Recipe: To Dress Salad
A classic viniagrette seems a likely staple at Monticello's table. From Dining at Monticello, edited by Damon Lee Fowler.
2 tablespoons wine vinegar or tarragon wine vinegar salt
whole black pepper in a pepper mill
6 - 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 cups mixed salad greens, such as seasonal lettuce, spinach, endive, radicchio, and cress
fresh herbs, such as sweet basil, marjoram, mint, and summer savory, to taste
6 small scallions, trimmed
- Put the vinegar, a small pinch of salt, and several generous grindings of pepper in a salad bowl and beat with a fork until the salt is dissolved.
- Gradually beat in about 6 tablespoons of olive oil, a little at a time, in a steady thin stream, beating constantly until emulsified. Taste and adjust the salt, pepper, and oil as needed.
- Add the greens and herbs to the dressing and toss lightly to coat. Taste and adjust the seasonings again, toss, and arrange the scallions around the edges of the bowl.
Serve with Jefferson-era heirloom vegetables and herbs grown from seeds from our online Museum Shop.
HISTORICAL NOTES: Although salads are well documented at Monticello, the only two recipes for dressings in the family manuscripts appear to postdate Jefferson's death by some thirty years. Given that Jefferson favored imported olive oil and wine vinegar, the classic seems a likely staple at Monticello's table, prepared tableside with oil and vinegar brought to the table in handsome cruet sets. (One such set so captured Jefferson's attention in Germany that he sketched the clever design in his notes, and a set associated with the Trist family is part of the Monticello collection today.) The basic formula has not significantly changed. The proportions are of necessity approximate: they depend on the strength of the vinegar, the quality of the oil, and the delicacy of the salad greens, but the reader can confidently start with 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil, adding more oil as needed to taste.