How to Build a Summer Salad with Fresh Basil Vinaigrette

by Dorothy Reinhold on July 14, 2016

Print This Post Print This Post Summer Salad with Fresh Basil Vinaigrette is a light, main-dish salad that would make a nice lunch or dinner, and takes advantage of the colors of the season.

Do you always follow recipes for your salads, or do you throw things together on a whim?

Today, I’ll show you how easy it is to build a summer salad, and then give you the actual recipe for the salad and the dressing in case you need written backup.

How to build a salad in summer on

Start with greens

Today I’m using mixed greens, which the package calls organic baby spring mixgreen leaf, mizuna, romaine, tango, spinach, arugula, frisee, tatsoi, mache, lolla rosa, red mustard, red leaf, radicchio, red oaksheesh, what ISN’T in here? Use whatever variety you like, and don’t forget the unique ones — baby bok choy, the chards (red, green, or rainbow), beet tops, etc. All of these can be eaten raw, and are quite delicious. I often will toss together a few handfuls of spring mix or a specialty green with shredded cabbage, which gives me something to chew on. And the greens varieties you use can change with the seasons, as some greens come into season and others go out.

Choose a protein

I’m doing cooked shrimp today, but consider roast chicken, grilled steak, cooked fish, raw sashimi fish, baked tofu, beans or chickpeas…whatever protein heft you like. Adding protein to your salad makes it a main dish, and will keep you full longer.

Cheese (or not)

I do like a sprinkle of cheese on my main dish salads. Today I’m using a new brand I found on sale at Ralph’s, called Senor Gusto Spicy Blend (a shred of Oaxaca and Jalapeno queso). You could use shredded, chunks or even tiny balls, like mozzarella pearls. Don’t forget crumbled feta or a goat cheese medallion as options. If you don’t do dairy, omit the cheese, or sub a non-dairy cheese of your choosing.

Add some colorful vegetables

Summer boasts a plethora of sweet bell peppers, so today I’m taking advantage of the mini tri colored bells. You have so many options, ranging from sugar snap peas to jicama, chopped celery, carrot ribbons, broccoli, cauliflower

Add some colorful fruit

Berries are a natural to add to salads in summer. (Oops, I forgot to add the blackberries before I took the photo! Just pretend they’re there.) Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries — they all add their jewel-like quality to the dish. But don’t overlook peaches, nectarines, plums or other stone fruit, including cherries. Pit them, halve or slice them, and lay them on attractively. Pro tip: Tomatoes are a fruit; don’t forget the summer tomatoes!

Add some crunch

fresh-gourmet-Crispy OnionsIt could be roasted nuts, sunflower seeds, or my current obsession, Fresh Gourmet Lightly Salted Crispy Onions. I discovered these in the aisle near the croutons, and I am IN LOVE WITH THEM! They are truly just lightly salted, and the deep onion flavor is very satisfying on a salad. Croutons would be fine, as would a commercially packaged salad topper (which usually has nuts and dried fruits in it).  Just add some crunch!


Arugula sending up flowers and going to seed on ShockinglyDelicious.comIf I can find some edible flowers out in the garden, I will strew some on my salad, for eye appeal. Today my arugula was bolting in the garden, so I used a few sprigs of arugula flowers (you can see them around the edge of the plate). Purple chive flowers are also nice, as are nasturtiums or violas (tiny pansies). If you’re going to pick out of your garden, just be sure you are not spraying insecticides. Grow things naturally if you can…a few bug holes never hurt anyone.

A great dressing

Summer screams basil, so today’s dressing is a very fast blended fresh basil vinaigrette. You can buy the dressing, of course, but it is so easy to toss a couple of pantry ingredients in a shaker and make your own. Check below under the salad recipe for my quick basil dressing recipe. I had a basil plant in the window sill, and I used those fresh leaves.

Ready for your Summer Salad?

Let’s go!

Summer Salad with Fresh Basil Vinaigrette

Prep Time: 7 minutes

Yield: Makes 1

Summer Salad with Fresh Basil Vinaigrette is a light, main-dish salad that would make a nice lunch or dinner, and takes advantage of the colors of the season.


  • Mixed greens
  • Mini colored sweet bell peppers, quartered
  • Shredded cheese
  • Cooked shrimp (tail on or off, as you wish)
  • Crispy onions
  • Fresh blackberries
  • Garnish: edible flowers (I used arugula flowers from the garden)
  • Dressing: Fresh Basil Vinaigrette (see recipe below)


  1. Lay fresh greens on a large plate. (I love BIG main dish salads!).
  2. Nestle bell peppers in among the leaves.
  3. Sprinkle on your choice of cheese. Don't use too much. Think of it as a flavor ingredient, not meant to add too much fat and weight to the salad.
  4. Lay on some shrimp (shrimp are pink if they are cooked, and grey if they are raw; make sure they're cooked).
  5. Sprinkle with crispy onions. Fling on a few blackberries. Sprinkle with some edible flowers if you have them handy.
  6. Serve the dressing at the table and let each person drizzle it on their own salad. Dressing amounts are so personal!
  7. Makes 1 salad.


Recipe source: Dorothy Reinhold | Shockingly Delicious.

If you like this strategy and recipe, pin it to your Pinterest board, using the image below.

How to build a summer salad on ShockinglyDelicious.comBecause creating a salad is a personal thing, and because so many people these days have issues with various foods, I am suggesting you make a sort of salad bar. Set out the ingredients in bowls or containers, and each person can make a personal salad just to their taste. Those who are avoiding dairy don’t have to use the cheese. My family piles on the shrimp; me not so much, so each can add as much or as little as s/he wants. I would use a dump truck to put the crispy onions on my salad, but others might not. And peppers? I want ALL THE PEPPERS!

The folks from OXO sent over a couple of things so I could show you how easy it is to make a summer salad bar:

o 8 Piece SNAP Glass Round Container Set
o 2-in-1 Salad Servers
o Little Salad Dressing Shaker

OXO Glass Snap Containers on

Not only are these bowls attractive, they’re practical. You can use them for storage in the refrigerator, or take the lid off and it becomes a serving bowl. They’re…

  • Made from BPA-free borosilicate glass, so can withstand extreme temperature changes without the risk of cracking or shattering. Incredibly, you can take it from the freezer directly to a hot oven, without shattering.
  • The SNAP lids have four locking tabs and a removable gasket which ensures a leakproof seal.
  • SNAP Glass Containers are both nestable and stackable, which means whether they’re full or empty, it’s easy to fit them in your cabinets.

OXO Glass Snap Containers with lids on

They’re also perfect for meal prep ahead of time, or storage of leftovers afterwards. They’ll go in the microwave and the dishwasher, too.

Ready for the salad dressing recipe?

Let’s make it super easy, putting it in Little Salad Dressing Shaker, which is BPA-free, dishwasher safe, leakproof and has a handy open/close lever on top that flips back to pour and forward to seal. It is the cat’s meow!

OXO Little Salad Dressing Shaker on

Fresh Basil Vinaigrette

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon honey Dijon (I used Maille brand)
Black pepper — a few turns of the grinder
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon agave (optional if you want it sweeter)

Place all ingredients in the OXO Little Salad Dressing Shaker and shake like the dickens. Taste and add a squirt of agave if you want it sweeter. (Sweet in dressing is highly personal…suit yourself. Remember, the honey Dijon is going to add sweetness.)

Alternatively, if you want a blended dressing as shown above, place all ingredients in a tall vessel and use an immersion blender to emulsify and blend. Pour into the OXO Little Salad Dressing Shaker for self-serving.

Recipe source: Dorothy Reinhold | Shockingly Delicious.

Disclosure: OXO sent the containers, salad tongs and dressing shaker for use in the blog post.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Megan July 22, 2016 at 1:00 pm

What a good salad 101 post!


Dorothy Reinhold July 22, 2016 at 3:29 pm

I think you’re right….I wasn’t envisioning it like that, but I think you could build a great salad with no recipe with these simple tips. Thank you!


Christie July 21, 2016 at 11:38 am

I love that dressing shaker! I have one and use it weekly:)


Dorothy Reinhold July 22, 2016 at 3:28 pm

It is quite nifty, I think!


Samantha | My Kitchen Love July 20, 2016 at 6:23 pm

Love this vinaigrette! The basil would make any salad pop!


Megan @ MegUnprocessed July 20, 2016 at 11:58 am

Such a good tip.


Michele July 19, 2016 at 9:01 pm

I can’t wait to make the vinegarette…. and I love the idea of adding some agave…. thanks for sharing!


Lane & Holly @ With Two Spoons July 19, 2016 at 7:40 pm

Can’t wait to try this basil vinaigrette! I have so much basil at this time of year!


Michelle July 18, 2016 at 5:06 am

I love summer salads! And I’m always experimenting with salad dressings, although I will say I get stuck on the ones I love. Looking forward to trying yours…I always forget about rice vinegar, so this will be a nice change of pace.


Dorothy Reinhold July 18, 2016 at 8:16 am

When you use rice vinegar, you don’t need as much oil, because it is less acidic.


Sandra Shaffer July 17, 2016 at 8:29 pm

You have everything covered in this salad recipe for a filling main dish! I love that you included some crunch as well! Yummy 🙂


Michaela Kenkel July 17, 2016 at 8:07 pm

This looks and sounds amazing!!


Renee @ The Good Hearted Woman July 16, 2016 at 1:41 pm

That fresh basil vinaigrette sounds wonderful!


Dorothy Reinhold July 16, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Thanks Renee!


Adriana Lopez-Martin July 15, 2016 at 9:28 pm

Beautiful salad I love using edible flowers too and making my own dressing I will have to prepare yoru salad soon =)


Sabrina July 15, 2016 at 8:20 pm

Now I’m really craving a salad! Thanks for sharing!


Marlynn @ UrbanBlissLife July 15, 2016 at 9:27 am

What a great breakdown of all of the elements that make a great summer salad!


Citra Kale @Citra's Home Diary July 15, 2016 at 9:26 am

Nice post Dorothy and very informative. Mostly I put anything what in season for my salad and not really much dressing variation. Thx for the tip and recipe


Dorothy Reinhold July 15, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Citra Kale,
Choosing what’s in season is the very best way to go, I agree!


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