France Taught Me a Better Way to Dress a Great Salad

Tips from The Kitchn

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Years ago, I visited a good friend, an American expat who had been living in France for over 15 years, and stayed at her idyllic old house in a small town in Provence. While we drove around the countryside and wine tasted the days away, the best moments happened when everyone pitched in to cook the local foods and then leisurely ate the meals al fresco.

When it came time to put together the salad one night, I watched my friend demonstrate a surprising dressing technique that I still remember and often do today.

Make the Dressing First

Perhaps the most common way to make salad is to put your salad ingredients in a bowl, make the dressing separately, then toss everything together.

My friend's technique, which she learned from French friends, actually makes the dressing right in the salad bowl first.

She whisked her dressing ingredients in the big salad bowl, piled the salad on top of that, then just put it aside until we were ready to toss it together at the last minute. By doing this, she said, everything is ready to go and you're only washing one bowl instead of two.

3 More Tips

I've been running with her idea and tweaking it for years to suit my cooking style, and here are a couple of other things I've learned along the way:

  • Make Extra Dressing: Even if you don't plan to use all the dressing for that particular salad, you can make a full batch of the dressing in the bowl, then transfer the excess to another container to save for later.
  • Place Sturdier Veggies on the Dressing First: Put crisper vegetables like carrots or cucumber on top of the dressing before the delicate greens and they'll make a protective barrier that will keep your greens from getting too soggy.
  • Enjoy Easy Transport: If the dressing's already in the bowl, you can just cover the salad bowl, easily travel with it, and not have to worry about bringing the dressing along separately.

Although this way of dressing salad might not be uniquely French, I equate it with my trip to Avignon and think fondly of my friend whenever I do it!

(Image credits: Anjali Prasertong)