Salads are a great way to add nutrition to our daily diet. They are generally made from fruits and/or vegetables which are cut, mixed up and seasoned with a salad dressing or simply olive oil and lime juice. But they can also be made with meat, cereals or legumes which are precooked before being added. Uncooked salads are live forms of the food and they provide us with a good boost of vitamins, minerals as well as fibre. They refresh us and cleanse our systems.
Typically there are four parts in a salad
- Base – which is usually the lettuce leaf or other salad greens , lines the serving plate, on which the salad is to be served.
- Body – is the main ingredient of the salad.
- Garnish – can be herbs or spices that complement the salad.
- Dressing – is usually a mild or creamy liquid seasoned with spices that flavour the salad.
Salads can be broadly classified as
1)Garden salad/Green salad
As the name indicates these salads are prepared from green garden leaves such as lettuce, spinach, argula etc.
These can further be divided into
- Tossed salad – is a salad made by tossing greens in a dressing. It can also include vegetables like tomatoes and cucumber.
- Composed salad – also called salade composée, in French. It is made by arranging the ingredients in some order, usually on a salad leaf and then drizzling with a dressing. Eg. Salad Niçoise
These are usually made of non- green ingredients and are bound by a thick sauce like mayonnaise. They are scoopable. Common egs are tuna salad, chicken salad, macroni salad etc.
When non-greens or vegetables make up a good portion of the salad it is called vegetable salad. Commonly used vegetables are cucumbers, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, celery, radish etc. eg. Coleslaw.
These are made from various kinds of fruits, served in their own juices or a syrup. Either fresh or canned fruits can be used. Most commonly used fruits are berries, melons, grapes, pomogranates & pineapples, though any fruit can be used.
These contain a combination of ingredients like meat, chicken, cheese, greens and vegetables.
Depending on how they are served, salads can be further classified as
These are usually light, small portion salads served as the first course of the meal to stimulate the appetite. Eg Waldorf salad
2)Accompaniment salad/side salad
These accompany the main course and are treated as side dishes. It should always balance and complement the rest of the meal. Egs Kachumber salad.
3)Main course salad
They are a meal in themselves and so are served in large meal sized portions, though they are usually lighter than the regular main course dishes. Typically they contain salad greens, apart from protein rich food like meat, eggs, cheese & legumes. Cooked pasta and even grains like barley, bulgur, quinoa etc are used. Eg Cobb salad
These are made with fruits, nuts, cream, jello, and are often topped with whipped cream. These salads are usually sweet and are sometimes served frozen, at the end of the meal. Egs Ambrosia, Watergate salad
Salad dressing is a mixture of oil, vinegar, herbs and other flavourings that are mixed together and poured over a salad.
According to Wikipedia, salad dressings can be classified into two – Vinaigrettes and creamy dressings though I am adding cooked dressing also to this list. The most common salad dressings are Italian dressing, French dressing, Ranch dressing, Thousand Island dressing, Caesar dressing, Balsamic vinaigrette and raspberry vinaigrette to name a few.
This kind of dressing is made by mixing oil with something acidic like vinegar or lemon juice usually in the ratio of 3:1 and is flavoured with salt, herbs and spices. A wide variety of oils and vinegars are used in making this dressing.
These are usually based on mayonnaise or fermented milk products such as yougurt, sour cream or butter milk. To this herbs and seasonings are added as per preference.
Essentially flour, eggs, milk and vinegar are seasoned with spices and cooked over a double boiler till it thickens. After cooling this creamy sauce is used as a salad dressing.
So in short, salad dressings are the sauces that are used to season the salads. There are a huge variety of salad dressings but the simplest ones are mayonaisse and the basic dressing. Most of these dressings are pretty easy to prepare at home, and I shall deal with them later.
Since salads are consumed raw, care should be taken to thoroughly clean the vegetables and fruits, as they tend to be ridden with pesticide residues. Soaking them in vinegar or in a solution of baking soda and water will rid the pesticides to a great extent. Alternately you can opt for organic produce from reliable sources, if possible or grow some yourself.
But make it a point to consume a salad a day. They are very easy to prepare. The only difficult part is cutting the veggies. That can also be minimised if you have a food processor, which is definitely not a must.
Over to my salad recipes….
More to come….