right?

Vinegar and oil work together in a vinaigrette in the form of an emulsion (there’s a scientific definition for it but no one really cares) and suffice it to say, an emulsion is created during the whisking process but you can kind of fake it if you use an ingredient that is already emulsified and helps hold things together…like Dijon mustard or tomato paste, things like that. Put it all in a jar and shake the you know what out of it.

Voilá! You’ve got vinaigrette.

Here's a quick video I did for you...less than 5 minutes to make a vinaigrette start to finish, even with chopping! The Master Recipe (not just the ingredients but there's actually not much more) is below the video.

Master Recipe - Vinaigrette

Makes about one cup of dressing


  • 1 garlic clove, smashed

  • 1 heaping tsp Dijon mustard

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

  • ½ tsp kosher salt

  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper

  • ¼ cup wine vinegar, red or white

  • ¼ - ½ cup +/- canola/olive oil blend


In a pint jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine all ingredients and shake well. Keep refrigerated.

Now, back to our hearty salad for dinner and our initial question: What makes a salad great?

To me, it has to be interesting.

Full of different textures, flavors, and ingredients. You can cover all the food groups in one bowl or plate and be done with it. And you don’t have to use lettuce. There are so many different greens available now! I don’t mean kale, either. There’s arugula, spinach, cabbage (Napa, savoy, green or red), chicories like radicchio, escarole, Belgian endive, and, okay, all kinds of lettuce, not just iceberg…Romaine, Bibb or butter, red or green leaf lettuce and they all have their own particular flavors and textures. Some are crispy, some are soft and tender, others fall somewhere in between. Greens can be a great base, but they don’t need to be the star of the show.

Grilled meats (outside grilling although hot, does not heat up your house and if you’re by the pool, well, what are you complaining about?) Otherwise, I love a rotisserie chicken. Let the grocer heat up their kitchen and you can reap the benefits. Plus, a rotisserie chicken is good for at least 2 meals, more if it’s just you.

Get a good protein and it can be plant-based but why are you reading about salad? Get something green and then get creative.

Break out your sheet pan and do some batch vegetable roasting. Sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, whatever you like. Roast ‘em all at once so you only heat the oven once. Bag ‘em, fridge ‘em and use them when you’re ready.

Then how about some interesting grains? Farro, quinoa, Israeli couscous, or even brown rice. Then you’ll want some more supporting characters like avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh or marinated mushrooms, artichoke hearts, pickled anything but what about pepperoncini? See where I’m going with this?

You can make a great salad for dinner and if you don’t want to call it salad call it a bowl, like a Buddha bowl, rice bowl, Moon bowl, make something up. Who cares?!

The taste is great! Interesting and BONUS…healthy! Perfect for summer.

If you liked this, follow me on Instagram @girlcancook for lots more food and cooking tips, tricks, videos, and lots, lots more!


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