The world's best salad: Greens with avocado, tomatoes and hazelnuts in shallot vinaigrette
Okay, so maybe I'm a little biased. This is, however, my most requested starter for catering gigs – so, even if it's not the world's best, it is my most popular.
So, this recipe makes one complete recipe – salad fixings and dressing included – that will serve two as an entree-sized salad or four as a side. The cool thing about this dressing is that you can put it together by hand or combine all the ingredients in a blender or Cuisinart for a creamier emulsion.
The hazelnuts are clutch in this salad; as a crunchier nut, they add much needed texture to the fatty avocado. You could swap them out with pecans or almonds if you have a hard time getting ahold of hazelnuts though - I won't hold it against you.
Garlic and shallot add an earthiness and spiciness to a pretty traditional salad ingredient combo. As a note, I'd strongly recommend not kissing anyone you've just started dating after having this dressing – or cut out the garlic.
What you need
1 head Escarole, Boston bibb, or another leafy green lettuce, chopped
5 oz cherry or sunburst tomatoes, quartered
1 avocado, chopped
2 tbsp hazelnuts, finely chopped
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
How to do it
If you're mixing the dressing by hand:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together chopped shallots, garlic, salt, sugar, mustard and lemon juice.
While whisking vigorously, slowly drizzle olive oil into the mixing bowl. Stir until combined and thickened.
Add escarole, hazelnuts, tomatoes and avocado to the bowl and toss with salad tongs.
If you're using a blender or Cuisinart for the dressing:
Add chopped shallots, garlic, salt, sugar, mustard and lemon juice. Turn on your appliance to a medium speed and slowly drizzle olive oil into the top of the appliance.
Once you've added all of the olive oil, flip the appliance speed up to high and blend for about 20 seconds until smooth, thickened and completely combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed (i.e. more salt, more sugar, more lemon juice).
Pour the dressing into the bottom of a salad or mixing bowl. Add escarole, hazelnuts, tomatoes and avocado and toss with salad tongs. Serve immediately.
You can store any extra dressing in a sealed container; you can store the salad – undressed – ahead of time in a bowl covered in saran wrap with all of the ingredients.