the perfect side: chopped mixed greens with vinaigrette

Confession Wednesday, you guys. I’m having an affair.

I’ve been cheating on the typical winter sides – mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, roasted squash – and fallen in love with the simple green salad.

(I think it’s serious.)

I might be alone in this, since too often I get emails or phone calls or texts asking for a good side dish involving carrots, potatoes, or green beans. Personally, I could have salad every meal. Is there anything more perfect than a simple mixed greens salad with a tangy homemade vinaigrette? (Unless Ryan Gosling is bringing the salad to you, of course. In that case, ignore this post and continue on with your amazing life.)


People are always fascinated when I say I make my own salad dressing, but hand to God, I cannot figure out why. I tell people to try it themselves – chances are they have most of the ingredients in your fridge and pantry anyways. You certainly don’t need any fancy gadgets to make a vinaigrette. And it can be as simple or as complicated as your skills/time/confidence/imagination allows.

The basic ingredients are: mustard, vinegar, and oil. As for mustard, you can use whatever you’ve got in the pantry (although I would stay away from yellow and brown mustard in the beginning – try a classic dijon or country mustard first). For vinegar, there are so many options: balsamic, white balsamic, red wine, white wine, sherry, champagne, cider, rice wine, brown rice wine… the list goes on and on. And oils! My preference is a good olive oil, but you can always experiment with a nut oil like walnut or hazelnut, or a flavorless oil like canola or grapeseed.

When you’ve been making vinaigrettes for as long as I have (the last store-bought dressing I had expired in 2009, don’t ask me why I remember that) you end up with an impressive vinegar and oil collection. Which means you can whip up any number of crazy vinaigrettes each night. Add some honey if you want, some lemon juice, some crushed red pepper flakes. GET CRAZY.

And as far as the logistics of making a vinaigrette… step away from the bowl and whisk. All you need is a jar with a lid. Go look in your fridge for that one jar of random condiment that you aren’t sure you’ll ever use again or you’re not sure if it’s still safe to eat… go ahead, I’ll wait. Dispose of whatever ill-fated condiment was residing in that jar, give it a good scrubbing, and you’ve got your very own vinaigrette maker.


Now for the greens. Maybe eventually I’ll get some salad greens from the garden, but for right now I’m perfectly happy with the massive tub you can get from the grocery store. (I prefer organic greens, because then I can rationalize it away when I’m too lazy to wash them.) Now here’s the kicker – I chop my salad greens. EVERY TIME. My sister-in-law turned me onto this — I call her the Salad Whisperer behind her back, because she can make a salad that will bring you to your knees with its deliciousness. I can’t put my finger on it as to exactly why I love chopping the greens up… I guess it really just makes a salad easier to eat. More composed. So you feel like your kitchen is a 4-star restaurant.

I don’t know though. Maybe it’s magic.

So, here’s my favorite two vinaigrettes. The balsamic for if you’re just starting out, and the champagne for when you want to graduate to a lighter flavor. If you’re feeling adventurous, add some golden raisins, dried cherries, or blanched almonds on top.

I’m betting you’ll develop a crush on salad, too.

The Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette

a teaspoon or so of dijon mustard
about two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
about two tablespoons of olive oil
a pinch of kosher salt
a pinch of cracked pepper

Combine all ingredients in an empty jar and shake until combined.

My Favorite Champagne Vinaigrette

a teaspoon of champagne mustard (like Cherchies)
about two tablespoons of champagne vinegar
about two tablespoons of olive oil
a pinch of kosher salt
a pinch of cracked pepper

Combine all ingredients in an empty jar and shake until combined.

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14 thoughts on “the perfect side: chopped mixed greens with vinaigrette

  1. The way to my heart is via a delicious salad of mixed greens, a bit of feta, Gorgonzola, or goat cheese, some thingy sliced apple or pears, glazed pecans or almonds, & a fantastic vinaigrette. IT IS AMBROSIA TO ME, Carter. As are you.

    Next time I hit up the Bizarre Bazaare I’m buying some of that marvelous champagne mustard.

    Now. Get me a citrus vinaigrette recipe & I’ll be golden. LOVE YOU.

  2. Gosh! My mouth is watering just thinking about this yummy salad. Where do I go in the grocery store to get the dried cherries?

  3. Hi Carter! Great to hear from you. How have you been? Miss you.
    I also have been serving lots of salads to my family. My daughter complained tonight. She told me, that she has had it with arugula. Don’t know why. I love it. Have you ever tried some pumpkin seed oil in your vinaigrette? I brought lots back from Austria. Give it a try. Amazing!!

    • Miss you guys too! Love that your daughter is LAYING DOWN THE LAW. NO MORE ARUGULA MOM. That’s awesome that she at least eats arugula though! Amazing.

      I haven’t tried pumpkin seed oil although I saw it once at Whole Foods I think. It was super expensive (like $16 for 6 oz) so I figured it must be ridiculously fabulous! I might have to pick some up since you say it’s so good…

      Hugs and kisses!

  4. I agree, a fresh salad is the perfect side. What is champagne mustard? I’ve never heard of it!

    Unfortunately, my husband loves his creamy store bought dressings. One of these days, I’ll have to try to make a ranch dressing and see if it stands up to his discerning taste buds… ;)

    • Jeanette, champagne mustard is just a mustard made with champagne vinegar, instead of the usual white distilled vinegar or cider vinegar that other mustards have as an ingredient. It’s definitely more of a “boutique” vinegar, something that you might not be able to find easily. Try a gourmet gift shop or a fancy food shop.

  5. Pingback: pan-fried chicken salad with honey mustard dressing «

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