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The Well-Dressed Salad: Tips For Keeping It Fresh

Over on The Salt, NPR's Dan Charles has tracked the efforts of salad-green companies to keep dangerous microbes out of the lettuce you buy at the supermarket. But once they get that lettuce safely into your shopping cart, what's next? NPR's Audie Cornish asks Molly Wizenberg, of the award-winning blog , about the best way to go about making salad.

How do you keep lettuce from rotting in the fridge?

"The first thing that I always do when I bring home a head of lettuce is I go ahead and the minute I take it out of the shopping bag, I wash it, I layer it in paper towels, put it in a closed ziplock bag, and it's ready to go whenever I want it. That's sort of my No. 1 way of making salad easy and enjoyable."

What lettuce do you like best this time of year?

"I am a big fan of bibb or butter lettuce. It's great at any time of year, but particularly at this time of year, we're starting to get some that's really fresh, really delicate — these soft, velvety leaves. ... At some grocery stores it comes with the roots still on it."

What are your favorite salad dressings?

"I think one of the hallmarks of a really comfortable home cook is having a dressing formula that you can pull out at any time. So my dressing formula, what I almost always use, is a 1 to 3 to 5 formula. It's 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons vinegar of your choice and about 5 tablespoons of olive oil. And then, depending on the vinegar, you might want to scale up on the oil, maybe even up to 7 tablespoons. Basically you're going to get this really wonderful, bright, mustardy dressing that I in particular like on these spring vegetables, these spring lettuces. Because who doesn't love a little bright, vinegary kick on your leafy greens?

"... One of my favorite spring dressings in particular, it's called green goddess dressing and it's a creamy green dressing. It's kind of festive. It uses special ingredients — some mashed avocado, some cream, olive oil and lots of fresh herbs and that is in particular delicious on bibb lettuce."

Recipe: Everyday Vinaigrette

By Molly Wizenberg

This bright, mustardy dressing is my go-to for any salad, and it's very easy to make. You can use any vinegar you'd like, but my two favorites are red wine vinegar and Champagne vinegar. The latter is especially nice on delicate spring lettuces.

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 to 8 tablespoons olive oil, to taste

In a small bowl or jar, combine the mustard, vinegar and salt. Whisk to blend well. Gradually add 5 tablespoons of the olive oil, whisking vigorously to emulsify. Taste — does it need more olive oil? Types and brands of vinegar vary quite a bit in their strength, and depending on the vinegar you've chosen, you may need to add more olive oil. I often add 1 to 2 tablespoons (for a total of 6 to 7 tablespoons in all), but it varies. The finished dressing should be lively but balanced; it shouldn't beat you over the head with vinegar.

Yield: about 1/2 cup

Note: This recipe yields more vinaigrette than you'll probably need for one salad. Extra vinaigrette can be stored in the refrigerator indefinitely.

Recipe: Green Goddess Dressing

By Molly Wizenberg, Brandon Pettit and their restaurant,

This dressing is delicious on almost any salad, but especially a salad of bibb lettuce, bacon, sliced avocado and fresh herbs. (And in the summer, the same salad is even better with the addition of some slow-roasted tomatoes.) Green goddess dressing is also wonderful as a dip for raw vegetables.

3 tablespoons cilantro
3 tablespoons basil
1 tablespoon Italian parsley
1 tablespoon tarragon
1 large garlic clove, peeled
1 oil-packed anchovy filet, rinsed
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 ripe, medium avocado (about 7 oz.)
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/4 cup heavy cream

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the first 11 ingredients (cilantro through vinegar). Blend until evenly minced. Add the avocado and process until smooth. With the machine running, slowly and gradually add the olive oil through the feed tube; blend well. Add the shallot and cream, and pulse to combine. Taste for seasoning, and add salt if needed. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours before serving. Then let stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes, re-whisk and serve.

Yield: about 2 cups

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