Shrimp, Avocado, and Hearts of Palm Salad

Serves 6 / This salad has two dressings: a light vinaigrette for the lettuce and a creamy dressing for the shrimp and vegetables. Ingredient tip: Look for sustainable-harvest Brazilian hearts of palm, which are the most tender. Prep tip: The creamy dressing needs to be made as close to serving time as possible to prevent it from deflating. View recipe

Baby Arugula with Moroccan Carrots

Serves 4 / This salad’s exotic sweet-sourness combines well with any smoked meat or fish. The dish looks nice with the carrots on top, but you could also toss them with the lettuce. View recipe

Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Baby Romaine Lettuce

Serves 4 / Ingredient tip: This recipe calls for fresh black-eyed peas, which cook in a fairly short time. If you can’t find them fresh or frozen, you can use dried black-eyed peas, but be sure to soak overnight and allow a much longer cooking time. Prep tip: The dressing can be made early in the day and stored in the fridge. View recipe

Curly Endive with Papaya and Poached Chicken

Serves 4 / Endive has a bitter edge, which is instantly tamed by just a few bites here and there of red papaya and a spicy citrus vinaigrette. Prep tips: Poaching chicken at a low temperature helps keep it tender and moist. Ingredient tip: I don’t recommend bottled bell peppers in this salad. View recipe

Mixed Bitter Greens with Fennel and Smoked Trout

Serves 6–8 / Like all greens, bitter greens supply iron, but they are also powerful blood purifiers. Taken at the end of a meal, they act as digestive aids as well as palate cleansers. Prep tips: This dressing is fine made ahead, even for days and days, kept in the fridge. Ingredient tip: Check sodium levels on smoked trout; they vary wildly by brand. View recipe

Spinach Salad with Eggs and Watercress Dressing

Serves 4 / Watercress is packed with antioxidants and flavor, making a healthful as well as beautiful emerald-green dressing. Combined with spinach and eggs, this is such a simple, light salad, yet it’s spectacularly delicious. Prep tips: The fragile dressing should be made just before serving. The watercress can be prepared and stored in an airtight bag in the fridge until then, but the rest should be done à la minute. View recipe

Great dressings, every time.

With few exceptions, every salad dressing is a judicious blend of some form of acidic juice, oil, and seasonings. Creating new and interesting combinations is quite easy. Experiment with different vinegars, such as balsamic, rice, umeboshi, and sherry. Add herbs, garlic, fresh ginger, or spices. Finally, select the oil—by far the most important ingredient. I use two almost exclusively: extra-virgin olive oil, with its unique Mediterranean flavor, and flaxseed oil, the richest source of omega-3 fats (for the freshest oil, check the bottle’s press date and use within two weeks of opening). These components optimize well-being and flavor; now simply follow your palate.