October 6, 2011
Here are a few things to think about when constructing the perfect salad.
• Choose the right ingredients for the season. Do yourself a favor and don't choose to make a fresh tomato Caprese when tomatoes are not in season.
• Pair the right greens with the right dressing. A heavy dressing such as one with gorgonzola would smother arugula, which needs to be dressed with a light vinaigrette.
• Don't let a salad be an excuse to clean out the crisper drawer — or for all you chefs out there, the walk-in. Think about what you're putting in your salad and what purpose each ingredient serves relative to the other ingredients you're putting in the salad.
• Keep a simple green salad simple. My go-to ingredients to dress up such a salad are thinly sliced radishes, cucumbers or fresh herbs. I like to add dill, tarragon, parsley, chervil, fresh oregano or a mix — and lots of them. My go-to dressing would be a simple lemon vinaigrette or one such as the sherry vinaigrette used in the butter lettuce salad.
• You must dry your salad greens well before dressing them. Wet greens wash away the flavor and weigh down the lettuce. More important to your kitchen arsenal than a canister of liquid nitrogen or a sous-vide machine, and a whole lot less expensive, is a salad spinner, which is hands-down the best thing for the job.
• Put your salad greens in a wide-mouthed bowl, which allows you to toss them sufficiently without crushing or bruising them.
• Salt the greens before adding the dressing. Just trust me on this!
• Err on the spare side when adding the dressing to the greens. Toss the salad with the dressing, and if it needs more, add more.
• Toss salad with your (clean) hands. They're the gentlest tools for the job, plus, with your hands, you will be able to feel if you have enough dressing or how much more you need.
• When you're using a thick dressing, which you will do only with sturdier leaves, massage the dressing into the leaves. With a vinaigrette, use your hands to make sure to get dressing onto the entire surface of the leaves.
• Taste the salad once it's dressed, and if necessary add more dressing, salt or acid (lemon juice or vinegar) to taste.
• I like to serve salads in a way that highlights their natural beauty — such as in a wide-mouthed wooden bowl or on an unadorned white platter. Truth be told, I like to serve everything that way!
—Nancy Silverton and Carolynn Carreño
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