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Monday, 17 May 2010

My Personal Favourite - SALADS

Avocado Salad

If Salads refer to dishes of: Cold or Warm, Raw or Cooked, Vegetables, Fruits or Both combined, usually Dressed and Seasoned, can be served as an Appetiser, Side Dish, or Main Course... Then I am buying!!
Can you imagine the endless possibilities? The options? The flavour combinations?... This definitely is a place to experiment, create and enjoy: Guilt Free!!

Salads can be the combination of anything really. You can use fruits and nuts in Savoury Salads to give a variation and depth to the falvour as well as a crunch for texture. You can use herbs even in sweet Salads like mint in a fruit Salad. You can play around with vinegars, oils, edible flowers...etc you can play around with the textures as well. The best Salads are those that provide a crunch, a smoothness and freshness all combined. Salads must appeal to the eye just like with any food. They have to be colourful, creatively presented, and must look fresh.

Although there is no limit to Salad creations, they have been commonly categorised as follows:
  • Green Salads: Usually consist of raw green-leaved vegetables like Lettuce, Endives frisée, rocca- Arugula, Spinach, Mesclun, Dandeloin leaves, watercress, ...etc usually dressed with a vinaigrette (flavoured according to used vegetables).  These Salads are usually served as an appetiser or a side dish to meats or eggs. Common Additions to green salads are croutons, cheese, shallots, bacon...etc. Caesar Salad is a very good example of salads from this category, although it can be considered a mixed salad as well.
  • Garden Salad: usually Refers to salads that include vegetables alongside the leaves. The name comes from the use of vegetables that can be grown in gardens. Like tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, onions...etc. These salads do not include meats.  This category is often served with an acidic dressing such as lemon and oil, or vinaigrettes. Garden Salads are usually served as an accompaniment to meat and carb dishes alike. One very good example for salads from this category is Beetroot and Carrot Salad.
  • Plain Salads: Consist of a basic raw or cooked ingredient. the basic ingredient can be a vegetable, Meat, Chicken or shellfish. However way the ingredient is cooked, the plain salad is normally served with a cold dressing, such as vinaigrette, mayonnaise, mustard, remoulade, or cheese dressing. Like a plain Tuna Salad for instance.
  • Mixed Salads: These salads are more elaborate and are served as a main course or to accompany hot or cold roast meat dishes. They combine different ingredients of contrasting yet complementary flavours, textures, and colours. These salads can include exotic ingredients as truffles in Salade Gourmand or simple ingredients as in the Salade Niçoise. These salads are dressed with a dressing that blends with rather than mask the flavours of the ingredients used.

  • Fruit Salads: usually refer to sweet Salads, the ingredients of which are a combination of 2 or more of fruits, nuts, herbs, fruit juices, honeys, syrups, at times and  spices and other falvours.

Salad Dressings
Dressings are the liquids that go on a salad to give it its final flavour. The dressing can be hot or cold. Dressings can be tossed with the salad ingredients in a bowl to coat, or can be drizzled on top of a salad after plating. Dressings should compliment and bring out the flavours of salads, but never overwhelm those flavours.

Famous Salad Dressings include
  • Basic Vinaigrette or flavoured Vinaigrette.
  • Mustard Dressing or Honey Mustard Dressing.
  • Cheese dressings like Blue cheese or cheddar cheese...etc
  • Cream Dressings
  • Yoghurt Dressings
  • Oil Dressing like truffle oil, or nut oil.
  • Mayonnaise dressings like: thousand island, or mayo-mustard...etc 

Salad Oils and Vinegars
There is a wide variety of oils and vinegars to use. You can also make your own flavoured oils and Vinegars such as Basil oil, rosemary oil, black pepper oil, chili oil...etc or fruit vinegar, herb vinegar...etc

You can use Nut oils: Almond, hazelnut, walnut or even peanut oils... You can use olive oil, Sesame oil and Salad oils found in supermarkets. these will lend a variety of flavours to your salad creations and can help you intensify a specific flavour. Just note that chilled olive oil becomes thick and cloudy, therefore if you have pre-prepared your dressing and chilled it, let it stand at room temprature for 30 mins before using. Dressings that include olive oil are best made right before serving and not chilled.

The use of different vinegars will help you vary the flavour of your favourite vinaigrette. Choose from a variety of vinegars and open up the door to a variety of flavours. Vinegars are available in supermarkets and speciality Gourmet stores and delis. Experiment with aged vinegars, they are Divine!

Some vinegars and their properties 

  • Try Balsamic vinegar which gets its sweetness and dark colour from aging in barrels. Aged balsamic vinegar is the best, it is a delicacy.
  • Also try cider vinegar, it is golden brown with a hint of apple flavour as it is made from fermented apples. Fruit vinegar is made by steeping berries in cider or white wine vinegar. 
  • Herb Vinegar is made by infusing tarragon, basil, dill or other herbs in white wine or cider vinegar. 
  • Rice Vinegar is made from rice wine or Sake. It is mildly sweet with a subtle tang to it and is available plain or flavoured. 
  • White vinegar is colourless and made from grain alcohol. Its flavour is the strongest and sharpest of all vinegars. 
  • Wine vinegars reflect the colour and flavour of wine used in its making. this category also includes champagne vinegar and sherry vinegar.

Dima's Tips For Preparing Perfect Salads

  • Fresh (unwilted) ingredients are the best to use, when washed they need to be dried out thoroughly or the water will dilute the flavours of the dressing and will make your leaves wilted and soggy
  • To avoid bruising your greens tear rather than cut
  • Dress the salad Just before serving or the acid will wilt the greens and cause them to become soggy.

Here are some related links you will enjoy

With this post, I am hoping to get you to explore and experiment with flavours, vinegars, dressings, combinations other than the ones you usually go for. I hope I have managed to open the door of curiosity, and that you will try out some new salads from here on...

Thank you for reading this post, and for visiting my blog, I look forward to hearing from you, so leave me a comment..