How to Make the Perfect Salad, Any Time of Year
A truly good salad is a thing of beauty—the perfect accompaniment to just about any meal, no matter the season or occasion. But without tumbling down the rabbit hole of exotic ingredients, what does it take? To get a chef’s-eye view of everyone’s favorite healthy sidekick, we spoke with Jesse Barber of Dudley Market, an inviting, casual eatery just steps from the Venice Beach Boardwalk. The newly opened restaurant specializes in elevated classics and seasonal California dishes, such as Barber’s delectable Caesar salad—an oft-overlooked standard—which is given intrigue with the addition of sweet figs and next-level croutons. Read on for the chef’s secrets for perfecting your salad game.
MYDOMAINE: What are the core ingredients of every great salad?
JESSE BARBER: Acid, fat, texture. Or olive oil, lemon juice, and lettuce.
MD: What’s the secret to assembling the perfect salad, any time of year, for any occasion?
JB: Get fresh lettuce and clean them. Squeeze in fresh lemon and fresh black pepper. Use good olive oil. Always dress the bowl you will be using to toss the salad; don’t dress the salad as it will unevenly distribute the dressing. As Tomas Keller says, start with olive oil, as it will protect the delicate lettuce from the acidity of lemon juice or vinegar.
MD: What is your go-to salad dressing?
JB: Lemon and olive oil.
MD: What about different types of lettuce that you recommend that aren’t frequently used?
JB: Purslane, dandelion greens, ice plant, and shaved veggies such as squash or asparagus.
MD: What’s the most underrated ingredient to include in a salad?
MD: What salad ingredients do you love using come fall?
JB: I’m really excited about pears and apples. I’d love to try playing with an apple salad that has three or four different preparations of apples in it.
MD: What should always be served alongside a salad?
JB: A glass of white wine—Muscadet or Txakoli will do.
Ingredients for Caesar Dressing
4 egg yolks
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. capers
2 clove garlic
Dijon and whole grain mustard
Directions for Dressing
Whisk the eggs and oil together to make mayonnaise. Mortar the capers, anchovy, and garlic, and incorporate into the mayo with both mustards. Season with salt and fresh lemon.
Ingredients for Croutons
Directions for Croutons
Tear the bread into large chunks about the size of your finger, then tear in half.
Brown the butter and sear the bread to make fresh croutons.
Ingredients for Salad
1 head Lollo Rossa grilled gem lettuce
1 chicken leg, poached in buttermilk
Fresh, ripe figs, quartered
Lightly dress a medium bowl with the Caesar dressing. Add croutons and chicken. Set aside. Add the Lolla Rossa to the bowl and lightly toss. Gingerly set on a plate and set the chicken, croutons, quartered figs, and pine nuts.
Shop some salad serving essentials below!