Bonnie: In general, the only time I add bottled dressings to my fresh salad is when I need to test them for Supermarket Sampler,  my syndicated column where I review what’s new on the grocer’s shelf.

I prefer whisking together freshly squeezed lemon juice, a soupçon of a light vinegar, some Dijon mustard and some extra virgin olive oil. Sometimes I blend in fresh chèvre, and always add freshly ground salt and pepper.

So when we were asked to consider Lucini’s dressings, I hesitated. I do like their olive oil. So I thought, why not give them a chance?

The ingredients in these artisan vinaigrettes are sourced from sustainable farms and produced in small batches. And this Delicate Cucumber Shallot Dressing won the 2009 sofi™ Gold Award for best dressing/marinade at the NASFT Summer ‘09 Fancy Food Show, not only for its taste but also for its quality ingredients and packaging.

The delicate dressing is made from cucumber juice, not the fresh veggie, which works well for me as I have difficulty digesting cucumber skins or the seeds.

What a refreshing flavor for my greens!

Bryan: The beautiful thing about a salad is that it can be whatever you want it to be. I was with a friend at a sports bar recently; though I wasn’t eating, most at the table ordered cheeseburgers (what else?) except my friend, who ordered a garden salad. He was being teased for his choice until he added, “and toss some fried chicken and bleu cheese in there.” A salad still, but a salad reinvented!

Such is the nature of a dish that only requires multiple ingredients. A change as simple as your dressing choice can dramatically alter the flavor of the same ingredients. In fact, the dressing is really the most important choice you’ll make once you’ve decided upon your food mix. Adding a balsamic vinaigrette or adding a Dijon honey mustard will have very different outcomes for your creation.

Enter Lucini, a company that’s been crafting boutique Italian specialties for years, from olive oils to Umbrian lentil soup. Their newest foray into pleasing our collective palate is their line of salad dressings, with a particular flavor receiving much of our accolades: Delicate Cucumber & Shallot.

Crisp, cool and creamy are the self-described words that properly define this dressing. I find that the subtle hints of garlic and parsley play well with the milkiness of this dairy dressing, adding taste and flair to the simplest of ingredients. It’s even delicious just for dipping carrots!

Creating any bottled dressing that tastes homemade is not an easy task. Lucini Italia has achieved just that with their Artisan Vinaigrette. The entire dressing line is made in small batches, and only from fresh ingredients. The recipes drew inspiration from James Beard Award-winning chefs. Lucini really wanted to create dressings that would provide the taste and texture they desired, without the use of artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

Lucini is another food company that is committed to supporting domestic production and sustainable local farming. All the dressings are fresh, containing no dried herbs or refined sugars. Their use of evaporated cane juice to offset the acidity allows for up to nine months of shelf stability without the use of preservatives.

Though the Delicate Cucumber & Shallot is the star vinaigrette, I would also recommend the Bold Parmesan & Garlic as well as the Fig & Walnut Savory Balsamic. Lip-smacking good!

Lucini Delicate Cucumber & Shallot Artisanal Vinaigrette won the 2009 Gold sofi™ Award for best dressing/marinade. Lucini was selected over 1200+ submissions for its great taste, quality ingredients and packaging.

Eric: I love a tasty salad dressing and, like my mother, prefer to create my dressing from scratch (the olive didn’t fall far from the tree). I have a pretty straight-forward philosophy on salad: if you’re going to go the distance and define it as I do — consisting of leafy greens and vegetables — then make sure to keep it healthy (i.e. leave out the fried chicken).

The dressing is crucial when creating a salad. It’s a difficult balance to find a dressing that delivers great taste while not overloading the salad with chemicals and fat. If you don’t have the time to make your own, I highly recommend choosing your favorite taste from the new line of Lucini dressings. I have never been disappointed by this company, but was caught off-guard by the tastiness and quality of its new dressings