My Family Recipe

The Magic Family Salad Dressing We Always Save for Last

Everyone has a salad dressing they love. In this week's My Family Recipe, one writer dishes on the recipe his family has mastered and loved for years.

by:
January 17, 2020
Photo by Ty Mecham. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.

Good food is worth a thousand words—sometimes more. In My Family Recipe, writers share the stories of dishes that are meaningful to them and their loved ones.


Growing up in the suburbs of Baltimore, we had a tradition that was a surprise for most of our guests. After the dinner plates were cleared, we served the final course of the meal. Our guests expected brownies or pie or some other sugar-bomb. But not in our house. In our house, we ate salad.

The salad course served a different purpose in the meal than in a typical American household. Most Americans think of a salad as a way to open a meal, but for us, it’s a light and refreshing finale.

My dad picked up this dining habit as a student in Paris, where he was earning his doctorate in marine biology. Over the course of a decade, he absorbed some of the rules of French dining, which dictate that a salad is served after the main course, but before the cheese plate and sweets.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I make this simple salad dressing all the time (as in several times each week), but without the nutritional yeast. The more herbs in the salad, the better. I've heard about some cultures eating salad at the end of the meal and it seems it's catching on here in Canada because some friends do it at their dinner parties. Interesting for sure.”
— Diane
Comment

A typical French salad is made of greens tossed with a light vinaigrette to cleanse the palate. The acids cut through any lingering oils and fats from the main course that coat your mouth, and the fiber-rich leafy greens aid with digestion.

Sure, you can follow this up with cheeses and sweets, but for our family, salad was the dessert. The dressing gave life to a pile of leafy greens, serving as a light and refreshing cap to our meal.

Homemade dressing is so easy to make, too, and a simple one goes a long way: Lemon juice and a dash of vinegar add acidity, while the mustard lends richness and, more importantly, helps the dressing emulsify. Adding nutritional yeast makes everything even creamier and holds the other ingredients together.

It's a food-science masterpiece.

What I love most about this dressing is that you can toss it on whatever’s in season—spinach or endives in the winter, avocados in the spring, tomatoes in the summer.

It’s also very easy to alter. Try adding different spices, herbs, citruses, salts, or ground peppercorns. When it comes to spicing up my salad dressing, I love to use black lime or cured sumac for a savory, citrusy zing; smoked paprika for an unexpectedly wonderful smoky flavor; or ground garlic or ginger for a tinge of warm sweetness.

Got a family recipe you'd like to share? Email [email protected] for a chance to be featured.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Rhonda35
    Rhonda35
  • Zeinab Hammoud Hamade
    Zeinab Hammoud Hamade
  • Amar Kumar
    Amar Kumar
  • Diane
    Diane
  • carswell
    carswell
Ori Zohar

Written by: Ori Zohar

Ori Zohar is a social entrepreneur and the co-founder of Burlap & Barrel, the world's first comprehensive, single-origin spice company. Burlap & Barrel creates equitable global supply chains by working directly with farmers to cut out intermediaries and deliver exceptionally flavorful spices. The company has been featured in Epicurious, Bon Appetit, Saveur, and Fast Company, as well as in the kitchens of restaurants from Eleven Madison Park and Blue Hill to sweetgreen and Chop't to home cooks across the country.

5 Comments

Rhonda35 February 2, 2020
My family adopted the post-dinner salad tradition after my mother and sister spent time in Europe. Perfect way to end a meal! Mixing up some of your salad dressing today - thanks for sharing, Ori.
 
Zeinab H. January 20, 2020
Believe or not, I never liked sweets after dinner so when I’m served salad at dinner I eat a little a save The rest to the end so I can have it instead of sweets. I’m a fruit and vegetable person. I have so many Middle Eastern Vegetables receipts that I make.So easy and healthy don’t forget yummmy 😄
 
Amar K. January 18, 2020
Hey Ori,

Traditionally salads were known to be prepared of only raw vegetables like cucumber, tomatoes, cabbage and onion which are cut into slices and sprinkled with a pinch of salt and lemon.
Pack your salads with as many other veggies or fruits as possible to get the energetic effects.

Breakfast salads are a great way to start day with nutrient-dense foods.

They may also boost mood and productivity, improves digestion and even help you to lose massive weight.

Eventually, thanks for revealing a light on this healthy topic.

With best wishes,

Amar Kumar
 
Diane January 17, 2020
I make this simple salad dressing all the time (as in several times each week), but without the nutritional yeast. The more herbs in the salad, the better.
I've heard about some cultures eating salad at the end of the meal and it seems it's catching on here in Canada because some friends do it at their dinner parties. Interesting for sure.
 
carswell January 18, 2020
I grew up in a household that had salad after the main course and before dessert - I live in Canada and my parents were of British extraction. I only started eating salad before the meal when I started eating meals in restaurants.

Now at home when I make salad, which isn’t frequently enough, it tends to be a side rather than a precursor to the meal.