We have reached the salad course. While most Americans today serve a salad at the beginning of the meal or along side an Entrée; the European style of dining (particularly French and Italian) places the salad at the end of the meal; before the dessert or cheese courses. There are a lot of theories out there as to why this is done. The bottom line is that a salad at the end of the meal serves two purposes – it refreshes the palate; a break between the savory flavors of the Entrée and the sweetness of the dessert and it aids in the digestive system. Personally, I feel “special” when having a salad at the end of the meal, knowing that the sweets are soon to follow. Hubby has his own theory – a chilled salad will hold in the refrigerator, and he’d rather enjoy his hot food while it is piping hot.
Somewhere along the line, salads in America moved from the end of the meal to the beginning. Generally speaking, salads are served at the end in upscale restaurants and formal affairs. In our house, the salad is generally served at the end. For the purpose of this roaming feast, we’ve placed the salad at the end, but you can serve it whenever and wherever it makes the most sense.
The recipes that follow are only a sampling of the wonderful salads out there. Even a simple salad of tomatoes and tender greens will work.
The great thing about this salad from Everyday French is that it is a per-person recipe; which means you can make just the right amount of salad.
Arugula Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 large handful of Arugula
1/2 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Wash the arugula and spin it dry. By the way, the everyday French chef doesn’t shy from using ‘salad in a bag’ — but it still needs rinsing to get those chemicals off. The fresher the Arugula, the less bitter and more peppery the flavor. Set aside.
In the bottom of your salad bowl, combine the vinegar and the olive oil, stirring energetically to create an emulsified sauce. If the sauce does not emulsify, add a little bit more oil. Peel the garlic clove and cut in half. Add to the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Just before serving, remove the garlic from the sauce and add the arugula to the bowl. Toss well.
Another wonderful, authentic salad from Everyday French is this Caesar Salad, complete with home-made croutons.
Caesar Salad with Herbal Croutons
Ingredients – Herbal Croutons
1 loaf French bread or another crusty bread
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 branch rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried herbs (thyme, oregano or herbes de Provence)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Make the croutons. Cut the bread in half crosswise to make two manageable pieces. Slice each piece in half lengthwise. Then cut each half into strips. Now cut through the strips crosswise to form cubes about 3/4 inch per side. Important: Do not discard the crust! Remember, the crust is what gave croutons their name.
Spread the bread cubes out on a rimmed baking sheet and allow them to dry-out for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven heats, transfer the cubes to a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the herbs, salt and pepper. Toss, so that the cubes are evenly coated.
Return the cubes back to the baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until golden. This process can go very quickly — to prevent burning, which would ruin the croutons, peek into the oven after 10 minutes and keep checking frequently until they are done.
Allow the croutons to cool completely. If you don’t need all the croutons at once, you can store them in a covered plastic container in the fridge for up to a week. Simply reheat gently before serving. Serves 6.
Ingredients – Caesar Salad
1 cup (or more) herbal croutons (above)
1 head romaine lettuce
2 egg yolks
juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tbsp.)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 large clove garlic or 2 medium cloves, peeled and chopped
2 anchovy filets, chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
Chop the romaine crosswise into strips about 2 inches (5 cm) wide. Wash, spin dry and set aside in the fridge.
Combine all the remaining ingredients except the cheese in a blender (hand-held or countertop).
Pulse until you have a thick, emulsified sauce. Transfer to the bottom of a large salad bowl. Stir in the cheese.
Five minutes before serving, return the croutons to a preheated oven to warm them. Place the chilled romaine on top of the dressing. Toss. Add the croutons. Toss again.
Serves 4 as a salad course, 2 as a main course.
The beauty of this Caprese Salad (aside from the wonderful color) is that it is designed to serve on individual plates.
3 or 4 tomatoes, good quality, such as heirloom
1 lb fresh mozzarella
fresh Italian basil (do not substitute dried)
extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or good quality sea salt
Slice the tomatoes into about 3/8″ thick slices. Slice the mozzarella into the same sized slices.
Arrange the tomato and mozzarella slices alternating onto well-chilled salad plates. If desired, tuck fresh basil between the slices.
Drizzle salad generously with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with salt just before serving.
This beautiful Greek Salad is made with a multitude of colorful and flavorful vegetables. It naturally lends itself well to a large platter presentation to display all its beauty.
Feta Greek Salad
1 head romaine lettuce, rinsed, dried and chopped
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 (6 ounce) can pitted Marinated Green olives, sliced
1 Yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 Red bell pepper, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 cucumber, sliced
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 lemon, juiced
ground black pepper to taste
In a large salad bowl, combine the Romaine, onion, olives, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumber and cheese.
Whisk together the olive oil, oregano, lemon juice and black pepper. Pour dressing over salad, toss and serve.
One of my all-time favorite salads is simply a mixture of tender greens, pears and walnuts. The Feta is optional. It adds to the flavor of the pears. The dressing for this salad is nothing more than fresh squeezed lemons with a little olive oil. Truffle oil would be wonderful, if you happen to keep it on hand as I do.
Winter Salad with Walnuts & Pears
4 large handfuls of mixed salad greens
1 cup walnut halves
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt freshly ground to taste
freshly ground black pepper
Wash the salad greens, spin dry and place in a large bowl. Wash, quarter and core the pears. Slice the quarters crosswise and add them to the bowl. Scatter the walnut halves over the salad. If not serving immediately, place in the refrigerator to keep well-chilled.
When ready to serve, add the lemon juice, olive oil and seasonings. Toss well and place on chilled plates. Sprinkle with Feta and serve.
Do you have a favorite salad? I’d love to hear about it. Remember, if you like what you see, please let me know. Comments are always welcome.