Saturday, July 24, 2010

all about salads


Long, thin, firm but fleshy, greenish white or red leaves with a slightly bitter taste.
Suitable for.... mixing with strong flavours like watercress. Try with a honey dressing to contrast with its bitterness.

With a fresh, leafy taste, baby spinach is sweet and tender.
Suitable for.... adding to beetroot or potato salads and warm salads with bacon and strong blue cheese or try adding chopped walnuts or toasted pinenuts to baby spinach leaves for simple salad.

This looks and taste similar to chicory but with more open leaves.
Suitable for..... fruity salads with figs or with strong leaves like watercress. Also good grilled with a slice of goat's cheese on top.

A spicy, peppery tooth-edged leaf - choose small leaves for the best taste.
Suitable for..... adding flavour to simple green salads, or you can serve on its own for a really peppery kick.

Sometimes also called Romaine, this is a large lettuce with a crisp leaf and bitter taste.
Suitable for.... the classic leaf for a Caesar salad. Try it with a blue cheese dressing too.

Also sometimes called butterhead, this is a two-in-one lettuce - under the loose outer leaves are small, sweet and crisp leaves.
Suitable for.... using alone or with other leaves.

A traditional English salad leaf with a peppery, pungent flavour.
Suitable for.... leafy salads with spinach and rocket, or as a base for simple starters like pear and walnut salad. Ideal in sandwich too.

A crisp lettuce with a crunchy texture and large leaves. Tap the stem on a hard surface three times, then twist it to easily remove the core and release the individual leaves.
Suitable for.... adding extra crunch to salads as well as in sandwiches. It can lack flavour, so use with a creamy dressing.

So called because the small leaves resemble a lamb's tongue, it has a mild, nutty flavour and a soft texture.
Suitable for....mixed salad, or in potato or beetroot salads. It's also pretty enough to serve on its own as a side salad.

A small lettuce with a compact heart, it has a sweet flavour and juicy leaves.
Suitable for.... Waldorf salad with celery, apple, walnuts and mayonnaise, or in a mixed salad.

1) Tear the leaves rather than cutting with a knife - this can tarnish them and turn the edges brown.
2) Always wash fresh salad leaves and then shake well to remove excess water. If you're using a ready-prepared bag, check what it says on the pack as the leaves might be washed already.
3) Dress the salad and then serve immediately. If you're going to prepare the salad in advance, mix the dressing in a screw-top jar and pour over just before serving to prevent the leaves becoming limp.

Liven up a leafy salad with some of these extras:
AVOCADO - choose ripe avocados, remove the stone and flesh, then slice. Perfect mixed with tomatoes, red onion and rocket leaves.
COOKED BEETROOT - sliced or shredded, it adds sweetness.
CARROT - peel and finely slice or grate, or make ribbons with a potato peeler, before adding to salad leaves.
CELERY - slice thinly and add to salads for extra crunch.
CUCUMBER - slice in circle or cut into finger-length batons, it will add an extra fresh taste to your salad.
FRESH HERBS - use the leaves whole in the salad or chop them finely and add to your dressing.
PEPPERS - de-seed then slice thinly or cut into large chunks to add sweetness, colour and crunch.
SPRING ONION - a mild tasting onion, the white bulb can be chopped and the long green lenghts can be sliced thinly.
TOMATO - quartered, halved or sliced, they're a traditional feature in salads. Use sun-dried tomatoes if you fancy a change - save the oil to make a rich, tomato-flavoured dressing.

Caesar salad originates from Mexico where it was invented by chef Caesar Cardini on a busy holiday weekend. The kitchen was low on supplies, so he created the salad from what was left - it soon became a firm favourite.

1 medium ciabatta
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
2 anchovies, from a tin
handful finely grated parmesan
5 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 large cos or romaine lettuce leaves, seperated

Turn the oven to 180C. Cut the bread into square croutons and spread over a large baking sheet. Sprinkle over the oil. Bake for 10 minutes, turning a few times to brown evenly. Crush the garlic into a bowl. Add the anchovies and mash with a fork against the side of the bowl. Add the cheese, mayonnaise and vinegar and mix together. Tear the lettuce into large pieces and put in a big salad bowl. Toss in the croutons and the dressing and mix well. You can add cooked chicken, sliced avocado, grill bacon or flaked tuna.

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