Tender Salads Tenderly done
I'm going to try and give some tips. I have found teaching salad making almost impossible and goodness knows I have tried starting with classes I gave with james Beard at the Stanford Court in San Francisco. We had a tasting of innumerable olive oils and vinegars. After everyone had tried them, we asked them to make a simple dressing with just an olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Almost all of them were ghastly. Most were made in a standard proportion of oil to vinegar. The problem was the combining of a favorite oil with a favorite vinegar--a mighty green Tuscan with raspberry vinegar for one extreme example. It is very important to use an oil and a vinegar with fairly similar energy. Add a little vinegar to the oil and taste. if it doesn't work throw it out--better than discarding the whole salad.
Also, if you have as I do this time of year lovely delicate fresh leaves, you don't want to mask them with an overly emphatic dressing. A light French oil, a tarragon vinegar or lemon juice with salt and pepper should suffice.
Importantly, wash the greens in several changes of very cold water to get rid of any grit. Cut and come leaves grow close to the ground. Put in a colander to drain for about an hour. Do not spin or even pat dry. The leaves must not be bruised and a little water will only lighten the dressing.
If using tomatoes and/or cucumbers and/or onions (Vidalias or mild--not garlic--chives), cut them up and salt them. Let the mixture sit for about a half hour to draw the juices which will form the base of a fresh aromatic dressing.
As to herbs, don't use anything too strong such as oregano or mint or even tarragon. Young chervil works well and a head of chive flowers can be pulled from their base, calyx, and sprinkled on top.
Let me know how it goes.
For a wonderful but more energetic dressing try the one on recipe of the week.
A reader--look at her comment--offered her own excellent tips for making salads child-friendly by including the sweetness of fruit and giving added nutrition with goat cheese.
I should add something i forget. Salads are called "tossed salads" for good reason--not that they should be flung across the room. In order to properly mix the salad the leaves should be gently lifted from the bottom of the bowl into the air with salad servers, hands or plain wooden spoons. Turn them over and repeat. Thats is toss the salad keeping it light being sure not to make the leaves limp and dead seeming. More another day.