The triumvirate of acid-oil-salt dressing is one of my favorite groups of flavors. They are endlessly variable and flexible, and they add moisture, flavor, and a unifying theme to food. I made several dishes over the holidays (see below) that rely on the balance of this combination. You can think of these like the emulsion created in salad dressing, but the proportion of oil to acid varies widely depending on what the liquid needs to accomplish. A salad of rough, peppery greens needs a more unctuous dressing than a naturally oily avocado does, and a bean salad, which has a more assertively flavored main ingredient, will need more punch than a dressing to go over that great abomination, the pasta salad.
Okay, I hate pasta salad, and as a vegetarian, I used to see it a lot. Less so now, thank goodness, partially because it’s gone out of style and partially because I don’t insert myself into restaurant settings where I’m likely to see it – but honestly, I find little redeeming about typical pasta salads. Insipid pasta, cooked until slimy, drenched with Italian dressing and some unidentifiable vegetable shards. If I’m going to make a salad that includes pasta – and I am not averse to that – I’ll make one with regular or Israeli couscous, or orzo. But none of this fusilli in Italian dressing with canned sliced black olives. Please. Spare me.