One of the great challenges of working at the dining hall for me is the salad bar. It's the dressings; they're just so icky. I see people drowning their lettuce in Ranch dressing and I want to cry out, "Why, oh why are you putting that on your salad?" But I have to restrain myself. What's more, when the Ranch dressing runs out, I'm supposed to refill it. Ewww.

    When I make salad for myself, I usually don't even like a simple vinaigrette. Instead, I squeeze a little lemon juice on top and revel in the taste of vegetables. Pure. Unadorned. Delicious. Why have so many people forgotten that vegetables are delicious? Maybe they just need a little reminding.
    This salad is all about the taste of vegetables. Shallots, carrots, mushrooms and tomatoes are sauteed in the tiniest amount of olive oil and vinegar to bring out their flavor, then served, steaming, on a bed of fresh, crisp lettuce. It's a salad with a vinaigrette even I can get behind.

* serves 1
1/2 shallot, minced
1/2 carrot, julienned
1 crimini mushroom, thinly sliced
1 small red tomato, sliced into eighths
1 large green lettuce leaf, sliced about 1/2 inch thick
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
a pinch of ground black pepper
slivered almonds to garnish

In a small nonstick pan, heat the olive oil so it spreads to coat the pan. Add the shallots, carrots, and mushrooms, and cook until the shallots are translucent and the mushrooms begin to brown. Add the tomatoes and the vinegar and stir so that the vinegar coats the vegetables. Cook a few minutes longer, until the tomatoes soften. Serve on top of chopped lettuce with a pinch of black pepper. Garnish with a few slivered almonds.