Salads can use a variety of greens

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By: Mary Ann Lienhart Cross

Becky Fain/Flavor 574

Summer is a great time for leafy greens, which can be mixed and matched for endless salad possibilities.

The word salad comes not from anything to do with the green leafy foods we most often associate it with, but from salt, the first salad dressing. Salt was used as an early preservative to keep herbs and other plants fresh. These salted foods could be considered the original salads.

Eventually, all manner of ingredients were added to the simple mixtures. Today, a salad can consist of so many different types of ingredients and be served in so many ways that it almost resists definition, except to call it — as does the dictionary — a hodgepodge.

However, whether cold or hot, appetizer, first course, main course, post-entree refresher, all vegetable, all fruit, with meat or meatless, most salads share a common characteristic: a sauce or dressing of some sort. After that, it’s up to personal taste and the creativity of the salad maker.

The basic salad ingredients look best if treated carefully between garden, market and table. A green salad will be the most satisfying if the greens are crisp, well-dried and cold before you add the dressing. I am sure you already know if greens are too wet the dressing will not cling to them and flavors will be diluted.

When it comes to selecting and combining greens, choose from among many flavors and appearances. If you want crispness and body, choose romaine; oak leaf and butter lettuces contribute softness and varied shapes. The color of red-leaf lettuce and radicchio brightens the mixture.

A few leaves of sorrel lend a pleasant tartness, curly endive adds texture and interesting bitterness and spinach gives a smooth flavor especially when it is baby spinach. If you desire to add a sharp bite include arugula, Belgian endive or watercress.

I buy romaine, red leaf and a variety of others, but I most often buy the boxed spring mix, or spinach. I thoroughly enjoy green salad and make a point of eating green salad daily. When it comes to the boxed spring mix we can have fresh green salad all week long as long as we keep it dry.

To keep the greens dry, work in the center of your counter, open the salad box and gently press two connected sheets of paper towel on top of the greens, packing them slightly down in the container. Turn the greens out of the container and onto the countertop; they usually keep their shape. If they don’t, you have to gather them up.

Next, fold two pieces of paper towel and lay them in the bottom of the salad box, then return the greens to the container. I place one or two pieces of paper towel in the middle of the greens and another one on top and return the container to the refrigerator.

Once the box is empty, I reuse it to store bagged spinach in the same way as the greens. Stored in this way it keeps much longer than in the bag because it is drier.

Healthy eating means eating more vegetables and fruits, and summer is the best time to include more servings of them in your eating. Now is a great time to make a variety of salads and enjoy with family and friends.

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