A special repost in honor of a loved one whose early death was helped along by poor eating habits.
Yes, I can occasionally be caught live in the kitchen. Look quick.
When growing up, my dinner task was making the salad. My mom bought the goods and I prepared them to her exacting specifications. As a result, I am very, shall we say, anal about salads (as I am about most things that I care about).
A clean vegetable is a happy eater. Wash as far down as possible, wash as far up as possible, then, wash ‘possible.’ That maxim goes for many things.
Lettuce: anyone who uses iceberg lettuce in a salad should be shot. (Okay, that’s a little harsh; maybe, er, reeducated.) Use red-leaf, romaine or butter leaf lettuce or some combination thereof. Or spinach.
Croutons and bacon bits are masks for a salad prepared by a lazy salad-maker. If your ingredients are good, fresh and varied, you don’t need those.
Buy the right mushrooms. Get the ones that are closed at the junction between the body and the stem.
Don’t buy the big ones that look like they’re more for smoking that for eating. Don’t buy them too brown. Cut the stems off but not so far down as to where you can see the inside of the body.
Use red onions and/or scallions, because they look prettier and taste better than yellow or white onions. Cut most of the flower of the scallions off because they are bland. The root is the good part.
When I’m the only one eating the salad or am sure of my audience, I will put a chopped clove of garlic and a chopped Serrano chili pepper in my salad. (You folks who are not from the south-west part of the US or are not of Mexican descent might not know what a Serrano is. It’s a little, tiny green pepper that is hot. I like hot.)
Two of the ingredients that my mom didn’t require, but I usually use now are: carrots and cucumbers. Yes, peeling them is a pain—and please peel the cucumber—but, boy, do they give great texture and taste to the salad. Split the cuck down the middle, by the way.
Sometimes I will top the salad with canned crab. There are two places here in LA from which I’ve bought the crab: Food for Less and Trader Joe’s. The FFL version is cheaper and the TJ’s version is prettier, but they both taste about the same. I don’t put anything heavier than that in the salad. Chicken, beef and pork are for the main course.
No yellow, orange or white dressings should be used. Hey, if you want to hide the taste of your salad, just tear up some iceberg, chop up a big, fat tomato and pour Thousand Island all over it. Blech. I like a non-obnoxious Caesar or just some olive oil mixed with balsamic vinegar.
If you must put some seasoning on your salad, a bit of Mrs. Dash will do the trick; oh, and black pepper.
What did I forget? Tomatoes, of course, are required; cherry types cut in half (if you grow them, you’re blessed); bell pepper—green and chopped.
If you think salads are boring, you’re missing out on one of the great pleasures of eating. Time, attention and varied ingredients are all that are required. Don’t forget to make it beautiful as well. Eating is almost as much about the eye as it is about the tongue.
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