Creating the perfect salad is a delicate art where every aspect, from the ingredient ratios to the type of bowl used, has an impact on your result. Despite the intricacies, learning to make amazing salads is easy. The most important part of creating an amazing salad or salad dressing is to trust your own taste buds.
A recipe may call for one teaspoon of garlic powder, but if you're using an old powder, you may need to add more; or, if you hate garlic, you may need to use less. Recipes are just guides; your taste buds are what truly let you know if the salad or dressing is just right.
While the taste of a salad is always a vital point, the texture of the salad is also important. You can create a salad that tastes amazing, but if every ingredient is one-inch big with a mushy texture, the salad will be boring to eat and the flavors will run together. When you add different texture to the salad, such as thick slices of crunchy celery and thin shreds of creamy Cheddar, you make the experience of eating the salad interesting.
You also add interest to the flavor. As the juices from the crunchy celery squirt out with each bite and the sliver of Cheddar melts with other ingredients in your mouth, you taste different levels of flavor from each part of the salad.
The type of bowl you use to create your salad can influence the taste and texture of the meal. Salad bowls are large and deep, with steep sides and a small bottom, as opposed to mixing bowls, which are somewhat shallow with wide bottoms.
Plastic salad bowls are useful for presentation purposes, but tend to be annoying if used for mixing/tossing purposes. The lightweight containers are often unbalanced due to the small bottom area used for salad bowls. Even if the bowl doesn't fall over on its own, the light material is easy to accidently knock over while you're tossing the salad.
The shape of a salad bowl allows liquids to drain down the sides and pool at the bottom, which helps keep delicate salad from getting soggy or saturated. The oversized nature of the bowl not only aids in draining, it provides a big enough area to toss your salad properly. Tossing room is important, which is why salad bowls are only supposed to be filled ½ to ⅔ full. The remaining space lets you mix the salad without making a mess.
In addition to the shape and size, the material used to create the salad bowl can also have a small effect on your salad. Wooden salad bowls are popular for home use due to their attractive appearance and seasoning qualities. You can rub flavored oils into the wood to season the bowl and thus add subtle seasoning to the salad without using dressing. However, seasoned wood cannot go into the dishwasher and its porous nature can cause health/sanitation issues for restaurants. Metal and ceramic salad bowls tend to be popular in restaurants due to their stability and cleaning ease. The slick bowls also prevent the taste of past ingredients invading the salad, which keeps the flavor free of contamination in a busy restaurant kitchen.
How do I clean a wooden salad bowl?
Although wooden salad bowls should not be put in a dishwasher, they do need to be cleaned. Use warm water mixed with just a drop of soap to wash out the bowl, removing the top layer of dirt without stripping the seasoning or oil from the wood. Rinse the bowl out and wipe dry immediately to prevent damage to the wood.
Delicate and/or leafy salads require gentle tossing to mix the ingredients together and coat the salad with dressing. Tossing the ingredients a few inches into the air mixes the fragile items, particularly lettuce, without bruising or ripping them as a spoon would. The most frequent error people make when preparing salads is a lack of tossing. Tossing the salad a few times does little good, especially if you're trying to coat the ingredients with dressing. You need to toss the salad a dozen or more times to fully mix and coat the ingredients.
Tossing a leafy salad also has hidden flavor benefits. As you toss the ingredients, you expose them to large quantities of air. The air causes oxidation to take place in each ingredient, which helps enhance the aroma. Taste and smell are closely linked, as the tongue only truly tastes sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Flavor details actually come from scent, not taste. Therefore, by enhancing the aroma of the ingredients, you enhance the flavor.
When it comes to mixing fruit, pasta, potato, and bean salads, it's important to use a large spoon to turn the ingredients rather than stir them.
Stirring the ingredients can mash the salad, particularly if you have delicate items, such as cooked pasta, cooked potatoes, soft beans, or soft fruit. Think of scooping the salad up and folding it over the top of the other ingredients as a controlled tossing technique.
The three most popular utensils for tossing leafy salad are clean hands, tongs, or salad utensils. If you don't mind getting messy, you can use your clean hands to dig into the salad and toss it together. Tongs keep your hands clean, but you need to be gentle when using them to prevent bruising the ingredients. Salad utensils usually consist of a shallow, serving-size spoon and fork in either separate or tong form. You grasp the separate utensils in each hand and use them to lift and toss the salad.
Part of a great salad's appeal is its appearance and the way it's presented. While a salad's appearance may not directly alter the taste of the dish, a visually appealing salad does heighten the sense of enticement and stimulate your taste buds, which helps make the salad all the more enjoyable to eat. You can dress up a salad several different ways for an artistic presentation. Instead of just sprinkling seeds or croutons as a topping, try sprinkling them in a spiral pattern over the salad. Instead of throwing egg slices over the salad, use the slices to create a pattern around the edge of the bowl.