Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

There are few edible foods that cannot be used in salads. The first salad that springs to mind is perhaps the simple green, tossed salad so beloved of the epicurean French.

The English used to favour mixed salads, the most popular being lettuce with tomatoes, cucumber and probably beetroot (beets), dressed with vinaigrette or salad dressing. The Americans introduced fruit to green salads. Today, the whole world, from the super chefs of great kitchens to imaginative home cooks in search of good, healthy, fresh-tasting meals, have taken to salad-making with the same delight as ducks to water.

Fresh vegetables are the richest and cheapest source of the numerous vitamins and minerals essential to our health. With the herbs, meats, fish, eggs, cheese and oils that are mixed with these, a salad can be a complete balanced meal.

To make the most of salads buy only young, tender, fresh greens, vegetables and fruits. Use imagination with the additional foods. The other golden rule is that the dressing should be added at the last moment (there are, of course, exceptions). Also, a salad looks fluffier and more bouncy when just prepared; it seems to settle on standing and lose its light, freshly made look.

Included in this section are salads that have become classics, salads that you will find on restaurant menus, and many that are made in homes for family meals and for entertaining. The foods that go to make many salads have been listed as well as the ‘dressings’ that add distinction to salads. For other salads see the Index, because many delicious salads are distributed throughout the book.

Types of salad greens:

Greens must be very fresh and unwilted. Buy or pick only enough for a day or two. Discard any tough or dry outer leaves and wash them as you require them. Don’t break up the heads before storing them in the refrigerator; separate the leaves and wash them as required. Salad greens need careful washing in cold water, as sand hides in their crevices.

It is very important to dry greens thoroughly. Fold the wet leaves in a dish towel and shake them gently over the sink. When the leaves are dry, break them up, wrap in a dry dish towel and return to the refrigerator until it is time to make the salad. A most useful gadget, looking like a hand-operated spin dryer, is a plastic salad dryer; it really makes a splendid job of drying salad greens, without bruising or crushing tender leaves.

Cabbage: The main varieties used for salads are Savoy, drumhead and red cabbages. Discard the outside wilted leaves before slicing. Cabbage has a strong distinctive flavour. See also Cabbage.

Chicory (Belgian endive or witlof): Tightly clustered white leaves, with yellow, tender tips. The leaves can be used whole or sliced. Chicory has a slightly tangy taste. See also Chicory.

Endive, curly: Tightly curled bunchy head. The leaves graduate from dark green to yellow-green at the heart. Use the crisp young leaves and centre stalk. Endive has a slightly bitter taste. See also Endive, Curly.

Escarole: Slightly curly, rich green outer leaves, with a fresh yellow heart. Use only the tender centre leaves for salad. The flavour is slightly bitter. See also Escarole.

Lettuce: The iceberg lettuce, with its firm heart and crisp outer leaves, is the basis of many salads.

Mignonette lettuce, with its small soft leaves, is a favourite with home gardeners. Look for other varieties such as cos (romaine). Flavours are mild. See also Lettuce.

Parsley, Italian: This has a flatter and larger leaf than the more common, tightly curled parsley, and a slightly stronger flavour.

Spring onions (scallions): This is the term used in this book to describe immature onions with the slender green leaves (sometimes called green onions). There is also a green onion where the white base has developed into a round bulb. Remove outside leaves and root base. Cut off tough green leaves. Spring onions have a fresh onion flavour. Look also for the true French shallot, a small purple bulb with a red-brown or golden skin (sometimes called a golden shallot) and a mild flavour. See also Onion.

Spinach, English: Dark green leaves on slim stalks, with reddish, fibrous roots. Use when very fresh. Don’t confuse spinach with silverbeet, which has larger, tougher leaves; only the very young tender leaves of silverbeet are suitable for salads. Spinach has a mild flavour. See also Spinach.

Types of salad vegetables:

Avocado: Once a great favourite with the Aztecs, this pear-shaped fruit, with its rich buttery flesh, is greatly appreciated for its delicate but distinctive flavour. There are many varieties and they are found the year round. The perfect partner for cold seafood, avocado is equally good combined with a green salad or served alone with Vinaigrette Dressing. See also Avocado.

Bean sprouts: Sprouted mung beans are crisp and crunchy and enjoyed in many salads. The sprouted bean of the shoot (minus the bean) is used. Other shoots like alfalfa are also popular in salads. See also Bean Sprouts.

Beans, green: Small whole beans or long slender snake beans make an interesting fresh salad. Just top and tail them. If very young, they do not need stringing. Blanch in boiling salted water for 5 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water to preserve their bright green colour and crisp texture. Season with a little grated nutmeg and toss in a garlic-flavoured Vinaigrette Dressing. Scatter snipped fresh chives and chopped parsley over the top. A few mashed anchovies added to the dressing give an excellent flavour to a bean salad. See also Beans, Green.

Cabbage, Chinese: Shaped much like a large cos (romaine) lettuce, with long, thin, mild-flavoured leaves. The leaves are green-edged and nearly white in the centre. See also Cabbage.

Carrots: Carrots for salads must be young and crisp; either grate them or cut into julienne (matchstick) strips. They combine well with all salad vegetables. See also Carrot.

Cauliflower: Just as good in salads as it is eaten as a hot vegetable. Break off florets, cutting away the tough stems, and cook in boiling salted water for a few minutes. Then drain and rinse under cold running water. Try it combined with celery, ham and Mustard Vinaigrette Dressing, served chilled, sprinkled with a few chopped fresh herbs. See also Cauliflower.

Chicory, Italian: Long, dark green, smooth stems with leaves resembling spinach. The leaves can be cooked like spinach and any tender stalks sliced and added to salads.

Cucumber: The perfect summer salad vegetable, with its cool distinctive taste. It combines perfectly with salad dressings, and is delicious with sour cream, to which a little grated fresh ginger and fresh garlic may be added. It is not necessary to remove the skin when cucumber is sliced thinly. Lightly salt the slices, placed in a colander, and allow to stand for 30 minutes to extract indigestible juices. Drain and rinse well with cold water. Toss in a little Vinaigrette Dressing and scatter with a few freshly snipped chives or finely chopped dill. See also Cucumber.

Fennel: The vegetable Florence fennel, with its white celery-like stem, is the one used for salads. Sliced thinly, its distinctive aniseed flavour mixes well with salad greens and tomatoes. Its feathery leaves, when finely chopped, give an aromatic flavour to cream sauces for fish. See also Fennel. Garlic: This pungent bulb is a necessity in today’s kitchen. Before using, remove the thin, papery skin surrounding each clove. A cut clove rubbed around a salad bowl gives a lift to a simple green salad. Rubbed with some olive oil on slices of French bread (in France called chapons), and then tossed with the greens, it imparts its full aromatic flavour to a green salad. A touch of garlic, for many, is an indispensable part of a salad. See also Garlic.

Mushrooms: Small button mushrooms are best for salads. They are good eaten raw, and may be left whole or thinly sliced. It’s not necessary to peel them: just wipe them with a cloth dipped in water and a little lemon juice. Toss in a light Vinaigrette Dressing, with plenty of freshly chopped parsley. See also Mushroom.

Peppers, green and red: These glossy vegetables are, perhaps, the most beautiful of all salad ingredients. Their sweet peppery flavour is greatly appreciated in rice salads, potato salads and the delicious Provençal ratatouille and salade niçoise. See also Pepper, Sweet.

Radish: These are sold in tightly clustered bunches. Ideal for salads or served whole with hard-boiled eggs, olives and cherry tomatoes. See also Radish.

Tomatoes: Choose firm, red tomatoes. These can be peeled, if liked, and sliced or quartered and tossed in a good dressing; excellent, too, with chopped basil, oregano or parsley. Tomatoes are often added to other salad vegetables to make a mixed salad. Alternatively, scoop out centre and fill with diced cucumber, or a rice or seafood salad. Cherry tomatoes, sometimes called ‘Tom Thumbs’, are now available and are good eaten whole or tossed in a mixed salad. See also Tomato.

Watercress, and mustard and cress: These herbs are now available from nurseries and specialty kitchen shops for the home gardener. Watercress is bought in tight bunches, and its small, attractive sprigs, with their slightly bitter, peppery taste, make a perfect salad ingredient. Cut off tough stems, tie the dark leafy heads into bunches and stand in ice-cold water to keep them crisp and fresh. Dress them with a mustard-flavoured Vinaigrette Dressing.

Mustard and cress are bought already sprouted in punnets. Snip off tops only and sprinkle them over salads. See also Cress.

Zucchini (courgettes): These small, dark green marrows, which are particularly favoured by southern Europeans, combine beautifully with quartered tomatoes and peppers. Blanch them in boiling salted water and refresh in ice-cold water before using. Add them to a green salad or toss with mushroom slices, some oregano and a Garlic Vinaigrette Dressing. Excellent with terrines and cold meats. See also Zucchini.

Other salad ingredients:

Anchovies: A little goes a long way. These distinctively flavoured fish are featured in Caesar Salad and Salade Niçoise. See also Anchovy.

Cheese: Wedges, cubes, slivers, julienne (matchstick) strips and finger-size sticks of all kinds of cheese can add richness and flavour to a salad. Blue cheese is often crumbled into a dressing; parmesan or pecorino is grated and sprinkled over some salads. Soft cream and ricotta cheeses make great lunch salads: sprinkle mounds of cheese with snipped chives and chopped spring onions (scallions), and dust with paprika; accompany with a few salad greens and tomatoes. See also Cheese.

Croûtons, pasta, potatoes and rice: These provide a pleasant contrast to the crispness of vegetables, and add substance to a salad. See also Croûtes and Croûtons; Pasta; Potato; Rice.

Eggs, hard-boiled: Chopped or quartered hardboiled eggs are most suitable for a substantial salad; grated or sieved, they can give an attractive effect to a green salad. Particularly good with strong or bitter greens like endive, chicory or escarole, eggs seem to round them off. See also Egg.

Fish, meats and poultry: These add substance to a salad, and are the base on which to build a ‘mealin- itself’ salad. Leftover meats, if a little dry, may be marinated in a good dressing. Often meats, poultry and seafood are cooked especially for salad-making; tinned varieties are often featured in salads.

Herbs, fresh: Tossed with a green salad or mixed in with the dressing, herbs give that distinctive taste to a salad. Fines herbes, beloved of the French, is the great classic mixture, and is made, traditionally, with chopped parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil; but any combination of these can be used. Use basil in tomato salads; chives with cheese; dill with fish and cucumber; coriander (cilantro) with chicken (particularly if the dressing is Asian); and ordinary parsley with just about all salads. See also Herbs, and individual entries for different herbs.

Nuts: Soft yet crunchy walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped, can be particularly good as an accent in a winter salad of tart greens. See also individual nut entries.

Olives – green, black or stuffed: Pit and slice or sliver. Use them sparingly in a green salad; they are more appropriate for a mixed concoction or a composed salad (in which case leave them whole). See also Olive.

Pimiento: Bright red, tinned pimiento adds a bright touch to many salads. Drain before using. See also Pimiento.

Types of salads:

Green salad, tossed: Often called a French salad, this mixture of crisp greens, torn into bite-size pieces only, is tossed in a light Vinaigrette Dressing at the last moment and liberally sprinkled with chopped parsley and other herbs. It is a classic accompaniment to French roast chicken. It is often served with, or after, a main course, particularly if there are no green vegetables with the dish.

Green salads can be made up of plain lettuce, cos (romaine) or iceberg lettuce, depending on the season, or be a mixture of salad greens and vegetables, such as watercress, sliced cucumber and shallots. Chicory can also be added in season. Tomato and beetroot (beets), etc., are not included in a true French tossed green salad.

Mixed salad, tossed: A green salad with other additions, for example tomatoes, cheese, etc., that can make it a light meal in itself. The dressing (see Salad Dressings) may be a standard vinaigrette or varied with herbs or tinned anchovy fillets.

Composed salad: The ingredients are arranged attractively in a bowl, and a little dressing is spooned over. The diner takes portions of salad and help themselves to additional dressing.

Substantial salad: Often based on rice, macaroni or other pastas, or potatoes, with crispy, crunchy salad greens and vegetables added. The dressings used can be as varied as the ingredients.

Vegetable salad, cooked: Cooked vegetables may be marinated in a dressing and served as a salad or as part of an hors d’oeuvre tray. Choose young, tender vegetables and do not overcook them: they should still be a little crisp inside.

Starter salad: A light salad, refreshing to the palate and not too filling. Particularly popular as a starter is a salad based on eggs or fish. Sometimes a selection of salads is presented as hors d’oeuvre, in little white oblong or oval dishes; they are a feature in French and Italian restaurants, particularly for lunch.

Light meal salad: When a salad has protein in the form of egg, fish, cheese or meat, plus vegetables, it makes a delicious complete meal. Simply add crusty bread and a glass of light wine.

Side salad: This is where a salad comes truly into its own, as an accompaniment to a more grand dish. Instead of serving only hot vegetables with cooked meats, etc., serve a salad either alone or as well.

The salad should be vegetable-based but can vary from a simple tossed salad to a composed salad – take your pick. Dress it carefully with a delicate dressing just before serving, using your imagination for what goes with what.


Quantity Ingredient
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