Salads and Salad Dressings
Almost every variety of vegetable or fruit can be made into a salad. Eggs are used also, as well as many kinds of fish and meat. Vegetable salads are the most common and convenient to prepare.
Naturally, lettuce heads the list of salad vegetables and is more popular because it's plentiful and economical all year round. Iceberg is most often used, but its popularity is giving way to mesclun mixes and baby lettuces and greens. Lettuce contains little nutriment, but is rich in mineral salts.
Sorrel is one of the wild salad plants and deserves to be better known and appreciated. It has a slightly acid taste, and for this reason, be sparing of the vinegar when dressing it. Sorrel may be used as a salad by itself, or blended with other salad plants such as lettuce or spinach.
Mustard and cress used together make a good salad. Small yellow tomatoes dipped for a moment in boiling water, then peeled with a sharp knife, thoroughly chilled, seasoned, sprinkled with chopped fresh basil and matchsticks of parmesan cheese or bacon bits, piled on lettuce leaves and served with a good italian vinaigrette or french dressing makes a salad that tastes as good as it looks.
In winter, when local fresh vegetables are not as readily available (who wants those half-red plasticized tomatoes?), a tomato jelly or salad made from canned or fresh frozen 3-bean salad can substitute.
All green leafy salads should be chilled before serving for crispness, unless you're using lettuce just picked from the garden. When the leaves are too large to be served as is, they should be broken (not cut) just before serving. Add dressing only at the last minute; if put on sooner, it softens the leaves and spoils both taste and appearance. A salad is only as good as the freshness of its ingredients and the quality of its dressing. For best results, never use a low quality salad oil or inexpensive olive oil.
In preparing salads from meat and fish an almost endless variety of flavors can be obtained by careful blending of seasonings to suit the principal ingredient of the salad itself. Few better salads can be had than those made from fragments of cold roast lamb cut into dice, mixed with a cup of cooked peas or beans and a little freshly chopped mint. If the lamb is boiled, substitute a few chopped capers for the mint; with cold pork, have a sprinkling of sage and an equal amount of diced celery; with fish, plenty of lemon juice and cucumber. The salads are all served with a dressing, either Italian, French, old-fashioned boiled, or mayonnaise dressing as best suits the salad and the convenience of the maker.
And don't forget about fruit salads. Served for lunch or snacktime, they may be made of one fruit or a combination of several; those most commonly blended being grapes, oranges, grapefruit sections, bananas, apples, cantaloupe and honeydew melons and watermelons. Serve with a sprinkling of sugar or light syrup made from fruit juice or plain fruit juice alone, with a sprinkling of lemon zest and raisins or dried cranberries for flavor. For parties and special occasions, add a dash of dark jamaican rum to the syrup or poach fruit briefly in wine, and serve in a cut-melon bowl.
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