Salads, like a wardrobe, change with the seasons. In winter, grains stand in for the leafy greens that are abundant in the warmer months and I look to my windowsill instead of the herb garden for flavor power ups. Fruits and vegetables, the mementos of summer, are culled from jars instead of bins.
The dressings for these salads vary as widely as the components, even within the parameters of a classic vinaigrette: 3 parts oil to 1 part acid. Oils pressed from seeds, nuts, grains, and fruit each possess their own personalities and can be further customised with aromatics. And oils aren't limited to plants— hot rendered animal fats can transform coarse greens and grains into something special.
Acids offer even more variety as they can be made from, or flavored with, almost anything and needn't be restricted to just vinegar and citrus. Sour fruit juices such as verjus, tamarind, passion fruit, crabapple, rose hips, plums, rhubarb, and pomegranate make fruity dressings bursting with sweet, tangy flavors when the oil ratio is lowered to double the amount of juice. Most milk products lack acidic presence, but kefir whey makes a kicky dressing that feels light on the palate with a milky background.
With a wide and varied palette of flavors at hand, your mind and palate will never be bored, and a meal as ordinary as salad, with little effort, can be made extraordinary.
This barley salad was dressed with passion fruit juice, rice bran oil, shallots, and hishio, a type of barley miso. Herbs from the windowsill include mitsuba (Cryptotaenia japonica), saltwort (Salsola kornarovil), and sedum (Sempervivum tectorum). And from the pantry are: burdock ribbons pickled in coconut vinegar, Rainier cherries preserved in umeboshi and simple syrup, and ground cherries (Physalis pruinosa) preserved in sake.