Earlier this week, I watched an interview with legendary music producer Rick Rubin, in which he described himself as more of a “reducer” than a producer. When he’s in the studio, his aim is to strip the music down, "just to see what's actually necessary. Getting it down to that essence is really helpful in understanding what it is."
His words resonated with my own pull towards simplicity this year—whether it’s editing a story, styling a room, or creating a recipe, getting down to the essence of anything requires a commitment to dig deep. You can’t dial it in when something is made up of just a few parts—each one has to be necessary and it has to be great. One shining example of this approach is the simple green salad at beloved NYC restaurant Via Carota. If you know, you know.
Walking into Via Carota is like entering a friend’s home in the Italian countryside (the fantasy version.) You’re greeted by exposed brick walls, charming antiques, rustic plates of shared pasta, and most definitely a cluster of people waiting for a table. If you look closely, you’ll notice a plethora of towering green salads on the center of tables, with layers upon layers of ruffly Bibb, little gem, and frisée lettuces tossed with a shallot vinaigrette and artfully arranged on each plate. It’s striking in its simplicity, yet looks and tastes undeniably special. Those who frequent Via Carota know not to miss ordering what is truly the best simple green salad on the planet.
Back in Austin, I’ve been slowly perfecting my own version of the perfect simple green salad—very much inspired by Via Carota’s but with a few twists that make it my own. I’ve landed on our family’s favorite that I’ve been making nightly, tossing whatever mixed lettuces we have in the fridge together, then stacking them in our perfect wood salad bowl. We’ve started calling it our “House Salad,” and each Sunday, I blend up a batch of our House Vinaigrette and pour it into a mason jar so I have it at the ready for salads all week.
Make sure your lettuces are completely dry
The Via Carota recipe calls for a double wash and extensive drying regimen, which is great for a restaurant setup, but I am giving you permission to wash your lettuces once, then dry them in a salad spinner or in paper towels like a normal person at home. The key here is to just make sure they’re completely and totally dry, so I like to wrap them up in a clean dishtowel while I’m prepping other ingredients to make sure they’re good to go. The reason for this is that we want the vinaigrette to lightly coat each leaf of lettuce, and since water and oil don’t mix, dryness is key before drizzling with the olive oil and vinegar based dressing.
Use your biggest bowl for tossing the lettuce with dressing
You guys know that I wouldn’t ask you to use two bowls unless it was absolutely necessary—I detest washing dishes and avoid dirtying extra dishes at all cost. However, here it’s a must. Use the biggest mixing bowl you own to add all your lettuces. You'll use way more than you think you’ll need because they shrink down when coated with vinaigrette. Toss them thoroughly in this mixing bowl, then get out your handmade wood salad bowl and transfer by the handful, stacking up each bunch of lettuces into a ruffly tower.
Use your hands
Pull up your sleeves and use those hands to toss together the lettuces and herbs with the vinaigrette, plus the salt and liberal amounts of freshly ground black pepper. Trust me, you cannot get the same effect using tongs or spoons here—you’re kind of massaging the dressing and seasonings into the lettuce so that it barely coats each leaf and everything is completely evenly distributed.
Toss it with dressing right before serving
Although you can prep your lettuce in advance—wash, dry, and put in a big mixing bowl in the fridge—you’ll want to wait until right before serving to toss it with the vinaigrette and top with your walnuts so it stays fresh, perky, and not at all soggy.
Scroll on for the recipe, and shop your salad essentials here:
Handmade Wood Salad Bowl - The 12" is sized for 2 - 4 people, while the 17" is made for larger groups.
Set of 4 Individual Wood Salad Bowls - The perfect pairing for our larger wood serving bowls, these heirloom-quality bowls are made of solid beechwood with a light walnut finish.
Simple Green Salad for All Seasons
- 8 handfuls mixed lettuces (the more the merrier—bibb, romaine hearts, and arugula is my jam, but do what you love)
- 1 cup mixed fresh herbs (mint and chives get my vote)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Very finely chopped toasted walnuts
- 1 shallot, peeled and halved
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- Squeeze of honey
- big pinch of salt and pepper
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Add all the vinaigrette ingredients to a blender. Blend until smooth, then transfer to a mason jar.
Wash and dry your lettuces, then wrap up in a towel to remove all moisture.
Drizzle 3 tablespoons vinaigrette into a very large mixing bowl, coating sides and bottom of bowl. Add greens and herbs, season with salt and pepper, then use your hands to fold greens until coated with vinaigrette. Drizzle more if needed.
Mound salad into a towering pile in your 12” wood salad bowl, sprinkle with the toasted walnuts and a final pinch of salt and pepper. Eat!