Salads have come a long way. Once upon a time, they were merely appetizers-a combination of iceberg lettuce, tomato wedges, carrot slices, and maybe a few croutons, all doused with a salad dressing, like a creamy French, Russian, Thousand Island, or oily Italian. Today, salads are much more colorful, tasty, and substantial, often served as entrées unto themselves. With different salad greens such as mâche, mizuna, and escarole gaining mainstream acceptance, today's salads show great diversity and depth of flavors. You can fruits, nuts, and edible flowers to the greens, or those popular staples potato, tuna, chicken, and fruit.
Salad greens taste best soon after purchase, but sometimes they just have to wait-ideally, store them in their original packaging in the refrigerator's crisper. Tender greens like mâche and mesclun greens will keep for a few days; head lettuces such as iceberg, oakleaf, and bibb will keep in the crisper for more than a week. If you are storing washed greens, wrap a damp paper towel around them. Alternatively, line a salad spinner with a damp paper towel and use it as a crisper.
Loose lettuce leaves such as mâche, baby spinach, and tatsoi are already bite-size, but others, like those found in heads of Boston, romaine, and escarole, are much too large to be eaten in one mouthful. Help your fellow salad eaters by tearing up the leaves into smaller pieces. This will also allow you to mix different salad components more evenly. Some salad greens, however-endive, radicchio, and frisée, for example-look better intact.
The best way to ensure that you get the most nutrients out of a salad is to try to include multiple colors. Red, orange, and yellow vegetables and fruits are high in beta carotene (vitamin A), lycopene, and vitamin C. Dark leafy greens are full of iron, folic acid, and fiber. Foods that are blue and purple are high in potassium and flavanoids. When combined, they make for a well-rounded dish.
Hold the Fat
Don't let "salad" fool you into thinking it's always the healthiest option for a meal. Portion control is key, as are these other tricks: Incorporate as many colorful vegetables as possible. Not only will the salad look pretty, it'll add more vitamins and minerals. Have your dressing on the side but not in the bottle or cruet. Pour out the amount in a small container so you know how much you're actually using. Also, the creamier it is, the more fattening it will be. And unless you're good about limiting how many croutons you put on your salad, toppings like bacon bits, cheese, and crackers all add calories and fat.
Name that Salad
Dress It Up
Esther Sung first joined Epicurious.com in 2006. Prior to this, she spent several years in book publishing, including at Harper Entertainment, where the proverbial three-martini lunch was sadly nowhere to be found. When not in the office, she moonlights at the Bottle Shoppe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and through this she has developed a fondness for Syrah and Malbec. A quasi-vegetarian, she admits to having relished eating yuk hwe, a Korean raw beef dish.
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