Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Basic Basic Cooking: Salad

Everyone starts somewhere, but if you've never given much thought to preparing food, it can be hard to know where to start when you want to begin feeding yourself and others well.

Let's start with a salad. It's good to eat a salad every day. If you fix one, and then you prepare some other dish with some protein in it, you've made an entire dinner.

So go to the produce section and buy a package of romaine lettuce. Romaine is a sweet, crunchy, sturdy lettuce. It doesn't melt under dressing, and it has a lot of flavor without being bitter. The "hearts" are the lettuce heads with the outer leaves removed. The hearts are the tastiest part of the lettuce. You can also buy a single head of romaine, not a package of hearts.

Pull off as many leaves as you think you want to eat, and tear them into bite-sized pieces. Put them into a colander or a salad spinner. Wash the pieces well by running a lot of cold water over them while you lift and stir them with your hand, then dry them by spinning your salad spinner (yes, you want one if you're going to be a salad-making-and-eating person), or by putting them in a clean dish cloth and swinging it around over the kitchen sink. See, I told you you want the spinner.


Now make the dressing. It's nice to have a small jar set aside for this, but you can also use a glass or a mug. You need some extra-virgin olive oil (find this with the other oils at the grocery store), and some balsamic vinegar. The vinegar is often sold alongside the salad dressings or the pickles. There are lots of kinds of vinegar. Find the balsamic. It doesn't have to be the most expensive. This is the one we like the best--'Balsamic Vinegar of Modena'. The third ingredient is this salt blend called Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt. It's sold on the spice aisle, usually near the regular salt. If you can't find it, pick out some other salt blend.

In your jar, pour about 3/4 inch of oil. Then almost as much vinegar. They won't mix. Now add about half a teaspoon of the salt. When you're ready to dress the salad, either put the lid on tightly and shake the dressing, or use a fork to vigorously stir if you're mixing it in a glass. This will make enough dressing for several days of small salads. No use in doing the work every day if you don't have to--just cover the dressing and keep it out on the counter for several days, shaking again before using.


When you're ready to sit down, pour what you think is enough dressing on your salad. You'll quickly learn by trial and error how much you want to use.


That's it. You've made something delicious and entirely lacking in corn syrup or preservatives. Now you cook.

22 comments:

Jodes said...

Yum! Even in the depths of winter, I want to go out and get some lettuce for a salad!

Dianna said...

Hi,

I hope you post more of these sorts of recipes. There are so many people that have not the slightest idea about how to prepare fresh food.

Good work!

Margo said...

what a great encouragement to the starting out cook! (and fun peek into another cook's salad routine for me)

I was taught the whirling tea towel method of drying lettuce in eighth grade home ec, before salad spinners were around much. Now I have a salad spinner, but sometimes, I go "fling the lettuce" in the shower stall or outside the back door. Just for old times' sake.

Sarah said...

Great little tutorial. I wish someone had sent this at the end of college. It took two years of cooking on my own before I discovered the handy wonder of salads - as you said, salad plus protein and you've cooked a meal. Perhaps I was still stuck on my teenage view of leafy greens as rabbit food. Another favorite dressing around here is beating a bit of mustard (dijon or something similar) into the olive oil. Nice mild dressing.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that I really enjoy your blog, especially for posts like this one. You have a lovely family and a very inspiring way of living. Simple is beautiful!

Lisa said...

My goodness - I thought you were joking about the tea towel business, but I can see from Margo's comment that you're not! (I have a salad spinner.)

I've been thinking about making my own dressing, and realizing also that maybe I should start getting the olive oil in the big cans - just like my Auntie Adeline did.

Lisateresa

Farrah said...

I love this! Yes, I agree with others and request more of these types of posts. Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I like your teaching style!

Had to laugh at the tea towel drying method. I was taught to put the wet leaves in an old pillowcase and horizontally windmill my arm vigorously to fling all the water out. It's fun, and burns some copious kid-energy, but sure sprays a lot of green water : )

deb meyers

Jeannie B. said...

Looks very good!

Friend W said...

Excellent! And great pictures and bold words to help us younger folk who don't know much about kitcheny things!

So, my father puts cheese, nuts, and all sort of crunchy things on his salads. Do you ever do that?

You don't recommend the traditional salad dressings that one finds packing the aisles of the grocery stores?

Anonymous said...

Ooooh cooking lessons!! Bring them on!

Cheri said...

I've been a blog reader for many years (came over via S&S forum) and must echo with the others that I love it when you are tips and advice from the kitchen. You make everything so simple and easy, yet delicious looking! Also wanted to mention that we've been making your Schoolhouse Coffee Cake for a long time now, and it's our favorite!

Kate said...

Sounds very similar to the method of salad preparation we use at our house! :)
I had never heard of the "tea-towel method" either.......I also own a salad spinner. It was a wedding gift, and has certainly seen lots of use over the past (almost) seven years.

seashoreknits said...

Thanks for the reminder about romine lettuce, Anna. I tend to buy just red leaf lettuce when making small individual salads. For most days, my husband loves to eat a simple salad of coleslaw. I buy the pre-cut packages of shredded cabbage (red and green) and carrots and simply add diced onion and coat with a homemade italian vinagrette. It's crunchy and filling and seems to accompany everything.
Love your recipe!!

Anonymous said...

You have brought back images of my grandmother in law, wrapping the wet lettuce in a towel, standing in the middle of the kitchen, bending over, and giving it a couple of good strong swings between her legs.

Dawn said...

Yum! We eat this all the time- even my husband loves the dressing and he's super picky!!! I use a simple spring mix or butter lettuce if I don't have romaine. I've also used "Schoolhouse Dressing" on sliced tomatoes with diced cheese- fresh mozzarella is the best but chunks of cheddar work in a pinch!

anna said...

mmm, oil and vinegar - a simple favorite :) thanks for posting, I have been meaning to post a salad dressing recipe all week, along with other ideas for using the abundance of leafy greens this time of year, so your post was just what I needed to push me on!

Laura said...

Interesting salad, though too plain for my taste. I always add tomatoes, whether grape, cherry or chopped Roma. I also put a plate of olives and feta cheese on the table for those who like to indulge. If it's on sale I'll add a little iceberg lettuce for color contrast and additional crunch.

Anonymous said...

I love to cook too.Really enjoy your blog.

Barb in Nebraska

Anonymous said...

Inspiring!
Thinking of this post, I went to the market and bought romaine, oil and vinegar (couldn't find any crazy salt, so settled for Mrs. Dash). Also mushrooms, tomatoes, a cuke, and some "fancy" shredded parmesan, and jalapeno-stuffed green olives for my husband. For protein, we simply added strips of pan-fried seasoned steak on the side. Throw in a cold drink and a movie about the three musketeers, and we had a delightful date-night-in which earned me some high praise from my darling husband.

Thank you, Anna!

Birdy

Cathy said...

And I am the owner of a new salad spinner. Just received it for Mother's Day!
I want to find that salt!

Cathy said...

I found the Jane's salt you talked about, so happy! just 1 mile down the road at the grocery. It was on sale too. :)
Looking forward to trying this recipe. Thanks for sharing it!

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