This is going to be a short entry and I will have it here, just because is the perfect compliment to the dish I described right before, the butternut squash raviolis. First however lets see what is a salad. Usually a salad is a dish that mostly, or exclusively, contains vegetables, usually in a cold state, hold together by a liquid that again usually contains a form of fat, and an acid. You see that the salad is very well, but also very loosely defined. That ‘s the meaning of the world usually. But I have develop some gold guidelines on how a salad should be made, or what it should contain. I think of it as the yin-yang of the food world. So let ‘s see the so notorious golden rules.
- It has to have a main body. That is usually the field greens. A mixed salad is the best choice, but the greens participating have to be nicely blended together. It can also have more hearty veggies like broccoli, cabbage, beets or potatoes.
- It has to have the right balance of munchies. Small surprising jewels that will break the texture of the incorporated vegetable. Those are usually raisins cranberries or any other dried fruit.
- We also need the crunch. It will be a very nice surprise to hit something crunchy while chewing. A great contrast to the relatively flat salad texture. Croutons, nuts, fried morsels.
- The accent. A small surprise that will enhance the overall experience. something that will make you think “hmm what is that?”.
- And last but most certainly not least the salad dressing. Which has to bring all the elements together, not by covering each elements taste, but complimenting and giving it a character.
So let ‘s make a salad, the one in the picture to see those elements coming together.
The body: For this one I selected a spring mix. A mix of lettuces, spinach, and young filed greens. Those pre-made mixes are very nice since they have the right amount of every green. Sure you can make it yourself, but unless you plan to feed an army you will have a lot of leftover, that will not keep very well in the refrigerator. Avoid however those that have carrot slices. The carrot dries out and looks very nasty.
The munchies: For this salad I selected cranberries to have some tartness and sweetness. You can select, raisins, dried apples, dried apricots or anything else you like. Just be frugal. It is not cranberry salad.
The crunch. I added pine-nuts and pumpkin seeds that I toasted on a pan for a few minutes. You can use any nut, the fried noodles or croutons.
The accent: My favorite accent is the green apple. It is sweet, sour, crunchy and juice. After I peel it, I rub it with lime to add some extra flavor and I slice it. The slices are added in cold water containing the rest of the lime juice. You can use as an accent, green onion, a fresh herb as, dill, tarragon, sage, mint, or oregano. You can add cappers or one of my favorite pickled green peppercorns. It is the accent, the hidden element. Don ‘t go overboard. Be gentle…
The dressing: This is the most important addition. It will bring the flavors together, it will season the salad, it will provide some sort of cohesiveness and will be the bridge between the salad and the food. Making a dressing has its own ying-yang. We need the fat, to coat and help carry the flavors on the salad and on our taste palette. We need the acid (lemon, lime or vinegar), an aroma and finally the emulsifier. For this particular salad a used the balsamic vinegar-honey reduction olive oil and dijon mustard and olive oil. I had plenty of flavor from the balsamic vinegar reduction so no accents or aromas for this one. You can use anything you want. just make sure that you are not adding too much dressing. I will give two quick recipes here.
The assian dressing:
- 3 tbsp Sesame oil
- 1 tbsp of sushi vinegar
- 1 tsp wasabi flavored mustard
- 1 tsp of finely chopped pickled ginger
- salt and pepper
- and some juice from the pickled ginger.
The american dressing:
- 3 tbsp olive oil (or canola oil)
- 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp yellow mustard
- Red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper and
- Some juice from the bread and butter pickles (sweet pickles).
Simple as it gets a salad is an elegant dish that if you follow the rules we just discussed it will reward you. We left out potato salad, greek salad, broccoli salad, just because are exceptions. We will return to those soon. Feel free to add anything you want in a salad. Just select the category, and add the right amount accordingly.