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The right blend elevates your salad dressing

Salad greens are plentiful in grocery stores year-round, but if you ask us, big-box produce never seems to taste as good as the leafy greens that pop up in local farmers’ gardens come spring.

Salad dressing doesn’t have to have a lot of ingredients to taste good – all tender baby spinach and delicate spring mixes need to dazzle the taste buds is a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper. But sometimes you crave a dressing that’s a little more complex.

As the following recipes show, the right blend of oil, vinegar and spices can elevate a simple bowl of greens from a healthful but ho-hum afterthought to a super-satisfying house special. Who knows, your family might even ask for seconds.

Crunchy greens such as romaine and iceberg lettuce are the perfect canvas for creamy dressings such as the Green Goddess offered below, while buttery head lettuces demand a lighter touch. Make sure you wash and completely dry your greens before placing in the salad bowl (a salad spinner comes in handy), and also be sure to tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces, unless you’re grilling the head whole, which I love to do with romaine.

I always salt my greens before adding the dressing – start with less than you think you need, because once it’s on, there’s no going back – but it’s perfectly acceptable to it afterward, too. And don’t forget a good grind of black pepper.

Green Goddess Dressing

Green Goddess is sometimes dubbed the “little black dress” of salad dressing because it never goes out of style. This recipe gets it fat from avocado instead of the traditional mayonnaise and/or sour cream. It’s on the thick side, which means you also could use it for dipping crudites.

1 cup chopped avocado (about 1 avocado)

3 or 4 anchovy fillets or 1ø to 2 teaspoons anchovy paste

2 small garlic cloves, chopped

2 scallions, chopped

¼ cup white-wine vinegar

1ø tablespoons lemon juice

¼ cup Greek yogurt

¼ cup firmly packed basil, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped tarragon leaves

Extra-virgin olive oil, for making dressing, optional

Add the avocado, anchovies, garlic, scallions, white-wine vinegar, lemon juice and Greek yogurt to a food processor or blender; process until relatively smooth. Add the basil, parsley and tarragon; process until smooth. If too thick, thin it out with a glug of olive oil.

Serve with crudites as a dip or thin out with olive oil to make a salad dressing.

For dressing, add olive oil 1/4 cup at a time, processing constantly until the desired consistency is reached. Toss with salad greens.

Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

One of my favorite (and easy to make) summer salads is char-grilled romaine. This balsamic vinaigrette is the perfect accompaniment.

∑ cup walnut oil

ø cup extra-virgin olive oil

∑ cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon minced onion

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon sugar

ø teaspoon kosher salt

In glass jar with tight-fitting lid, combine walnut oil, olive oil, vinegar, onion, mustard, sugar and salt; cover and shake to blend. Use right away or store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 1 cup.

Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette

I used homemade jalapeño jelly for this recipe. Serve with a salad of watermelon, arugula and chopped pecans. Crumbled Gorgonzola optional.

¼ cup rice-wine vinegar

¼ cup pepper jelly

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon grated onion

1 teaspoon table salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup vegetable oil

Whisk together first 6 ingredients. Gradually add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until blended. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 week.