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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 broken up.


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 for one.


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.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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