Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How to make a great salad ...


I always think a salad rounds out a meal. Plus it's a great way to get some extra veggies in your diet. Everyone knows how to make a salad but few know how to make a really great salad. They aren't hard to make; they just require care.
1) Start with the freshest greens possible. With all the varieties of lettuce available today, a green salad can take on many different flavors, textures, and colors. Look for greens that appear just-picked. Feel them and smell them.
2) Wash greens gently. Many greens grow in sandy soil. If you don't wash them well, you'll end up with grit in your salad. Submerge them in a large bowl or in a sink full of cool water. Be gentle. Every time a salad leaf is bent, small cracks form on its surface, causing it to wilt.
3) Dry greens completely. Excess water on the leaves dilutes the flavor of your dressing, which won't cling well to wet greens. A salad spinner does a good job. If you don't have a spinner, spread out the leaves on a clean dishtowel and roll them up gently, or pat them gently with another towel.
4)Dress greens simply. I like a simple vinaigrette for my salads. Traditional vinaigrettes consist of three parts oil to one part vinegar or lemon juice. That ratio will vary depending on the oils and vinegars you use and on your own taste.

For the best flavor, use the highest-quality oils and vinegars you can find. Experiment with different varieties of each. Stronger-flavored oils and vinegars, such as nut oils and balsamic vinegar, are best reserved for heartier greens like arugula. To make a traditional vinaigrette, the oil is slowly whisked into the vinegar or the two are shaken together to create an emulsion. When making a tossed salad, the greens can be evenly coated without an emulsion. You can dress your salad right in the bowl. Sprinkle the greens with salt, pepper, and vinegar, pour in the oil and toss.

I have a favorite vinaigrette I've been making for years. It's from the Sugar Buster’s Cookbook.
5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2-1/2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. pepper
Squirt of lime juice (optional)
Shake well and pour over 1 bag romaine. Add chopped walnuts, Craisins, crumbled bleu or feta cheese, and toss well. I also like to add olives, thinly sliced red onion, halved cherry tomatoes or sliced cucumber. The choices are limitless!

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