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Hand Salad with Yogurt-Lemon Dressing

Hand Salad with Yogurt-Lemon Dressing

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We call this a hand salad because lettuce and dip just doesn’t sound like nearly as much fun. Romaine hearts are great because they’re sturdy and stocked at most markets. Don’t use something floppy like Boston lettuce or arugula, though. This is the appetizer for the $50 dinner party. See the rest of the menu and step-by-step photos here.


  • 2 cups plain full-fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 romaine hearts, leaves separated, trimmed

Recipe Preparation

  • Whisk yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl; taste and adjust seasonings and lemon juice, if needed.

  • Arrange romaine leaves in a bowl and serve with yogurt-lemon dressing alongside for dipping.

Reviews SectionReminds me of hand salads I had at birthday parties growing up. The dressing is very similar to the one our chef would prepare. Excellent!I've been looking for a good hand salad recipe for years! Just like mom used to make.CoreyerocColumbus 12/11/19

Mediterranean Chicken Salad with Sumac Dressing

Oh my god! This Mediterranean chicken salad! I could literally eat it every day of the week (in fact, I nearly did this last week). It is that good! I don’t do this often, but I would like to politely urge you to make this as soon as possible. The name doesn’t give it nearly enough justice.

As a general rule, I enjoy salads. This isn’t anything new. But it takes a very special salad for me to feel 100% satiated with one as a main course. It also takes a very special salad for me to crave it more than anything else! It has to have a ton of flavor and texture, and this salad checks all of those boxes. I love it.

The wow factor comes from:

  • chicken breasts marinaded with a homemade spice mixture made up of ground cumin, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, paprika, allspice, cloves, and turmeric. It literally makes everything taste better!
  • crunchy, vibrant, thinly sliced red cabbage (I love adding it to salads for texture nutrition, and heartiness) combined with scallions and umami-rich sun-dried tomatoes
  • za’atar spice, dried sumac, lots of fresh lemon juice, and good-quality olive oil
  • creamy, easy lemon tahini sauce for drizzling – this sauce is spectacular!

My favorite recipes are the ones that I end up throwing together at the last minute, and this is exactly how this salad came about. I looked to my pantry and last year’s Middle Eastern spatchcocked chicken for inspiration.

The chicken on this salad is marinated with a homemade Middle Eastern inspired spice mixture made up of ground cumin, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, paprika, allspice, sumac, cloves, and turmeric. If you cook regularly, these are ground spices that are commonly used for both baking and savory dishes. I recommend having all of them in your pantry.

I make a large batch of the spice mixture at once (tip: quadruple the dry spice amounts in the recipe and keep the leftovers in a small ziplock bag for easy grabbing!) and keep some in my pantry at all times. It makes everything taste better and it compliments the other components in this salad perfectly.

The best part? You can marinate the chicken for as little as 20 minutes or up to 12 hours, depending on your time schedule.

The sumac dressing is made with fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, za’atar spice blend, and sumac.

Sumac is dark red spice produced from the berry fruit of sumac flowers. It is very citrus-y and tart in flavor, and is a wonderful staple of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. I’ve acquired a habit of sprinkling it on salads, vegetables, dips, and so many other things over the past few years. Unfortunately, sumac is hard to find in most grocery stores, so if you’re looking to grab a container of it, I recommend seeking out any local Middle Eastern grocery stores or simply, ordering it online.

Za’atar is a spice blend made from toasted sesame seeds, sumac, and thyme (and occasionally a few other spices!). You can try your hand at making your own – sumac is difficult to find – but I’ve had better luck finding za’atar spice blend online or in the international aisle of my standard grocery store.

Both of these spices offer so much in flavor! It is hard to meet a vegetable or piece of meat or seafood that doesn’t benefit from a sprinkling of both.

This salad is incredibly hearty and satiating on it’s own, and can be whipped up quickly – especially if you prep the spice mixture and tahini sauce ahead of time. All of the components and flavors of the salad come together really well, so please don’t be tempted to skimp on one or the other.

It is also worth noting that this Mediterranean chicken salad tastes incredible with of side of grilled vegetables. Eggplant, zucchini, and bell pepper are my favorites for this particular salad!

Put the yogurt in a small bowl or medium jar with a sealable lid. Add the lemon juice. If using a bowl, whisk them together if using a jar, screw on the lid and give it a good shake to combine.

Peel the garlic (or shallot). Use a garlic press to crush it or, even better, crush it with the side of a large knife, then use that knife to mince the garlic into a paste. Add the garlic to the yogurt mixture.

Lay the mint leaves in a stack, putting them flat on top of one another. Roll them up lengthwise into a tight bundle. Use that sharp knife to cut the bundle crosswise. Use your fingers to fluff the resulting cuts apart into ribbons. You can stir these mint ribbons into the dressing as-is, or cut them further into more of a mince for a finer texture. Stir into the dressing.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Freshly ground black pepper makes a big difference in this simple dressing, so use it if you have it.

Add more lemon juice to thin the dressing to taste, if you like. Give the whole thing a final stir to shake to combine everything.

What you'll need for creamy cucumber salad:

  • Plain full-fat Greek yogurt
  • White wine or tarragon vinegar
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • English cucumber (you can also use regular, but I prefer English, which are also called hot house, because they have less seeds and a thinner skin).
  • Shallot (feel free to use half a red onion instead)
  • Mixed fresh herbs (I like mint and parsley, though dill and tarragon are also stellar).

How to make Ranch Salad Dressing with Greek Yogurt

You will want to whisk together your greek yogurt, and seasonings until well combined. You will see that at this point you have a very thick mixture. This is the starting point for you to make your dressing as thick or as thin as you prefer. If you want a nice thick dip, you can add less buttermilk, if you like your dressing quite thin for your salads, simply add more!

To make this ranch dressing I start with 3/4 cup of Buttermilk for this recipe. If you know you want a thick dip-like consistency, start with 1/2 cup and work your way up from there. Note that you can also use regular milk for this dressing if you only have that on hand, however I would recommend using whole milk or buttermilk for the creamiest texture.

  • 1 ¼ pounds sustainable wild or farmed salmon, cut into 4 portions
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper, divided
  • ½ cup sliced cucumber
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • ½ cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon curry powder

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Brush salmon with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Oil the grill rack (see Tip). Grill the salmon, turning once, until just cooked through, about 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine cucumber, cilantro and shallot with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk yogurt, lemon juice, curry powder and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Serve the salmon with the yogurt sauce and the cucumber salad.

Tip: To oil your hot grill rack, soak a paper towel with vegetable oil and hold it with tongs to rub it over the rack. (Do not use cooking spray on a hot grill.)

Homemade salad dressings: Say goodbye to the bottle

A salad without dressing is just a pile of limp, uninspired lettuce.

It is the dressing that makes a salad sing. It brings the greens to life, it makes the produce productive. What was once mere vitamins and roughage and something that sticks to your teeth becomes, with the measured application of a dressing, a dish to praise and celebrate.

And it is all due to some oil and a little vinegar, and maybe yogurt or a splash of lemon juice.

Salad dressing is something you can make yourself the possibilities are endless. Try adding a combination of different herbs to oil and vinegar, or go for a sweet dressing with honey and a bit of fruit.

Homemade Caesar salad dressing. (Photo: Hillary Levin, TNS)

Best of all, dressings are both fast and easy to make — unless you make many different dressings at one time. Then they take longer than you might think and are kind of a hassle.

I made several dressings for this story, both vinaigrettes and yogurt-based dressings. Some were tart, one was sweet and all were beautifully balanced. Each one was perfect with lettuce, but many could also be served with vegetables or even fruit.

I started with a Bistro Vinaigrette. This is the dressing we have on hand at all times at my house, a dressing I sometimes eat literally every day of the week. It is my favorite dressing, and if you try it, it will probably become your favorite dressing, too.

It is so good that I decided to write a story about salad dressings just so I could write about Bistro Vinaigrette.

It is a simple vinaigrette (oil mixed with vinegar or lemon juice), enlivened, as many are, with Dijon mustard. But it stands out in a few ways: It has chopped shallots in it, and the shallots are allowed to rest in the vinegar and salt for 10 minutes before the mustard and oil are added. This extra step smooths out the shallots’ sharp edge.

And there is one more key factor that makes the dressing so good — it does not use olive oil, which is typically used for vinaigrettes. Olive oil has too strong a flavor for this dressing. A neutral-flavored oil, such as grapeseed or canola, keeps the dressing’s delicate flavors in harmony.

Next, I made an herb vinaigrette, which means the time has come to talk about emulsions.

You know how oil doesn’t mix with water or vinegar or, for that matter, egg yolk? How it separates into a gross, oily mess?

Homemade Herb Vinaigrette (parsley, dill, basil). (Photo: Hillary Levin, TNS)

When you emulsify a dressing, you pour oil very slowly into vinegar (or lemon juice) and usually something like mustard or an egg yolk while whisking it together very fast. Through a miracle of science that would take a long time to explain, and I’d probably get it wrong, the oil and other ingredients blend into one another and can stay combined for up to several days.

If they separated again before you’re done with the dressing, just shake it vigorously together in a jar with a lid and it will recombine certainly long enough to enjoy your salad.

The Herb Vinaigrette is a great example of an emulsion. You slowly add corn oil to a beaten egg yolk, whisking (or using a blender) all the while. That makes an easy emulsion, but what makes this dressing superb are the ingredients you add after it is combined: minced garlic, minced parsley, minced dill and minced basil for a fresh, herbaceous taste, and some wine vinegar for just the right bite.

The same principle holds true for the classic Caesar Dressing, which is another of my all-time favorites. Here, the oil is enthusiastically whisked into a mixture of egg yolk, lemon juice and Dijon mustard.

That emulsion actually wouldn’t be bad on its own, but we are here to praise the Caesar dressing — not to bury it — because of the other ingredients that are added to it. Using a sharp knife, you make a paste of anchovy fillets, garlic and salt, and whisk that into the emulsion.

If it sounds complicated, don’t worry. As Caesar himself said, “Experience is the teacher of all things.”

Note: I am well aware that the Caesar Salad was named for its creator, Caesar Cardini. However, as far as we know, Cardini never said “Experience is the teacher of all things.”

My next emulsified dressing came from a restaurant that, for many years, was considered the finest in Richmond, Virginia. Of all the things La Petite France did well, one of the best was its vinaigrette named for its owner-chef, Paul Elbling.

Sauce Vinaigrette “Chef Paul” has more going on in it than the other dressings I made. Along with the egg yolk, mustard, vinegar and oil — two types of oil, actually — it has white wine and a wealth of aromatic ingredients. These include thyme, oregano, nutmeg, rosemary, basil, garlic and white pepper.

In the wrong hands, this would end up as a brash cacophony of flavors. But Chef Paul knows what he is doing. His hand is subtle, and the result is exquisite. This is a dressing to serve on a special occasion, such as happening to have it on hand (which is likely, because you make a quart and a half of the stuff at a time), or you are simply in the mood for a sublime dressing.

On the other side of the flavor spectrum, and earning a much lower score for degree of difficulty, is Strawberry-Yogurt Dressing. This is a simple dressing of strawberries and yogurt, plus some honey and half a gill of orange juice.

It is easy to make, but it is deceptive. The sweetness of the berries and the honey play off the tang of the yogurt, with the sweet tanginess of the orange juice there to tie it all together.

I turned to the inimical and irreplaceable Jacques Pepin for one dressing. The great chef’s creamy yogurt dressing is the best of both worlds: It is a vinaigrette and it also uses yogurt.

It is tangy, as you might expect, but it does not go overboard. In Pepin’s hands, it is a well-balanced combination of just five ingredients. Only salt and pepper are added to the oil, vinegar and yogurt. It is the fastest and simplest of all the dressings I made, and one of the most satisfying.

The last dressing, also yogurt-based, is savory and quite unlike any of the others. It could come straight out of the Mideast the yogurt is blended with tahini, lemon juice and garlic.

It works as a great dipping sauce for crudites as well as a dressing for salad.

Homemade Strawberry Yogurt Dressing. (Photo: Hillary Levin, TNS)


16 ounces (2 cups) plain yogurt

1 1/2 pints strawberries, hulled and coarsely puréed

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey

Empty the yogurt into a bowl, but do not whisk it (which would make it become watery). Whisk together the strawberry purée, orange juice and honey. Gently stir into the yogurt. Chill before serving.

Per (2 tablespoon) serving: 28 calories 1 g fat 1 g saturated fat 2 mg cholesterol 1 g protein 4 g carbohydrate 4 g sugar 1 g fiber 5 mg sodium 17 mg calcium

Recipe from “The Frog/Commissary Cookbook” by Steven Poses, Anne Clark and Becky Roller

Homemade Bistro Vinaigrette, with shallot and mustard. (Photo: Hillary Levin, TNS)


1 tablespoon finely diced shallot

2 tablespoons wine vinegar (red or white)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) neutral oil, such as sunflower seed, grapeseed or canola

Freshly ground pepper, white if available

1. In a medium bowl, combine the shallot, salt and vinegar with a wooden spoon. Let rest for 10 minutes to take the edge off the shallot.

2. Stir in the mustard. Pour in the oil slowly, stirring all the while to create an emulsion. Sprinkle generously with pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Keeps up to 1 week in the refrigerator in a glass jar with a tight lid.

Per (2 tablespoon) serving: 155 calories 17 g fat 3 g saturated fat no cholesterol no protein 1 g carbohydrate 1 g sugar 1 g fiber 311 mg sodium 3 mg calcium

Recipe from “Tasting Paris” by Clotilde Dusoulier


1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons plain yogurt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk together the vinegar, salt, yogurt and pepper. Whisk in the oil. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator.

Per serving: 87 calories 8 g fat 2 g saturated fat 4 mg cholesterol 2 g protein 1 g carbohydrate 1 g sugar no fiber 446 mg sodium 28 mg calcium

Recipe from “Essential Pepin” by Jacques Pépin


1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

3/8 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

2 cups salad oil (such as vegetable, corn, canola, grapeseed or safflower oil)

1. Have all the ingredients ready before beginning. In a blender, put the egg yolk, mustard, wine, wine vinegar, salt, thyme, white pepper, oregano, nutmeg, rosemary and basil. Mix well at medium speed for 30 seconds, taking care not to turn off the blender.

2. With the blender still on, slowly add the oils, pouring them in a very thin stream into the liquid in the blender. Take care to add the oil slowly so the dressing will not separate. Refrigerate before serving.

Per (2 tablespoon) serving: 107 calories 12 g fat 1 g saturated fat 4 mg cholesterol 1 g protein no carbohydrate no sugar no fiber 107 mg sodium 2 mg calcium

Recipe from “Chef Paul’s La Petite France” by Paul Elbling


1 plump, moist garlic clove, green germ removed if necessary

1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)

1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a food processor or blender, mince the garlic. Add the tahini, yogurt, lemon juice and salt, and puree to blend. Taste for seasoning. Store the dressing in the refrigerator for up to 1 week shake to blend again before using.

Per (2 tablespoon) serving: 55 calories 4 g fat 1 g saturated fat 1 mg cholesterol 3 g protein 3 g carbohydrate 1 g sugar 1 g fiber 152 mg sodium 26 mg calcium

Recipe from “Salad as a Meal” by Patricia Wells


1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons minced parsley

2 tablespoons minced dill

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried

Mix the egg in a food processor or blender, or whisk by hand, until light-colored. Gradually add the corn oil so that it is well blended. Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Chill before using. Store in refrigerator.

Per (2 tablespoon) serving: 172 calories 19 g fat 3 g saturated fat 16 mg cholesterol 1 g protein 1 g carbohydrate no sugar 1 g fiber 200 mg sodium 5 mg calcium

Recipe from “The Frog/Commissary Cookbook” by Steven Poses, Anne Clark and Becky Roller


3 oil-packed anchovy fillets, chopped

1 large garlic clove, chopped

3/4 teaspoon (or more) kosher salt

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons Parmesan, finely grated

1. Mound anchovies, garlic and salt on a cutting board. Using the side of a chef’s knife, mash and chop until well combined, then continue to work mixture, holding knife blade at an angle, until a smooth paste forms. (Alternately, you can use a mortar and pestle or mini chopper to do this step.)

2. Whisk egg yolk, lemon juice and mustard in a medium bowl. Place a kitchen towel in a medium saucepan, then place bowl in pan. (This holds the bowl in place while you whisk with one hand and pour oil with the other.)

3. Adding drop by drop to start and whisking constantly, drizzle a few drops of oil into yolk mixture. Continue, going slowly, until mixture looks slightly thickened and glossy. Continue to whisk, gradually adding oil in a slow, steady stream until all oil has been used and mixture looks like mayonnaise. Add a dash of water and whisk, adjusting with more water if needed, until dressing is the consistency of heavy cream.

4. Add anchovy mixture and Parmesan and whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, if needed.

Per (2 tablespoon) serving: 103 calories 11 g fat 8 g saturated fat 33 mg cholesterol 2 g protein 1 g carbohydrate 1 g sugar 1 g fiber 219 mg sodium 37 mg calcium

How to Make Healthy Salad Dressing with Balsamic Vinegar

The Greek yogurt and just a bit of olive oil give this healthy homemade salad dressing the rich smoothness of those heavier creamy dressings you get in restaurants or in the grocery store. But it has no preservatives or other funky ingredients, and fewer calories. So it’s definitely good for you, especially if it gets you to eat more fresh vegetables! This creamy balsamic dressing is sure to become a kitchen staple.

What is balsamic vinaigrette dressing made of?

You only need five ingredients:

  • Plain Greek yogurt – I typically use nonfat, but you can use any type you prefer.
  • Dijon mustard – yellow or brown mustard can also be substituted.
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Honey – maple syrup can also be used.

Combine all of the ingredients, season with salt and pepper, and shake or stir it up in a bowl or Mason jar.

I actually love using t his salad dressing shaker! It’s one of my favorite kitchen gadgets. I make a batch of homemade salad dressing at least once a week.

Is there egg in balsamic vinaigrette?

A basic balsamic vinaigrette contains oil, vinegar, mustard, and seasonings, so there is no egg in it. However, to make a creamy balsamic dressing, many recipes do contain an egg or egg yolk. This can be a concern for people with an egg allergy or who are concerned about eating raw eggs due to salmonella. So this recipe uses Greek yogurt for that creamy texture instead of egg. Therefore, it does not contain any eggs.

Do you have to refrigerate balsamic vinaigrette dressing?

Because this recipe contains dairy, you do have to store it in the refrigerator. So while you can whisk it together in a bowl, I recommend using the shaker I mentioned or a mason jar. Shake up that dressing and keep it in the fridge to use for several days.

What do you serve with creamy balsamic dressing?

  • Enjoy it on a simple side salad to go with your favorite Italian meal, like Lasagna (or Gluten Free Lasagna), or penne and Vodka Sauce.
  • Drizzle it on an Italian-Style Wedge Salad.
  • Make an entree salad with romaine, roasted red peppers, olives, and feta, or with mixed baby greens, apples, and blue cheese and your favorite protein such as shrimp, leftover rotisserie chicken, or grilled filet mignon.
  • Use it as a dip for veggies, and you can even pack it in kids lunches.
  • Make a glammed-up BLT known as the “PAT” or Prosciutto, Arugula and Tomato Sandwich.

For more yumminess from me and my foodie friends, keep up with me on…

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What else can you make with balsamic vinegar?

Looking for some more healthy salad dressing recipes?

    is made from ingredients you probably always have on hand in your pantry. lightens up that favorite salad. doubles as a delicious dressing for a Greek-style salad. is a healthier way to enjoy this cheesy favorite. is deliciously sweet and tangy.
  • Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing adds the natural sweetness of figs for a fruity twist.
  • Maybe you want a cheesier option. Try Creamy Parmesan Salad Dressing from Noble Pig.


Since it is the end of summer I have been sharing salads using garden and farmers market vegetables. Last week I shared this Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Capers and of course some reader favorite this time of year are my Easy Lebanese Salad and this Persian Tomato Cucumber Salad.

Today&rsquos Cucumber Tomato Salad with Yogurt Dressing is a salad I grew up eating. We often had this salad alongside Kibbeh, Lebanese Meat Pies, Hummus and Lebanese Green Beans. That was one of my favorite Lebanese meals that we ate.

This salad uses plain yogurt as the dressing mixed with lemon juice, olive oil and fresh herbs. You can also use Greek yogurt if you like a tangy dressing. By using Greek yogurt you will also be adding extra protein, which is nice!


Yogurt dressings are among my favorite to make for many reasons. I love that they are creamy without all of the extra added ingredients, they are healthy and can be paired with spices and herbs. Here are the ingredients I used in today&rsquos dressing:

YOGURT: I like to use plain yogurt in my dressings but you can also use a Greek yogurt to make a creamier dressing with more protein.

OLIVE OIL: Extra virgin olive oil is added to this dressing. You can skip it or use regular olive oil.

LEMON JUICE: Lemon juice adds a sweetness to the dressing. You can use more or less for the ideal flavor that you like.

SPICES: I add fresh mint, dill and parsley to this salad. You can use dried if that is what you have on hand. I also like to spice it up with other spices like sumac or za&rsquoatar.


CHICKEN: This salad is a nice pairing for chicken like these Shish Tawook chicken thighs, this Mediterranean Chicken or this Chicken Shawarma.

BEEF: Beef is a nice protein to serve with summer salads. We love these Grilled Beef Kafta Kebabs, Beef Kafta Meatballs or with these Slow Cooker Mediterranean Beef Meatballs.

SEAFOOD: Seafood is something we eat a lot in our house. We especially love this Baked Lemon Cod and this Garlic Butter Baked Salmon.

VEGETARIAN MEALS: If you are looking for vegetarian meal options I like making these Lebanese Spinach Pies or this Moroccan Carrot Red Lentil Soup.

Looking for more refreshing salads? try the Tomato Cucumber Feta Quinoa Salad