Back to the Kitchen: Easy Big Salads and Homemade Dressings

Print This Post Print This Post


September is such a funny food month. It is still hot and most of the magazines are talking about roasting, stewing and all the rest of Fall’s culinary delights. With the crazy heat, the start of school and a jumpstart to a heavy workload, I can barely think of poaching an egg!

Salads are a perfect food solution to all these issues. Both light and filling, you can mix and match these dressings and salads, add grilled chicken, salmon or tofu. Use whatever you have in your fridge — and use for the lunch lunch the next day (if the salad is not soggy).  Enjoy these recipes, add, delete, mix and match — be creative and you’ll have a good meal and  a little extra down time from all of the crazy activities!  These recipes all serve four to six people.

Caesar Salad

Acai and Orange Dressing

1/2-cup açai juice

3 tablespoons orange juice

1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange rind

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Honey Mustard Dressing

1-cup plain nonfat yogurt

4 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Combine yogurt, honey, mustard & cider vinegar in a jar. Tighten lid & shake until blended. Chill 30 minutes before serving.

Peanut Wasabi Vinaigrette

1/4-cup rice vinegar

1/4-cup canola oi

1/4-cup peanut butter

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons Wasabi Paste

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

3 cloves fresh-minced garlic

Combine all ingredients, stirring well to combine. Let stand for 45 minutes.

Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2-tablespoon Dijon Mustard

1 tablespoon maple syrup

6-tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1-cup olive oil

Fresh ground pepper

Whisk all ingredients together and let stand for one hour.

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Buttermilk Balsamic

1 bunch asparagus

1 zucchini

2 yellow squash

1 eggplant

1 red pepper, seeded

2 ears corn

1 small jicama, chopped

10 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 bunch arugula

1 head romaine

Salt and pepper

Lightly coat asparagus, zucchini, squash, eggplant, pepper and corn with olive oil. Heat cast iron grill pan over high heat. Grill vegetables until tender. Toss arugula and romaine leaves with jicama and Tomatoes. With buttermilk balsamic dressing e in a bowl. Arrange on platter and top with grilled vegetables. You can top with ground pepper, shaved Parmesan or crumbled goat cheese.

Buttermilk Balsamic Dressing

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1-cup well-shaken low-fat buttermilk

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup balsamic vinegar

1-cup olive oil

Whisk together all ingredients until well mixed. Let stand for one hour.

Gwen’s Caesar

In small bowl whisk together:

1 egg

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1-tablespoon anchovy paste

Then add:

Juice of one lemon

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Up to 3 cloves of garlic to taste

2 teaspoon dried thyme

In a steady stream add:

1/2-cup olive oil

2 cups canola oil

If you would like, add a few shakes of pepper or a dash of Tabasco sauce. If you like a stronger flavor or are not keen on the anchovy paste, a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce works wonders.
 Fill a large salad bowl with lettuce. The traditional Caesar lettuce is romaine. I like to add spinach and radicchio for flavor and color. Mix in croutons (see below), shaved or grated Parmesan and then toss in the dressing. Go lightly. The worst Caesars are the ones that are over-dressed. Taste as you go. For variation you can add cherry tomatoes or toasted pine nuts, both are tasty and add a little pizzazz.


Truly, you can use any kind of bread, seasoning and oil. I will give you the basic, but again – go for it and make it your own.

1 baguette (long loaf of French or sour dough bread)

Olive oil to coat

Pinch of Kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper

Slice baguettes into quarter inch slices.

Place in large bowl. Toss with oil until well coated. Add salt and pepper. Place on a cookie sheet in single layer rows and bake at 350 until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Aileen’s Awesome Quinoa Salad

2 cups quinoa

4 cups vegetable stock

2 large tomatoes, chopped

1 large bunch chives, chopped

1/2-cup young mung bean sprouts

1/2 cup raw pine nuts


1/3 cup olive oil or walnut oil

1 lime or Meyer lemon juiced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Pinch sea salt

Bring quinoa and vegetable broth to a boil. Cover; reduce heat to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. While quinoa is cooking, chop tomatoes and chives. Mix dressing. Remove quinoa from heat. Allow to cool. Fluff quinoa and add vegetables and pine nuts. Gently mix dressing into quinoa mixture. Serve cold or warm. Serves 6.

The Cobb Salad

Another one of the culinary legends is The Cobb Salad. It is hard to believe that something so wonderful could have been so carelessly concocted, but I guess that is the gift of creating. Back in the 1920s, The Brown Derby was a super trendy hangout. The menu consisted of mainly heavy grilled meats, but legend has it that manager Bill Cobb wanted a “light” meal,” so he tossed some things into a bowl. I can’t even imagine a “light salad” consisting of bacon, cheese, egg and avocado (unless you’re an Atkins follower). While there have been many variations, mine stays pretty close to the original. And , of course, you can add or delete any thing you like.

1 large or 2 small heads of romaine, finely chopped

2 heads of Boston lettuce, finely chopped

1 bunch of watercress, finely chopped

1 pound bacon cooked and crumbled

3 ripe avocados, chopped

3 pounds chicken breasts, poached, and chopped

2 tomatoes, chopped

3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

1-bunch scallions, sliced

2 shallots, minced

1-cup red-wine vinegar

3 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 cups olive oil

1 cup bleu cheese, finely chopped

In a large salad bowl toss together the romaine, Boston lettuce and watercress. In a small food processor mix shallots, vinegar, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste, add the oil in a slow stream, mixing until the dressing until it is emulsified. Pour into a bowl and stir in blue cheese. Pour it over the lettuce, and toss the salad well.

Harmonious Lentil Salad

1 cup lentils cooked and chilled

1 cup brown rice cooked

1 pint golden raspberries

2 blood oranges, peeled and roughly chopped

¼ cup parsley

½ cup green onions

Blood Orange Vinaigrette (see below)

In a large salad bowl toss together. Chill for at least one hour before serving.

Blood Orange Vinaigrette

Great with the lentil salad, but also awesome with a big salad of mixed greens and any vegetables that you have on hand.

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

¼ cup blood orange juice

Zest from one blood orange

2/3-cup olive oil

1clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together vigorously. Keeps in the refrigerator for 1 month.

Crunchy Green Salad with Creamy Guacamole Dressing

2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped

1 bunch watercress, leaves picked

1-cup pepitos

1 large ripe avocado

1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard

Juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1-4 dashes of Tabasco sauce

1/4-cup canola oil

Halve the avocado and remove pit. Scoop out flesh into a food processor. Add mustard, lemon juice, zest Tabasco. Salt and pepper to taste and blend until smooth. With the motor running pour in the oil in a steady stream. Allow it to become rich and creamy about one minute. In a large bowl add the lettuce, watercress and pepitos. Toss with the dressing and serve.

Shrimp and Romaine Salad

2 cups cooked brown rice

2 cups torn romaine

2 cups orange segments

1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

1 small red onion, sliced

6 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1-tablespoon olive oil

3/4 teaspoon dried tarragon

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

3/4 pound cooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveine

In a large bowl, combine the rice, romaine, oranges, tomatoes and onion. For dressing, in a small bowl, whisk the orange juice, vinegar, oil, tarragon, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Set aside 4 teaspoons. Pour remaining dressing over rice mixture and toss to coat. Divide among four plates; top with shrimp. Drizzle with reserved dressing.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies. Check out her websites www.Backtothekitchen.netand She wrote a weekly food column for the Sun Community Newspapers.

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Digg Linkedin Stumbleupon Email

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

More in Featured, Food, My Daily Find, Recipes
Creative Thai Fusion Cooked Up at The Rustic Spoon

BY CONNOR RESNICK The Rustic Spoon is a restaurant you would  most likely pass by if you weren’t looking for...