Useful guidelines on creating a tremendously delicious salad!
Spring and summer are the top salad-making seasons. Fresh vegetables are in abundance, our meal choices tend to be lighter, we prefer cool foods to hot ones and of course we don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen preparing meals, do we? Salads quickly go up to the first places of our preference list.
Salad-building can be a wonderful experience of tasteful discoveries. Mixing different ingredients and creating your own favorite combinations can easily become your new cooking obsession! And even though you are free to experiment, there are a few things that you should keep in mind if you want your salad to be a success every time.
Get rid of excess water.
Leafy vegetables need thorough washing. But unfortunately they keep lots of water in their leaf creases. This can easily ruin our salad because the oil or dressing won’t be able to stick on the leaves. Instead, it will slip down to the bottom of our salad bowl, creating an unwanted pool beneath our salad. The best way to remove excess water is by using a salad spinner. But you can also dry the leaves with kitchen paper towels.
Metal knife blades, especially those blunt ones that are usually found in home kitchens, can cause unnecessary damage to leafy vegetables like discoloration (darkening), quick loss of freshness, even flavor loss to some extent. Also, the smaller the pieces, the bigger the damage. Shredded salads lose their freshness much quicker than coarsely-chopped ones. The best way to deal with this is to cut the leaves in medium pieces with your hands. And if you can’t trade your shredded salad for anything else, make sure you eat it right after you make it.
In case we use vegetables that need to be pre-cooked, like broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, we can try different methods of cooking. However, boiling should not be our first choice. The vegetables will retain an amount of water which will end up in our salad. Steaming or grilling is much more preferable. The same rule applies to chicken and seafood.
When you can, keep the peels.
Many people prefer to peel vegetables like cucumbers, zucchini, even tomatoes. Getting rid of a big amount of nutrients at the same time. But that’s not the only reason we want these peels in our salad. Why lose the crunchiness, the color and the aroma some of them can provide our salad with?
However, there is one important drawback to the no-peeling process. When the vegetables we choose are not organic, the skins may be filled with pesticide residues. In that case, we’d better stick with the peeler.
Choose the quantities carefully.
In a salad recipe, you can always experiment with how much of each ingredient you’ll use. A little bit more of your favorites, less of the ones you don’t like, the final result is difficult to be ruined. However, balance is really important. You should taste every ingredient in every bite. Every single flavor. None should dominate and none should be buried under the rest.
Mind the temperatures.
Even though the mixture of cold and hot ingredients may sometimes create a really interesting culinary experience, in salads it’s best to keep all elements at the same temperature range. So, if you use pre-cooked ingredients, make sure you let them cool down to room temperature before adding them to your salad.
I think we’ll all agree to the fact that a tasty salad needs oil. I almost always use olive oil in my salads, except in rare cases that I’ve tried sesame oil. Olive oil is probably the most important ingredient in the Mediterranean cuisine. Its health benefits are really important but we shouldn’t forget that it’s 100% fat. Moderation is the word we need when adding it to our salad. One or two tablespoons per serving is more than enough.
Dress it wisely.
Your dressing options may be endless, if you decide to add one, but simplicity is the best option here. A simple vinaigrette will really highlight your salad flavors and also keep it light and usually much healthier. The ideal proportions of a vinaigrette are 3 parts oil, 1 part acidic substance (lemon juice or vinegar or a mixture of both). If you go for something creamier, you can choose yogurt instead of mayonnaise as a base for your dressing.
Fresh herbs can literally transform any salad. I sometimes use dried, too – like dried oregano in Greek salad – but the aroma of the fresh ones is definitely the best deal when it comes to salads.
I can understand that pre-cut and pre-washed bagged salads are a great convenience. But there have been certain warnings from health experts about the washing conditions. They are rumored to have been soaked in eight-hour-old tap water and doused in chlorine to ward off bacteria. Whether the rumors are true or not, I’m not the one to tell. But what I can tell you is that nothing beats the real taste of a freshly-cut salad made from just-washed vegetables. In your kitchen. With your own tap water. No added chemicals.
Those are the most important things you need to remember when building a salad.
Also, don’t forget to check the 8-step guide to creating the most delicious, balanced salad of your dreams.
Don’t forget to share your own favorite tips in the comments below. And then you’re all set to go salad-making!