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Our 2013 Holiday Gift Guide is in full swing - we are adding our recommendations daily, aimed at men, women, teens, families, techies, and more. If you need help figuring out what to get the people in your life, head on over to our Guide for some ideas. We’ll even be giving away some of the items featured this year!
While we are in the middle of salad week, don’t think we forgot about all those tasty salads that have nothing to do with lettuce. In fact, here is a recipe for Italian Tomato Cheese Salad - perfect for use an an hors d’oeuvre or first course:
Italian Tomato Cheese Salad
- 2-3 tomatoes, sliced thinly
- 6-8 ounces cheese (mozzarella, baby Swiss, or havarti), sliced thinly
- olive oil
- salt (optional)
- 1 teaspoon fresh basil, minced
Slice the cheese to the size of each tomato slice. Place the tomato and cheese slices in three rows down a plate, alternating tomato and cheese. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and salt lightly if desired. Sprinkle minced basil over the salad. The dish may be chilled or served at room temperature.
Wash garden lettuces or other salad greens well, but do not let them soak in water. This can soften the leaves and cause them to spoil quicker. Dry the greens thoroughly, either by blotting with paper towels or with a salad spinner.
They can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, but put a damp paper towel into the bag before closing. Otherwise, place a paper towel in the bottom of a plastic container. Put in the salad greens, then place a damp paper towel over the lettuce. Cover with an airtight lid.
Watercress can be stored by sticking the stems in a glass of water and placing a plastic bag over the leaves. Wild greens should be used immediately. Lettuce will last 3-5 days depending on the variety. Romaine will keep longer. Tear or cut lettuces and greens before adding them to salads. Cut strong-tasting wild greens into smaller pieces than you would for lettuces to distribute their flavors.
Many of the greens found in the wild have become legitimized by the popularity of mesclun mixes and intentionally cultivated. Mesclun, comes from a French word meaning “mixture.” Originating in Provence, France, mesclun traditionally was a blend of chervil, arugula, lettuce, and endive. These were usually grown together and harvested when only a few inches high.
Mesclun in America is much more varied. Not only are the blends packed with eight to sixteen different kinds of greens, but they are also geared for different tastes. Some are quite mild and contain much more lettuce. Peppery mescluns can have cresses, chicory, arugula, and mustards mixed with regular leaf lettuce. Many of the greens in these salad blends are: lettuces, endives, mustards, purslane, cresses, escarole, arugula, chard, and spinach. Exotic greens like mizuna from Japan or tat-soi from China are popular, too. Some mescluns even have herbs, like parsleys and fennels, and edible flowers.
The Salad Blaster is a way to transport your salad and your dressing without mingling the two until the precise moment. The lid of the Salad Blaster stores the dressing and the spacious container holds the greens. When you get to your picnic, pour the dressing into the salad. Put on the lid and shake. Individual plastic storage container to fit round veggies like bell peppers and onions are handy to have. They are great for storing half used vegetables. There’s a little hook on the edge of the container so you can hang the container on the front of a shelf in the fridge. That way your partially used veggie won’t get lost in the fridge.
Most wild salad greens are just pesky weeds to most people. Yet, many upscale supermarkets carry wild greens, and fine dining establishments use dandelion greens, a variety of watercresses, lambs quarters, and even French purslane in their creations. These weeds are really nutritious and very tasty. Wash them well, and chop or tear them into very small pieces to distribute their unique flavors. Use singly in a salad or mix them with other wild greens and domestic lettuces. Dress lightly so you don’t mask their flavors. Besides eating them raw, these greens can be wilted or steamed and served with a vinaigrette dressing or a splash of balsamic vinegar.
It has been long known that chefs use nasturtiums as garnishes and as ingredients in salads. One of the first to peep out of the ground and burst into bloom are spring violets. These orchid-like flowers add color to spring salads, are used for garnishes for tea sandwiches and desserts, and can even be candied for wedding cake decorations. Johnny-jumpups and pansies can also be candied for decorations. Other flowers that can be a great addition to salads are calendula (tangy, peppery taste), anise hyssop (anise flavor), dianthus (pinks taste like cloves), lavender, lovage (celery flavor), and roses. Depending on the variety, marigolds can have a peppery taste or a citrus zing. Squash blossoms have been used in salads, but are also stuffed, sauteed, or breaded and deep fried whole.
Though you wash salad greens thoroughly, you don’t want the leaves to remain wet or your salad dressings will slide right off. That’s why a salad spinner is essential for any home cook. A salad spinner uses centrifugal force to spin the water away from the salad greens to the sides of the container. The large pump action ones are the best. You don’t have to crank the thing. You just pump the pump in the middle and around the salad basket goes. It has a non-skid base to keep the spinner from flying around your kitchen and comes with a brake that will slow the basket so you can dive right into your greens.
Some models come with a suction cup base and others have a crank on top instead of a pump. Whatever model you get, make sure it the basket comes with a solid bottomed bowl. There are some out there with holes in the bottom so you have to use them over the sink. Otherwise, you get water all over the place.
The foundation of most salads is a leafy green, usually lettuce. A member of the daisy family, lettuce is thought to have come from Central Asia and was cultivated in the royal gardens of Persia around 500 BC. Four main types of lettuce exist today: looseleaf, cos (romaine), butterhead, and crisphead (Iceberg). Looseleaf varieties include black-seeded Simpson, Oakleaf, Salad Bowl, and the red varieties (Red Sails and Red Salad Bowl). Butterhead lettuces, Bibb and Boston, are most prized by chefs for their tender, sweet leaves. Romaine lettuce is crisper than looseleaf and has a longer shelf life. Escarole, a peppery green, is highly prized for its peppery taste and its spiky look.
When we think of summer, cooking in a hot kitchen is the last thing we want to do. That’s why salads, cold soups, and quick grilled entrees have become some of summer greatest culinary pleasures. This week, we’re going to look at salads and salad dressings.
Any vegetable can be used in a salad, either as the base or as a delicious tidbit in a lovely bowl of lettuce. Leftover cooked vegetables (lima beans, broccoli, peas, asparagus, carrots, beets, etc.) are great additions, as well as many of their counterparts served raw. Sprouts, raisins, celery, various nuts, onions, garlic, capers, and olives are also great in salads. Even sliced apples, pears, mangoes, and oranges can add sweet taste and texture. Cheeses and cooked meats and chicken can kick up a salad from a beginning or ending of a meal to its main attraction. Edible flowers have historically been used in salads. They can be ordered from organic gardeners or from food suppliers.
Chef Scott suggests serving a salad at the end of a meal or between courses to cleanse the palate and prepare for a luscious dessert or piquant course.
Welcome to Feed Squeeze. Here you’ll find out everything you wanted to know about the culinary arts and how you can become a food expert in your own kitchen. We’ll feature your favorite foods and introduce you to new ones. We’ll talk about wine, how to store it, how to serve it, and what to serve it with. We’ll experiment with cooking with wine and spirits. We’ll look into the history of specific foods and why we eat them the way we do. We’ll showcase specific herbs and spices and how to use them. We’ll look over the latest kitchen tools and gadgets as well as talk about the benefits of good knives and industry-trusted cookware. We’ll even describe special techniques like how to mince properly or to julienne vegetables or how to make sauces. And, of course, we’ll share recipes. From time to time, there will be stories about regional chefs, small wineries, and craft breweries. There will also be food news highlights.
All of this culinary goodness is brought to you by our Food Squeeze editors, featuring Janie Franz, veteran writer and long-time from-scratch cook, with the expert help of her son, Chef Scott Franz, the executive chef at the Toasted Frog in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
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