CookBook Home Page Salads List

Salad Preparation Overview

There are almost an infinite number of salad dressings. As a witness to this, even a modest size super market has 65 plus varieties on their shelves. There are great varieties of oils, vinegars, juices, and condiments that can be used in varying proportions, which usually result in distinctly different outcomes.
My salad dressings are put together using approximate proportions whose limits are honed by years of trial an error. Despite this I occasionally produce a dressing that I am not pleased with, and with equal frequency some turn out to be an especially delicious groilus. Furthermore, often what I consider to be particularly successful dressing Jenny will consider to be one of my average, or the reverse in our rating can occur. Frequent difference in appreciation can be expected from all of us for our tongues are as different as our faces.

My most successful dressings, I have come to believe, are those whose exact contents can only be faintly detected - at least by the average diner. This particularly applies to herb seasoning such as dill and oregano, but I also have cut down on my garlic so that it is definitely "there" but does not overwhelm. The ratio of oil to acid should be a mid range but this always is a subjective call that varies with all of us. 4 parts [acid] to 6 parts [oil] are the proportions that I generally use but this varies, especially if I am using a distinctly strong or weak acid. Initially I feel that it is important to go gently with the acid; toss and taste. One can always add more, but it is difficult to recoup if you have added too much.
Other Doís and Doníts: Do not buy tomatoes out of season. With the exception of some cherry tomatoes, they are tasteless and should be avoided on principle. Always dry your lettuce carefully, for the moisture from wet lettuce will dilute your dressing and ruin it. Be wary of home grown lettuce. It is often bitter, particularly if it is grown in warm weather. Never toss a salad which has sliced tomatoes, for the salt in the dressing will osmotically draw the water out of the tomato and dilute your dressing - this happens quickly. You can toss if you are using uncut cherry tomatoes, for the skin protects against the osmotic draw. Topping your salad with the tomatoes after it has been thoroughly tossed will avoid this problem and serve as an attractive garnishment.
We have a salad with almost every evening meal, and each salad dressing is different from the next, so you are not going to get quantity-explicit recipe out of me. I almost always use a mortar and pestle. I use rock salt as the grist for my leafy condiments and pressed garlic. Only after these have been well pulverized do I add the acid. I advocate trying to prepare my acid condiments mix in advance and letting it sit in the mortar 30 to 60 minutes so that vinegar or the lemon juice can take up the flavors. The quantities are estimates for a large salad for two.
I use a variety of vinegars; red wine, white, campaign, Spanish sherry. I often add small amounts of balsamic to the other vinegars, holding the ratio to 1 to 5 for I find balsamic too sweet for my liking. When included in modest proportions it can add an important flavor. This is also true of sesame oil which can be added to the mortar-- only 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon. [Augie taught me this].
I also like fresh lemon juice mostly when I am using green onions with feta or blue cheese. My personal preference is to almost never use feta or blue cheese with garlic but in these dressing I will use finely chopped green onions which are soaked in the acid in advance.
The use of pine nuts [roasted in oven 350 to 380 degrees for 7 to 10 minutes or in a skillet until they turn a rich brown color] adds a delicious deep nutty taste to the flavor. Watch them closely using a timer. I have burned many a hand full. I also add roasted walnuts to some of my blue cheese salads and garnish with apple or pear.
Greens are prepared and dried in advance. Just before serving the oil is added directly to the greens, tossing to coat them thoroughly. Then the flavored acid is added and dispersed with the toss.

Pepper to taste.