In Praise of Cherry Vinegar and Simple Summer Salads

When it comes to salads, I am a picky cook. I like complexity and interesting textures: pine nuts, aged Parmesan, plumped-up currants. Shaved cabbage, oranges, fennel, and caraway. Slivered almonds and handfuls of garden herbs. If a salad isn't fun and interesting, why would I bother eating it?

But lately I have been eating just one salad over and over again, and it's utterly simple: just fresh greens, olive oil, and cherry balsamic vinegar.

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I've been very interested in fruit vinegars ever since I had an utterly memorable cherry vinegar in France last year. So when David and Laura from Lucini offered to let me try some of their fruit vinegars and olive oils, I jumped at the chance.

This is the perfect time of year to really focus on good vinegars and oils on simple salads. The gardens and markets are full of baby lettuce and fresh mixes of deliciously spicy, fragrant, and tender greens. They hardly need any adornment.

So I've been eating just one salad for nearly two weeks now: a mix of fresh greens, sometimes with some bitter Asian greens thrown in, tossed with a pinch of kosher salt and fresh black pepper. Then I toss it with a very simple vinaigrette: 3 parts olive oil (sometimes using this delicately flavored garlic olive oil from Lucini) and one part cherry balsamic vinegar. I whisk the dressing until it emulsifies into a dark, shiny liquid, and then I toss it with the greens, using my hands to make sure every leaf is well-coated.

The cherry balsamic is dark and rich, with plenty of sweetness to balance the tart vinegar. With the mellowness of good olive oil, it is such a wonderful complement to piquant spring greens.

This salad has been a reminder to me that not every salad needs to be a complicated production — although I do love those multi-dimensional salads too! Just good greens, a little olive oil, and a delicious vinegar can be a treat.

The Lucini vinegar has definitely been one to enjoy and keep around, but of course it's not the only fruit vinegar on the market. I'm going to look for other fruit vinegars this summer and taste through them with my summer garden salads. Do you have a favorite fruit vinegar? How do you like to use it?

• Find it! Dark Cherry Balsamico at Lucini

Related: Good Question: Vinegar Alternative for Salad Dressings?

(Images: Faith Durand)

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