14 In Recipes/ Salads/ Sides

Simplest Green Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Simplest Green Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette | A Couple Cooks

A food blog is a bit of a cop out in terms of instruction on healthy eating, because it’s a recipe stream of consciousness. Since the accepted model is to post whatever you make whenever you want, a reader doesn’t necessarily pick up on balanced meal planning (which is arguably the hardest part about healthy eating).

For example, if you followed our blog in December, you would find this lineup: Cookies, White Bean Dip, Salad, Cookies, and Biscuits. Granted, we intentionally post a collection of easy holiday entertaining recipes in December, but it does make it difficult to understand how to put together a meal.

After posting our tomato artichoke soup, I mentioned that it would be helpful to serve this soup alongside something with added protein, since the soup itself isn’t highly filling on its own. Generally we’d say something like, “serve with a green salad”, but this time we wanted to quantify it for you with this recipe. It’s more of an idea than a recipe, but we wanted to share it since it’s something we take for granted. Plus, if you don’t already make your own vinaigrette at home yet, throw out all your old salad dressing bottles and use this recipe! It has no preservatives and literally takes 2 minutes to whip up.

A few notes about building a lovely side salad:

  • Make your own vinaigrette. You can use the easy balsamic vinaigrette recipe below, or any of these vinaigrettes from our archives. Our rule for making vinaigrette is: 1 part acid (vinegar or citrus juice) to 1 part oil (olive or grapeseed). Add kosher salt, pepper, and then any add-ins you’d like: chopped shallots or minced garlic, a bit of Dijon mustard, herbs, etc, and whisk to combine. There are endless possibilities!
  • Use fresh greens, local if possible. Use any mix of greens you’d like. Our local farmer’s market has local greens year round, which we like to take advantage of when we can.
  • Add toppings with contrasts of flavor and texture. For most side salads, we make sure to add something crunchy like pecans, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, or pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Amp up the flavor by toasting the nuts in a dry skillet for a few minutes until they are browned and fragrant. Adding flavorful cheese is a great counterpoint: we love feta, sharp cheddar, and goat cheese. Finally, you can add a sweet component using dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, apricots) or fresh fruit (apples, pears, strawberries). In the summer, top with herbs for extra flavor.

What are your favorite salad combinations? We’d love to hear.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Simplest Green Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Serves: 4
What You Need
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 pinches kosher salt
  • 8 cups salad greens
  • ¼ cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
  • ¼ cup cheese crumbles (feta, goat, or gorgonzola)
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds (or walnuts, pecans, or pistachios)
What To Do
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, and 2 pinches kosher salt.
  2. Dress 8 cups salad greens with the desired amount of dressing; reserve the rest for future use.
  3. On each plate, place 2 cups salad greens and sprinkle with dried fruit, cheese crumbles, and nuts.


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  • Reply
    Mary Ann
    January 28, 2015 at 4:37 am

    Yum! I like the reminder to add herbs, it really adds so much! My fave combo is mixed greens with goat cheese, pickled beets (I pickle my own), and hazelnuts with a raspberry vinaigrette.

  • Reply
    January 28, 2015 at 10:16 am

    I love that you use the 1:1 vinegar:oil ratio – that’s how my mother always did it. I think that kind of dressing is way more appetizing than the ones with ridiculously large (IMO) amounts of oil. My normal salad dressing is just plain good quality balsamic vinegar. My favorite vinaigrette from the past used garlic and basil for seasoning. I would still do that except I am too lazy mostly to make salad dressing. The one exception to that is that I figured out how to make a mole salad dressing that I saw demonstrated in a culinary theater in Cancun (the chef figured out how to do it so it’s a cold dressing that doesn’t wilt the salad). I love the combination of ingredients for your salad. I’ll have to try that, since it’s way more interesting than the basic salads I usually make.

  • Reply
    Nina at FocusedonFit.com
    January 28, 2015 at 10:50 am

    This looks amazing and so simple. I make a salad just like this but add chopped apples too…my husband will never eat fruit unless I include it in a recipe! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    January 28, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    You can never go wrong with a simple salad like this. So pretty!

  • Reply
    Terry Covington
    January 28, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    I have been meaning for a long time to learn to make my own salad dressings. I looked at the ones on your site, and they all sound delicious, and I also remember my mother using the 1:1 ratio of oil to vinegar. I did have a question. I have read that if you mix raw garlic with oil it will only keep in the refrigerator safely for about 3 days (which is apparently why commercial dressings use dehydrated garlic). Can you address that here, please? I want to be sure that I am making appropriate amounts of dressing and storing them safely. Thank you!

    • Reply
      January 28, 2015 at 9:57 pm

      Hi! We generally store vinaigrettes for a few weeks in the fridge if they don’t have fresh ingredients, however if they have fresh herbs or garlic we usually them up immediately. Since it’s so easy, we generally only make a small amount and use it quickly.

      As far as safety, I believe that the acid from the vinegar would reduce the chance of any foodborne bacteria growing in the fridge.

      Hope you enjoy!

      • Reply
        Terry Covington
        January 31, 2015 at 9:35 pm

        Thank you so much for the additional information!

  • Reply
    dani | theloveofvanilla
    January 28, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    you DO make friends with salad :) i love a good green salad but always over dress it

  • Reply
    Brian @ Kitchen Domination
    January 29, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Do you have a preferred method for tossing dressing and salad together to achieve an evenly dressed meal?

  • Reply
    February 1, 2015 at 10:23 am

    So you dress the greens before you add the complements! I always mix everything in a bowl and then dress the salad, and I always end up with all the goodies in the bottom of the bowl! Next time I will dress the greens before I add everything else! Thanks!

  • Reply
    February 3, 2015 at 8:33 am

    That looks great! I love a good vinaigrette with a green salad. The combos are endless, but the one oil I always stick with is using extra virgin olive oil.

  • Reply
    February 25, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    It’s much more economical, tasty and healthy to make salad dressing on our own, per sure!
    Have you already tried to add roquefort cheese (it’s a kind of blue cheese), it really tastes great!
    I love both roquefort and goat cheese in mixed salad.

  • Reply
    November 27, 2016 at 11:20 am

    How much in ml is 1/4 cup?

    • Reply
      November 27, 2016 at 11:38 am

      Good question: 60 ml!

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    Happy Cooking! ~ Sonja & Alex