Tag Archives: salad

herbed potato salad with sherry-walnut vinaigrette

I’m not usually the type to make a recipe more than once or twice, even if it’s really great, because there are so many new things to try and I always have a backlog of recipes I want to make.  It’s kind of like reading the same book twice…  I’ve done it before, but I’d much rather take a chance and read something new! 

potato salad in bowl

This potato salad, however, is one of the few recipes which has made it into my permanent repertoire.  I think every cook should have a good potato salad up their sleeve, and this is mine (well, one of the permutations of it, anyway).  I originally got the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, and have only made a couple tiny modifications.  This version calls for walnut oil and Sherry vinegar, mostly because I had recently bought some walnut oil and wanted to use it.  Walnut oil is a real treat if you can find it, and pairs very nicely with Sherry vinegar.  Once you have the basic method down, the recipe lends itself well to any flavors and variations you’d want to foist upon it.  I often play around with the oil and vinegar combos-  I’ve made this many times with olive oil & red wine vinegar (which is what the original recipe stipulates), but white wine or champagne vinegar would be good too.  Or you could make an autumnal version using walnut oil and apple cider vinegar and put little bits of walnut and apple in the salad (maybe leave out the herbs for that version).    I embellished this version of the salad with some walnut pieces, crumbled blue cheese, and bacon on top.  It’s also great served on a bed of arugula.  (Note: If you do use walnuts, don’t add them until just before serving- if they sit, their skins will stain the potatoes most unattractively.)

potato salad on baking sheet

Herbed Potato Salad with Sherry-Walnut Vinaigrette (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated) printer-friendly version

2  lbs small thin-skinned potatoes (redskin or yellow will both work), unpeeled, scrubbed, and cut into 1/4″ thick slices
2 tbs salt
1 medium garlic clove, peeled 
1 1/2 tbs sherry vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup walnut oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small shallot, minced
1 tbs minced fresh parsley
1 tbs minced fresh tarragon 
1 tbs minced fresh chives (see notes)
1 tbs minced fresh chervil (see notes)
optional garnishes: walnut pieces, crumbled blue cheese or gorgonzola, bacon…

Notes:  When I made this, I only used the tarragon and parsley.  For those of you who have herb gardens or unlimited grocery budgets, by all means use the chives and chervil; however, where I live, fresh herbs run at least $2 a package and I’m certainly not suggesting they’re crucial enough to justify that expense.  If you’re leaving them out, I would up the parsley and tarragon to 1 1/2 tbs each, though.   Spreading the potatoes on the baking sheet may seem like an extra unneccesary step, but it really helps get the dressing much more evenly distributed than just stirring, so you don’t get bland bites of potato with no sauce. Last but not least, in the photo, those are scallions you see… I couldn’t locate the shallot I *knew* was hanging out somewhere in the kitchen, so I improvised.   But shallots would definitely be my preference. 

Directons: Place the potatoes in a large saucepan with 6 cups cold tap water and the 2 tbs. salt; bring to boil over high heat, then reduce to medium.  Lower garlic into the simmering water via a skewer or slotted spoon, and blanch for about 45 seconds.  Run the garlic under cold tap water to stop the cooking, and set aside.  Continue to simmer potatoes, uncovered, until tender but still firm, about 5 minutes. Drain potatoes, reserving 1/4 cup of their cooking water.  Arrange hot potatoes on one or two rimmed baking sheets close together in a single layer.

Mince the garlic or put through a garlic press.  In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, reserved potato cooking water, garlic, and a few generous grinds of pepper.  Taste both potatoes and dressing for salt, adding a little to the dressing if it seems bland.  Drizzle the dressing evenly over the warm potatoes and let stand for 10 minutes.  You can use this time to mince your shallots and herbs.

Sprinkle the shallots & herbs over the potatoes. Transfer to a serving dish.  Mix gently with a rubber spatula to combine.  Serve immediately.  (The salad is best served slightly warm or at room temperature. If your schedule prohibits serving it right away, remove the salad from the fridge long enough in advance to allow it to come to room temp, and wait to add the herbs until just before serving.)  According to Cook’s Illustrated, the salad is safe to sit out unrefrigerated for 2 hours.

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tomatomania part II: tomato summer pudding

And thus continues my homage, my elegy, my song of praise for the humble tomato…

tomato pudding ingredients

It all started when I was very young.  My grandfather on my Dad’s side was a farmer who grew field corn, probably used for things like animal feed, corn oil, and maybe even high-fructose corn syrup, who knows.  But I prefer to remember him for the huge vegetable garden that he grew every year.  We’d go out to the farm for the day and return home with brown paper sacks brimming with tomatoes, corn, and maybe some zucchini or cucumbers.  The tomatoes and corn were the standouts, though; we’d boil up the corn, slather it with butter, dust it with salt and eat it with a big pile of sliced tomatoes.  This is still my favorite summer supper, although now I usually add a simple green salad and some good bread to soak up all those tomato juices.  I also have fond memories of helping my grandpa out on summer Saturdays at the Charlotte farmers’ market when I was 8 or 9 years old.  I don’t know how much he really needed my “help”, but I would bag up the corn for the customers and get paid (I think?) a dollar an hour, money that went to candy purchases or my sticker collection.

It’s been over 20 years since I had one of my grandpa’s tomatoes, so now I have to make do with what I can get from the area farmers.  Plotting out the fate of my remaining Eastern Market haul of tomatoes, I came across an unusual-sounding recipe in the Zuni Café Cookbook (one of my favorite cookbooks) for a layered tomato-and-bread “pudding” that was a riff on the summer berry puddings popular in England.  The concept is that you take white bread and berries (or in this case tomatoes), put them in a bowl with a weight on top, and the bread absorbs all the fruit’s juices and becomes compact and sliceable.  I’ve never had the berry version, but stale bread and tomatoes seems to be a winning combination (think gazpacho, pappa al pomodoro, panzanella…) so I was game to give it a try.

tomato pudding close

The pudding turned out to resemble a “structured” panzanella, tasting very salad-wannabe with its piquant sherry vinaigrette and bits of shallots and herbs.  Judy suggests basil, but wanting something a little different I used thyme and rosemary and was pleased with the results.  If the idea of soggy bread just doesn’t do it for you, I urge you to try it; you just may become a convert.  I thought Judy’s panade (another mushy stale-bread recipe) was odd the first time I tried it, but now make it regularly.  For efficiency’s sake, I think in the future I’d just make the more rustic panzanella if cooking for myself, but the layered presentation is certainly prettier if you have guests to impress.

Summer Tomato Pudding à la Judy Rodgers printer-friendly version

about 2 1/2 lbs very ripe tomatoes (if you can get heirlooms, the color variations make for an even more attractive dish)
8 oz. day-old bread, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 cup olive oil
3 tbs sherry vinegar (or sub red wine vinegar)
1 clove garlic
1 medium shallot, minced
1/2 a  small cucumber (about 3 oz), peeled, seeded and diced
about 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs of your choice
salt and pepper

tomato puddiing assemblyPreheat the broiler.  Put the bread in a single layer on a couple cookie sheets and run under the broiler until lightly browned (on one side only).  Cut the garlic clove in half and rub all the toasted surfaces with it.  Brush the nontoasted side lightly with water and place in a bag to steam and soften.

Whisk together the oil and vinegar; set aside. Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise, place them cut sides down, and slice thinly. Pick out the shoulders and bottom end pieces and chop them.  Place them in a mesh strainer, salt them, and squish them through the strainer over the vinaigrette to release their juice; discard.  Add any juice that collects on the cutting board to the vinaigrette as well.

Build the pudding in a dish or bowl with a capacity of about 1 1/2 quarts.  You’re going to be weighting down the pudding, so choose a dish into which a flat object such as a plate or lid will just fit.  Start with a layer of bread, cutting or tearing it so it completely covers the bottom of the dish without overlapping.  Continue with a layer of tomatoes, overlapping those very closely like shingles.  Sprinkle on some shallots and herbs and a touch of salt and pepper, then drizzle on a few tbs. of the vinaigrette.  Add another layer of bread, pressing down to encourage the tomatoes to release their juice.  Repeat layers, ending with a layer of tomato. You should have a few spoonfuls of vinaigrette left over; save this, along with any leftover herbs, shallots etc. for garnish. Poke the pudding randomly with a skewer or a meat fork.

Cover with parchment paper or plastic, then place a plate or other flat object on top, and weight it down with cans or whatever you have handy (you’ll want a weight of at least a couple pounds).  Set aside at room temperature.

After about an hour, remove the weight and check the pudding by sliding a knife down the side of the dish; the pudding should ooze.  Taste the juice.  If it seems too dry, drizzle some more vinaigrette over the top and down the sides.  Press the pudding again until ready to serve.

To serve, remove the weights, run a knife around the edges, and invert the pudding onto a serving plate, rapping the bottom of the dish if it won’t release.  Present whole, and then cut into wedges (I found a serrated knife works best).  Garnish with any remaning sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs (or, if you like, a few scattered cherry or grape tomatoes).

mediterranean chickpea salad (aka balela, my way)

med chickpea saladThe other day I was catching up a little on my blog reading, and came across something on a very well-known food blog that kind of blew me away.  It was a recipe for a pepper salad, and was basically just red & yellow peppers, red onion, feta and cucumber.  The kind of thing that I throw together without thinking twice; not the kind of dish I would deem “blog-worthy”.  There was no cute story with it; just the recipe and a bit about how the author had stopped eating salads with lettuce.  But there, underneath the post, were close to 150 comments saying how great it was, and how people were dropping everything to rush to the store to make this salad.  I have to say, I was flabbergasted.  Really?!?

Reading this person’s post, it jolted me back to the reality that many people (possibly even the majority?) who regularly read food blogs and watch the Food Network rarely cook! All those commenters that said stuff like “Wow, that looks so delicious”…?  I would bet money that less than 5% of them go on to actually prepare the recipe.  (I guess this isn’t so strange if you think about, for example,  all the people who read fashion magazines but don’t dress fashionably.)

So what does this have to do with balela? (Huh?  Remember that… the title of this post? Oh yeah…)  Well, I made some a few weeks ago (or rather, my interpretation of it), and even took a couple photos, but never posted it because I didn’t think it was “fancy” enough or something.  Clearly, I am out of touch with what the blog-reading public wants!   I guess the moral of the story is that  instead of trying to second-guess what people may want to read about, I should just post whatever I feel like?

Trader Joe’s sells balela in little plastic tubs, but the portion they sell amounts to about one whole serving, and it’s easy and much cheaper to make yourself.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of making big batches of grain or legume-based salads to take in my lunch.  They’re also good potluck fare- this one was for the Memorial Day BBQ I went to (the one with the grilled pizza).  My version isn’t “authentic” balela in any way, as I added some extra veggies (peppers, cucumbers), but I like the extra crunch they add.  The dressing is inspired by the dressing for fattoush and can be used in any salad where you want Middle Eastern flavors.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad (aka Balela, my way) (printer-friendly version)

1 can chickpeas & 1 can black beans (or two cans chickpeas), drained & rinsed
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/2 an English cucumber, peeled, seeds removed and diced
1/2 a small red onion, diced, or 3-5 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 red or green bell pepper, diced
1 good handful flat-leaf parsley leaves, minced

salad dressing shakenDressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 large clove garlic
1 tsp za’atar
1/2 tsp sumac
1/2 tsp salt
several grinds black pepper

Notes: I use grape tomatoes because they’re more reliable year-round, but if you have good-quality regular tomatoes, go ahead and use them.  This salad is excellent with a bit of feta crumbled into it- I don’t believe it’s traditional, but it makes it a little more substantial and adds a welcome texture and richness to the austerity of raw vegetables.  If you can’t be bothered with the za’atar and sumac, the salad will still be good without them- I threw them in because I happened to have some handy. And if you’re inclined to use a whole lemon, just sick with a 1:2 ratio of lemon to oil and up the seasonings a bit; if you have leftover dressing it’ll keep indefinitely in the fridge, and is great on green salad too.

Directions: Combine all of the vegetables in a large bowl.  Smash the garlic clove with the flat side of a chef’s knife.  Place in a small screw-top jar with the other dressing ingredients and shake well.  Let the garlic clove marinate in the dressing for 5-10 minutes and then fish it out and discard. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir well to combine.  Taste and adjust for salt and pepper, or for more oil or lemon juice according to your taste.  (It will almost definitely need more salt, but I’d rather err on the side of you having to add some.) Let the salad sit for at least 15-20 minutes to let the vegetables marinate and release some of their juices. Taste again and add more salt or dressing if needed.  If not serving immediately, wait until serving to add the parsley. For best flavor, serve at room temp or only slightly chilled.

my favorite way to eat a carrot

avocado-carrot-crop

When I lived in France, I learned how to make salad dressing (aka la vinaigrette) from scratch, and it was a revelation. Almost any vegetable, raw or cooked, can be dressed with vinaigrette and be so much the better for it (at least in my book). A popular salad on French lunch tables is carottes rapées (that’s grated carrots, not raped carrots, although I once had a French tutor who confused these faux amis during a lesson at her house, asking her husband if he could please rape the cheese for their dinner quiche…)  I’ve never been a huge fan of carrot sticks, or of carrot coins in a salad, but grated carrots may as well be a different vegetable entirely.  I can eat great big mounds of them, and they are one of the few vegetables I prefer raw.

shredded-carrots-cropHere’s an informative blog post by French food maven David Lebovitz on the cultural/ culinary significance of carottes rapées.  He also links to his method of preparing them, which is simplicity itself: lemon, parsley, maybe a little olive oil.  My crème fraîche version is admittedly a little less “pure”, but I did serve it to a Frenchman once who exclaimed excitedly “Ah j’adore les carottes rapées!” and promptly ate most of the bowl, so I feel somewhat confident in saying that, although different, my method is still acceptable.

While you can certainly serve this salad on its own, I love to make a first course out of it by mounding it into the center of an avocado.  It’s a little more luxurious, and somehow it has a sort of retro appeal.  You can either peel the avocados (if they’re the correct ripeness, the skin should easily peel right off) or leave them in their shells and let people scoop out the flesh with a spoon.

salade de carottes rapées en nid d’avocat/ grated carrot salad in an avocado nest

(preinter-friendly version)

Serves 8 as a first course; adjust measurements for smaller or larger crowds

4-6 carrots
4 ripe avocados
2 tbs crème fraîche (or substitute 1 tbs sour cream + 1 tbs plain yogurt)
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 large clove garlic, optional
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
some finely chopped parsley to garnish (I didn’t have any the day the photos were taken, and your salad certainly won’t be ruined without it, although it is a nice touch.  If you really like parsley, use more and mix it right in with the carrots.)

carrot-dressing-toss

Notes:  As with almost all salads and salad dressings, I implore you to taste as you go and adjust as necessary- the measurements are intended as guidelines only.  If you don’t do dairy, this dressing can easily be made without it; just increase the olive oil and lemon proportionately.  Most vinagrettes use a much higher oil to acid ratio, but I find that because carrots are so sweet, they can stand up to a dressing that is quite tart.  When everything comes together, it should be well-balanced.  Also, if serving with avocados, their fatty blandness balances the extra tartness from the lemons.  Don’t fear the sour!

Directions: Make the dressing: in a medium bowl, combine the crème fraîche, mustard, and olive oil; whisk together until well combined.  Whisk in the lemon juice until fully incorporated, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  If using the garlic, smash the clove and put it in the dressing to infuse.

Peel 4 carrots and grate on a box grater or in the food processor.  When ready to serve, fish out the garlic and discard, and toss the carrots in the dressing until fully coated.  If serving with the avocados, it’s ok if the salad is a little “over-dressed”, because you need a little extra so the avocado isn’t bland.  If you’re just serving the carrots on their own, however, you may want to add a couple more carrots or reduce the quantity of dressing.  If you over-dress the salad, or let it sit too long before serving, the carrots will get soggy.  (Heaven forbid this should happen, but if it does, take comfort in knowing that pieces of baguette are the perfect vehicle for sopping up the extra juice.)

Halve the avocados, remove the pits, and if they don’t sit still, remove a small sliver on the bottoms so they don’t roll around.  Mound the carrots in the hollow, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

b.l.t. salad with mayo vinaigrette

Man, I feel like Rachel Ray about to post this… ACK!  I promise not to use the words “yummo” or “sammie” though (and please feel free to shoot me if I ever do).

blt-salad-color-adjustjpg

Last night I didn’t get home until 9PM- I had worked late and then gone to get groceries afterwards.  I needed something fast for dinner and somewhat on the lighter side, since I was eating so late.  I had bought some Niman Ranch bacon (pretty much the only bacon I’ll buy anymore after reading this article in Rolling Stone) and a couple bags of greens, and had some little grape tomatoes on hand, so I thought “BLT”- only I didn’t want to eat all that bread.  So I took two pieces of bacon, cut them into small pieces and fried them up while I made a mayo-based vinaigrette dressing.  I then tossed the dressing with some baby spinach and wild arugula, drained the bacon bits on a paper towel and sprinkled those over the top with the tomatoes.  I ate it with a small piece of toast, and it was a perfect meal.  I’m sure this idea of BLT salad has been done before, but I so enjoyed my take on it that I thought I’d share anyway.  The fact that the main ingredient is leafy greens makes it miles healthier than a BLT sandwich, but yet all the classic flavors are still there.  I would actually venture to say that at least to my taste buds, this was much tastier than a BLT sandwich, but then I’m a big salad and greens fan.  You could even cut back on the bacon and use only 1 slice, or three slices between two salads.

For the dressing, I didn’t measure, but I’ll try to approximate for you.  You won’t usually find me putting mayo in my salad dressings- I usually prefer a “clean”-tasting vinaigrette- but I wanted to approximate that classic BLT flavor, and mayo is pretty integral to that.  I made a large-ish individual salad, so adjust amounts if you’re cooking for two, or if you want smaller side salads.  In the bowl in which you’re going to toss your greens, put a blob of mayo  (about 1 tbs) and a much smaller blob of dijon mustard (maybe 1/2 tsp) and whisk together.  Add a small amount of olive oil, about 1/2 to 1 tsp, and stir that in too.  Whisk in some red wine vinegar, about 2 tsp.  Season with a little salt (not too much- don’t forget your bacon will add salt) and freshly ground pepper.  Taste for acidity- I like mine on the acidic side because it cuts through the richness of the bacon, but add a smidge more olive oil (or mayo) if it seems too tart.  Toss in your greens (feel free to substitute other types of greens- the spinach-arugula mixture was pretty darn good though) and top with the bacon and tomato.  This will make enough to dress a good-sized dinner salad for one.  I plated mine for photo purposes; otherwise I would have saved a dish and just eaten it straight out of the bowl!

brown rice sushi salad with seared tuna

I’ve been making a version of this deconstructed sushi salad for years.  It’s easy and satisfies my craving for sushi without having to fuss with rolling it up.  It’s also a lot cheaper than an order of carryout sushi!  This time around, I made it with brown rice to go with the “heart-healthy” theme we chose this month on the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers blog (and discovered I liked it better than with white rice).  The salad also contains avocados and yellowfin tuna, all foods that are recognized for their heart-healthy benefits. (I feel a bit sheepish; as I write this, my blog masthead is of a bunch of raw, fatty beef, about the most un-heart-healthy food out there!) I will tempt you (hopefully) with a few photos, but please hop over here to the MLFB blog for the full post with recipe. (And for another hearth-healthy brown rice salad recipe, check out this post.)

sushi-salad-bowl

cooked-tuna-in-pan

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thai salad with baked tofu & peanut dressing

salad-yellow-bowl-2Ever since a certain someone got some not-so-great numbers back on his cholesterol count, we’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to “eat healthier”.  I have to confess, this is not something that I was super excited about- cooking is often a treat for me, and I want to make whatever the mood strikes me to make rather than have to put a bunch of restrictions on it.  But the truth is that I don’t cook a ton of meat as it is, let alone red meat, so my objection is more theoretical than factual.  We may have to cut back on our bread-and-cheese-with-dinner habit, but I think that can be solved by looking to more non-European recipes for inspiration.  That’s what we did the other night when I whipped up a salad that I first made a couple years ago, around the time we first started dating.  It includes classic Thai ingredients such as ginger, soy and lime to create a punchy dressing that gets drizzled over lettuce, carrots, cucumber, scallions and more.  It all gets topped off with triangles of seasoned and baked or grilled tofu.  It’s almost carb-free, if you care about that sort of thing, and the tofu fills you up so you don’t feel like you “just ate salad” for dinner.  If you want to get fancy, you can make it with grilled shrimp instead of tofu, or a combination of both.  Either way, it’s a great way to get a Thai food fix without getting greasy calorie-laden carryout (not that I don’t love that too!).

Thai Salad with Baked Tofu & Peanut Dressing

(printer-friendly version)

I know the ingredient list looks long, but a lot of the ingredients for the tofu marinade and dressing are the same, and some of the salad ingredients are optional.

For the salad:
1 head romaine lettuce (2 if small), or a bagged salad mix
2 scallions
1 large carrot, peeled & grated
3-4 inches cucumber, seeds scooped out, sliced into thin half-moons
about 1/4 cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
2 lime wedges
large handful cilantro leaves
optional ingredients: strips of sweet bell pepper; some very thinly sliced jalapeño (remove seeds & pith for less heat); some thinly sliced red onion; 1/2 an avocado, cubed or sliced

For the tofu:
1 1-lb block extra-firm tofu
soy sauce
all-natural peanut butter (I prefer smooth, but crunchy is fine if that’s all you have)
1 tbs freshly grated ginger
1 large clove garlic, finely minced or put through a garlic press
rice wine (mirin)
Thai or Vietnamese chili sauce (I like the kind with seeds, but you could use Sriracha)
fish sauce (Nam Pla)- (optional for vegans/vegetarians, but it does give that definitive Thai flavor)

noelle-tofu-crop-1For the dressing:
all-natural peanut butter
soy sauce
fish sauce (optional)
rice vinegar
neutral oil such as canola
juice of 1/2 a lime
about 1 tsp grated ginger
pinch of brown sugar
chili sauce (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Slice the tofu into slices that are about 1 cm thick.  Lay them out on a cutting board or other work surface and blot them firmly with paper towel, getting them as dry as possible.  In a bowl, combine about 1 1/2 tbs peanut butter, 2 tbs soy sauce, 1 tsp fish sauce, the grated ginger, the garlic, 2 tbs rice wine, 1 tsp chili sauce and 1 tbs vegetable oil.  Mix until the peanut butter has dissolved into the other ingredients.  Taste and adjust if you feel it needs more heat, salt, sweetness or whatever.  (I never actually measure anything out when I make this, so I’m giving approximations.  Please adjust to your taste.  It’s hard to mess it up unless you make it WAY too salty or spicy, so just add in small increments.)  If the marinade seems too thin, you can add a little more peanut butter- this will help it cling to the tofu.  Paint this mixture on one side of the tofu and place it in a glass baking dish sauce side down; then paint the other side with the remaining marinade.  (the more in advance you do this, the more the tofu will absorb the flavors.)  Bake for 30 minutes, turn the pieces, and bake for another 20-30 minutes or until tofu starts to get a more “chewy” consistency. (If it’s summer and you have the grill going, please feel free to grill the tofu instead of baking it!) Let the tofu cool slightly and cut the pieces into triangles before putting it on the salad.  You’ll have more tofu than you need for 2 dinner salads, but you can make another batch of salad the following night like we did, or just munch on the tofu pieces as a snack the next day.

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While the tofu is baking, chop and wash the lettuce, discarding any tough outer leaves.  Grate the carrot, slice the cucumber, thinly slice the scallions on the diagonal, and prep any of the other veggies you might be using.  In a bowl large enough to hold the lettuce, make the dressing.  Again, I never measure anything, so I’ll give approximations but PLEASE use your taste buds and taste as you go, adding things a little at a time.  I start with a large-ish dollop of peanut butter and mix in 1-2 tbs oil.  When that’s incorporated, add a tbs or so of soy sauce, a few dashes of fish sauce, the lime juice, about 1 tbs rice vinegar, a pinch of brown sugar, and a little chili sauce if using.  Mix well and taste.  It should be a good balance of tart, sweet, spicy and salty.    When you’re done making the dressing, just put your lettuce in the bowl and toss to coat.  Plate the dressed lettuce and then arrange the other ingredients on top to serve.