From America's Test Kitchen Season 2: Pesto, Carbonara, and Salad
A leafy green salad with red wine vinaigrette is a vital recipe to have in your arsenal. We wanted to develop a recipe for this basic salad—a mix of well-chosen greens tossed with a light vinaigrette that was neither harsh nor oily.
Leafy green salads sound simple, but in reality, the dressing often soaks the greens, resulting in a muddy salad that’s too acidic from the vinegar. We went back to the basics and revisited standard vinaigrette proportions. In most cases, 4 parts oil to 1 part vinegar produces the best balance of flavors in a vinaigrette, so that’s where we started. Red wine vinegar was the foundation of our vinaigrette; with a sharp but clean flavor, this vinegar is a great choice for dressing salads. Before whisking the vinaigrette ingredients together, we added salt and pepper to the vinegar. This step mutes these seasonings a bit and prevents them from becoming too overpowering. With the right mix of salad greens—we like a combination of mild, delicate greens and peppery greens—this leafy salad makes the perfect complement to any main dish.
For best results, use at least two kinds of greens. A blend of mild, delicate greens, such as Boston and leaf lettuces, and peppery greens, such as arugula and watercress, is ideal. Romaine adds crunch and texture and is welcome in most salads. If you like, add mild fresh herbs, such as chives, tarragon, or basil, in small amounts. For variations of Basic Vinaigrette dressing, see related recipes.