A salad is a food served with a dressing that can be a cold dish or green vegetables or a mix of fruits or frozen mixture of food or chopped food. In India and Nepal it is generally prepared as mixture of certain fresh raw vegetables. Salads are prepared from raw or cooked vegetable, meats, fish, seafood, egg, poultry, cheese, pasta, fruits etc. Salad can be served as a first course in a small quantity. It can also be served as a salad course or as an accompaniment with the main dish or roast course. Salad should be chilled, crisp, piquant, and colorful.
Food historians tell us salads (generally defined as mixed greens with dressing) were enjoyed by ancient Romans and Greeks. As time progressed, salads became more complicated. Recipes varied according to place and time. Dinner salads, as we know them today, were popular with Renaissance folks. Composed salads assembled with layers of ingredients were enjoyed in the 18th century. They were called Salmagundi. Today they are called chef’s salad.
Why do we call it salad?
The basis for the word salad is ‘sal’, meaning salt. This was chosen because in ancient times, salt was often an ingredient in the dressing. “Salad, a term derived from the Latin sal (salt), which yielded the form salata, ‘salted things’ such as the raw vegetables eaten in classical times with a dressing of oil, vinegar or salt. The word turns up in Old French as salade and then in late 14th century English as salad or sallet.”
The key ingredient of salad, and the reason for its getting its name, is the dressing. The Romans were enthusiastic eaters of salads, many of their differing hardly at all from present-day ones–a simple selection of raw vegetables, and they always used a dressing of some sort: oil, vinegar, and often brine. And hence the name salad, which comes from Vulgar Latin Herba salata, literally ‘salted herb’.”
“Although the ancient Greeks and Romans did not use the world “salad,” they enjoyed a variety of dishes with raw vegetables dressed with vinegar, oil, and herbs…The medical practitioners Hippocrates and Galen belived that raw vegetables easily slipped through the system and did not create obstructions for what followed, therefore they should be served first. Others reported that the vinegar in the dressing destroyed the taste of the wine, therefore they should be served last. This debate has continued ever since…With the fall of Rome, salads were less important in western Europe, although raw vegetables and fruit were eaten on fast days and as medicinal correctives…The term salade derived from the Vulgar Roman herba salata, literally ‘salted herb’. It remained a feature of Byzantine cookery and reentered the European menu via medieval Spain and Renaissance Italy. At first “salad” referred to various kinds of greens pickled in vinegar or salt. The word salade later referred to fresh-cooked greens of raw vegetables prepared in the Roman manner.”
The Structure of a Salad:
Most salads have four basic parts: base, body, dressing and garnish, but a particular salad may or may not have all four parts.
1. Base or under liner:
Leafy green such as lettuce, cabbage, etc. usually form the base of a salad. They add greatly to the appearance of most salads, which would look naked on a bare plate. Besides this, salad greens give height to salads and help to confine loose pieces of food.
This is the main part of the salad. Depending on its variety, it may consist of a single ingredient or multiple ingredients including meats, poultry, fruits, cheeses, etc. Salads are classified into 3 groups based on ingredients in the body:
i. Simple salad that is composed of one particular item, usually a vegetable such as lettuce, cabbage, potato, carrot, watercress, etc. and is seasoned with a dressing. The vegetable may be cooked or raw.
ii. Compound salad that is made of a combination of several food items and is sometimes called a mixed salad. Vegetables (cooked or uncooked) are most often used but salad may also include some cooked fish, prawns, chicken and meat, seasoned with dressing.
iii. Special salad consists of a combination of several items including fish, seafood, mushrooms, poultry, meat, that are “above the ordinary”. The salad is generally quite comprehensive and well-decorated.
The purpose of a garnish is to give eye appeal to the salad, though it often adds to the flavor as well. It should not be elaborate or dominate the salad. The basic rule of garnishing is to keep it simple. Garnish should harmonize with the rest of the salad ingredients and be edible. It may be mixed with the other salad ingredients or may be added at the end.
Salad dressings are liquids or semi-liquids used to flavor salads. They are sometimes considered cold sauces and they serve the same functions as sauces; that is they add flavor, moistness and enrich the body. They help also indigestion.
Most of the basic salad dressing used today can be divided into three categories:
a. Oil and vinegar dressings
b. Mayonnaise- based dressings
c. Cooked dressings
There are also a number of dressings in which the main ingredients include products such as sour cream, yogurtAnd and fruit juices. Many are designed specifically for fruit salads or for low-calorie diets.
Note that dressing is a seasoning for the main ingredients. It should not accent their flavor, overpower or drown them.
Note: All oils except coconut are “Winterized oils” as they would not harden when kept in the fridge.
Oils Used: Corn oil is widely used in dressings. It has a light golden color and is nearly tasteless, except from a very mild cornmeal flavor. Cottonseed, Soya bean and sun flower seed oils are also bland, nearly tasteless oils and therefore suitable for blending salad dressings. They also have the advantage of being low cost.
Peanut oil has a mild but distinctive flavor and may be used in appropriate dressings. It is somewhat more expensive. Olive oil has a very distinctive, fruity flavor and aroma and a greenish color. The best olive oils are called virgin, which means they are made from the first pressing of the olives. Because of its flavor, olive oil is not all- purpose oil but may be used in specialty salads.
Walnut oil has a distinctive flavor and a high price. It is occasionally used in elegant restaurants featuring specialty salads. Other nut oils, such as hazelnut oil are sometimes used.
Winterized oil should be used with dressings that are to be refrigerated. These are oils that have been treated (saturated fatty acids removed) so that they will remain a clear liquid when chilled.
Cider vinegar is made from apples. It is brown in color and has a slightly sweet, apple taste. White or distilled vinegar is distilled and purified so that it has a neutral flavor.
Wine vinegar may be white or red, and has, naturally, a wine flavor. Flavored vinegars are those that have other products added to them, for example tarragon.
Sherry vinegar is made from sherry wine and consequently, has the distinctive flavor of the wine.
Balsamic vinegar is special wine vinegar that has been aged in wooden barrels. It is dark brown in color and has a noticeably sweet taste.
Other specialty vinegars include malt vinegar, rice vinegar, and vinegars flavored with fruits such as raspberry.
Vinegars should have a good, clean sharp flavor for their type. Strength of acidity determines the tartness of the vinegar- and of the dressing made from it. Most salad vinegars range from 3 to 5% acidity. Vinegar that is too strong should be diluted with a little water before it is measured for a recipe.
White vinegar is used when a completely neutral flavor is desired for a dressing other vinegars are used for their characteristic flavors. Wine vinegars are usually preferred for the best quality oil- and – vinegar dressings. Lemon juice may also be used in place or in addition to vinegar in some preparation.
Types of Salad
1. Appetizer salads: Appetizer salads should stimulate the appetite. It means they must have fresh, crisp ingredients, tangy, flavorful dressing, attractive and appetizing appearance. Proportioned of salads should not be so large but they should be substantial enough to serve as a complete course in themselves. The combination of ingredients should be interesting, not dull or tired. Flavorful foods like cheese, ham, salami, shrimp, in small quantities add appeal. Attractive arrangement and garnish are important because visual appeal stimulates appetite.
2. Accompaniment salads: Salads can also be served with the main course. They serve the same functions as other side dishes. Light salad goes with heavy main course and heavy salad goes with light main course. They must balance and harmonize with the rest of the meal like any other side dish. They should be light and flavorful, not too rich.
3. Main course salads: Cold salad plates have become very popular on luncheon menus especially among nutrition and diet conscious consumers. They should be large enough to serve as full meal and should contain a substantial portion of protein. Meats, poultry, seafood, cheese are popular choices. They should offer enough variety on the plate to be a balanced meal, both nutritionally and flavors and textures. In addition to the protein, a salad platter should offer a variety of vegetables.
4. Dessert salads sweets: Dessert salads are usually sweet and may contain items such as fruits, sweetened gelatin, nuts and cream. They are often too sweet and best served as dessert.
Guidelines for Arranging Salads:
1. Keep the salad off the rim of the plate
Think of the rim as a picture frame and arrange the salad within the frame. Select the right plate for the portion size, not too large or too small.
2. Maintain good balance of colors
Plain iceberg lettuce looks pale and sickly all by itself, but can be livened up by mixing in some darker greens and some reds from carrots, red cabbage, etc. On the other hand, do not go overboard as too many colors may make the whole look messy.
3. Height helps make a salad attractive.
Ingredients molded on the plate are more interesting than if they are spread flat.
4. Cut ingredients neatly.
Ragged or sloppy cutting makes the whole salad look sloppy and haphazard.
5. Make every ingredient identifiable.
Cut every ingredient into large enough pieces so that the customers can recognize each of them immediately.
6. Keep it simple.
A simple, natural arrangement is pleasing. An elaborate design, a gimmicky or contrived arrangement may not be so. Besides, elaborate designs take too long to arrange and may involve much handling, thus increasing risk of food contamination.