I love salads. I grew up eating lots and lots of salads. Every single day with dinner, we had salad. Usually a tossed greens salad. My mother had this huge wooden salad bowl. She lovingly cared for it daily. Oiling it, rubbing garlic into it. It was certainly one of the mainstays of the kitchen.
Every day it was my job to make the salad. The dressing was always a vinaigrette, and as my mother taught me, a true french dressing was not red. 🙂
I became very proficient in my salad making. Soon, I no longer needed to measure the ingredients, and to this day, I still make it the same. Depending on the type of salad I make, there are modifications I use, but it is a basic vinaigrette made with olive oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, pepper, and sometimes a little honey for sweetness.
Such a basic recipe and oh so good. This tangy, acidic, concoction, always seems to bring the meal together.
This recipe can feed a crowd or it can be downsized very easily. Growing up in such a large family It is my nature to cook in quantity, as I learned from my mother. This recipe keeps well for days, and makes the perfect snack or lunch to take to work.
The vegetables can be personalized to taste and the variations are countless. This is the way I made mine.
The starting line up. Prep the vegetables. I get them washed and prepped while the noodles are cooking. I want to start adding the ingredients to the noodles right away to keep the pasta from drying out. So, I get the broccoli and cauliflower florets into bite size pieces. I thinly slice several green onions and some Spanish onion as well. I slice the zucchini lengthwise into quarters and then slice those, so I end up with quarter slices. I slice the pepper into strips and halve those so they are easier to eat. (I ended up using a yellow pepper for color) and I halve the grape tomatoes. I also chop some fresh flat leaf parsley.
I boiled the pasta in salted water until it was al dente. I had half a bag of fusilli, and half a bag of farfalle in the pantry. Use whatever shape you want. Once cooked, I strained the water out and I rinsed the noodles under cold water briefly to cool them down, then I put the pasta into my big bowl. I added the green onion and the Spanish onion slices. At this point if the pasta is going to sit for a bit, just sprinkle with a little vinegar, it will moisten it up and add flavor. If you add oil, then it will not allow the dressing to stick to it as well. The oil coated pasta will kind of repel the thin dressing rather than soak it up.
Then I start piling on my veggies. This salad is getting big! But just wait, it gets bigger (and better) I have the paper towel on top of the noodles to catch any extra water from the vegetables that I don’t want in there. After the veggies are all piled on I simply pull the wet paper towel out. Next I add some mozzarella pearls and a some goat cheese, my secret flavor bomb. Not only does the goat cheese add some tang, it also makes the salad turn creamy and helps the dressing coat everything.
Now for the dressing and final touches. I used the juice of one whole lemon, then I added some vinegar. I used a combination of White Wine and Raw Apple Cider. I did not have any Red Wine vinegar in my pantry, but staying in true form (for me) I had several bottles of every other kind of vinegar. 🙂 if I had the Red I would have used that. (really, any vinegar will do). I added the vinegar’s until I had just over a half cup measured. This is a big salad, and you want the ratio of oil and vinegar to be equal if not more vinegar so you don’t end up with a weak salad. Next I add the olive oil, several spoons of Dijon mustard, some granulated garlic, some dried oregano, salt and pepper, and a squeeze of honey. Next I use my immersion blender to combine and emulsify it, but you can use a whisk and do it by hand, just use a bowl.
My final step before tossing this bad boy, I add some sliced hard salami, and some cubed aged Parmesan and some cubed Merlot BellaVitano. These will add that pop of salt and extra tang. Then pour on the dressing and toss everything together. Watch as the goat cheese makes the dressing thick and coat all the ingredients.
Cut vegetables into bite size pieces. use assorted and colorful vegetables that suite your palate. I used broccoli , cauliflower, zucchini, yellow bell peppers, green and Spanish onions. and grape tomatoes. Chopped flat leaf parsley. (*Note – you can also add pepperoncini’s and olives if desired)
Boil noodles according to package directions. strain and rinse under cold water to cool them down. Place in a bowl. Add all of the vegetables on top.
Add goat cheese, mozzarella pearls, any cubed Italian cheese, and sliced hard salami, to taste.
Make the dressing using equal parts of vinegar and oil, (*Note – you can substitute some of the vinegar with fresh lemon juice). Add Dijon mustard – 1 tsp or more per each half cup of dressing made. A 1/4 tsp granulated garlic per half cup of dressing made, 1/2 tsp. of dried oregano per half cup of dressing made. 1/2 tsp. or more of salt and 1/8th tsp or more of pepper for each half cup of dressing made. Add 1 tsp or more of honey for each half cup of dressing made. Taste and season accordingly. Add more of any seasoning or honey as you like to individual taste. It will taste stronger on it’s own than in the salad, so don’t be afraid to season.
Pour dressing over salad and stir until all the goat cheese has been incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.