Making the perfect salad is slightly more complicated than throwing lettuce in a bowl and calling it a day. But it’s not so complicated as to justify buying a premade salad at the grocery store or always going out to eat a salad. There are no steadfast rules to salad-making, but these guidelines will make your salad something you look forward to (like taking an IntroSem) rather than something mandatory and boring (Thinking Matters).
Guidelines for the perfect salad
Put a little thought into it. Try to balance various elements like sweet, salty and bitter. If you add something sweet, such as fresh or dried fruit, counter it with something salty like cheese or croutons. If you use a soft cheese, add something crunchy, such as seeds or nuts. With a bitter lettuce such as arugula, consider mild ingredients like tomatoes and mozzarella.
Dressing should be mixed in at the last minute. Otherwise everything will wilt and soggify. (Remember it this way: Keep your salad naked for as long as possible. Getting dressed shouldn’t happen until the last minute possible.)
Toast nuts before adding them–it will make them less waxy. Toasting the nuts (either on the stove or in the oven) will make them more flavorful and earthy.
Add crunchy things at the last minute. If you plan to add anything crunchy such as croutons or nuts, add them last or else they will get soft.
Add a grain. To make a salad into more of a meal, add a grain such as quinoa, farro or barley. Just make sure that the grain you cook has cooled before you add it. Otherwise, the lettuce will wilt.
Wash greens before using. Even if it says prewashed, there have been E. coli scares recently, and it’s always better to be careful. (There’s nothing like a little food poisoning to make you resent a food for the rest of your life.) Rinse the greens in a bowl of water; then dry them with towels or a salad spinner. Drying lettuce is important because the oils in the dressing won’t stick well to wet greens.
Make your own dressing. Homemade dressing is easy and much tastier than anything store-bought. The following is a recipe for my favorite dressing.
My mom’s salad dressing
My mom has been making a variation of this balsamic vinaigrette for years. It is not only delicious, but it also tends to impress dinner guests.
Mix the following ingredients together in a small bowl with a fork:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Fresh cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste
(Makes about 3 tablespoons, or enough to dress 1-2 salads.)