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March 26, 2008
No Sound So Sweet as
the Salad Symphony
There are few symphonies as sweet as a well-crafted salad.
Most people think of a salad as simply tearing apart a head of lettuce
and chopping to pieces some poor, hapless tomato. The thought that this
might be considered high cuisine causes the spine to shudder.
The first error is the
use of the head of iceberg lettuce, the world’s least aptly named
vegetable. The only connection between iceberg lettuce and an actual
iceberg is that both of them are constructed almost entirely of water
and that neither of them have any actual flavor to speak of.
Instead, the foundation
should be one of robust flavor. One may go with romaine or some other
kind of lettuce, but the use of raw spinach sends a message to all
onlookers that this salad may be able to take you by the throat and
throw you on the ground if you don’t pay close attention to it. Do not
let this happen, especially in front of your children, as it may cause
them to lose respect for you.
A robust green calls for
another robust green, or even – speak softly for fear of waking the
beast – a flavorful leaf of herb. No other basil but fresh basil is
appropriate in any cooking of any kind, but leaves of it complement a
simple spinach salad in ways that mere words can’t express.
For fans of the color
green, it is now time to bring on the dressing. Raw spinach and fresh
basil have nearly the same lustrous color. For others, the green must be
Here is what you do.
Dice a hard-boiled egg
and crumble some goat cheese. Both are white, and if you don’t look
carefully, the one will look nearly identical to the other. Chop finely
a small handful of red onion.
The cheese and onion are
both strong enough to complement the rich tastes of the greens, while
the egg simply adds a firm dash of white to break up the green. For
associated reasons, you may consider adding some chopped black olives.
This kind of salad cries
out for a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Cries out? Nay, it sings out
You can insult it by
applying what you can pick up in the grocery store, or you may extend
the effort and show this some respect by crafting your own.
Mix one part balsamic
vinegar with three parts of olive oil. To this, you may add things to
provide some flavor – say, some ground sea salt, ground garlic and – if
you plan to spritz in on, rather than drown the leaves, black
peppercorns. (How about white peppercorns, you ask? Do add white
instead, you sly devil.) If drown it you insist, then cracked pepper.
Make sure to mix it
thoroughly, and then not to assume that it will remain mixed. Vinegar
and oil do not remain mixed. Shake it right before each application to
make sure it mixes properly, and apply as needed to flavor your greens.
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