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What Is a Salad?

 

What is a salad? Is it merely a few raw ingredients tossed together in a bowl with a dressing, or is it more complex than that?

Some are just assemblages of delicious ingredients, each looking after itself, and some are great swathes of ingredients working together to create a meal in one.

I have taken the view that a salad is a mixture of ingredients, individually prepared (as opposed to being cooked together in a stew), that all work in harmony with each other, some simply tossed together and others arranged on a plate.

 

The idea of harmony is itself up for discussion. In fact, to create harmony you sometimes need to generate chaos or a clash of some sort. Adding a contrasting flavour or texture to a mix can often highlight other ingredients in the same dish. In the following recipes you'll discover that it might be the shock of a sweet roast sultana that highlights sharp citrus notes, or a spicy chilli that adds warmth to a sweet dessert.

 

A salad likes to have texture complexity.

 

Whether this is derived from a crunchy texture due to the addition of nuts and croutons, or a soft texture from buffalo mozzarella or yoghurt, you need to offer more than one texture in a salad. Much as a tender green salad with a little olive oil and lemon juice makes a great starter or side dish, it won't leave your dinner guests contented.However, add some sliced pear and roasted hazelnuts, a few green beans and maybe some shaved Parmesan, and then you're talking.

 

Choose salad leaves that are plump and firm Ц no wilted ones please (although a quick dip in cold water, a shake to dry them and then an hour in a plastic bag in the fridge can sometimes work wanders with greens and herbs)

If you use a tomato in the middle of winter, then don't expect it to taste like the summer ones you had on holiday in the countryside. Likewise, if it's December in Europe and you want to make a cold strawberry salad for the Christmas table, then I'd advise you to choose a new recipe rather than buy some much-travelled berries.

Choose fruit and vegetables that are in season and in their prime.

What is important in creating a salad is that the produce you use is of premium quality - perhaps more so in salads than in cooked dishes, as they are often given little further treatment. Often you'll be serving just five or six ingredients mixed together with a dressing, and if just one of those ingredients doesn't taste that great you can very easily ruin the whole salad.

 

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