There’s a lot left unsaid with that one simple word.
There are appetizer salads, side salads, main course salads, palate cleansing salads, and dessert salads. There are cold salads, warm salads and hot salads. Green salads like pistachio salad that don’t have a single vegetable in them, and lettuce salads that have nothing but vegetables in them – hence we call them “garden salads.” We have raw vegetable salads, cooked vegetable salads, grain salads (like orzo) and pasta salads. There are fruit salads, potato salads, seafood salads even protein salads (think tuna, chicken, egg or even the dreaded ham salad).
Panzanella is a salad just like tabouli, larb, fattoush and caprese. But things start to get a bit crazy when you think about taco salad, chinese chicken salad, Waldorf salad and seven-layer salad. And, don’t forget that technically coleslaw, bean salad and the midwest’s “cookie salad” are all still considered salads.
Most of us have been graced with one or more of these salads during our lifetime. They are nothing new to us. But, what you may not have known is that the word “salad” comes from the French word salade which is a derivation of the Latin word salata (salty) from the root word…you guessed it…sal (salt). The name came from the practice of seasoning vegetables with brine or salty oil-and-vinegar dressings during Roman times.
Which brings us to the subject of dressings. There primarily three types: vinaigrettes, creamy dressings, and cooked dressings. Vinaigrettes really need no introduction – vinegar meet oil, end of story. Creamy dressings, however, can be mayonnaise, yogurt or creme fraiche based. Cooked dressings are essentially creamy dressings that use milk or buttermilk and are thickened by cooking egg yolks with gentle heat. To really mix things up a bit, the Japanese are known to use sesame oil, fish sauce, citrus and soy sauce as common ingredients in their salad dressings.
We are probably most familiar with ranch dressing, blue cheese dressing, Ceasar, French and Russian, as well as ginger dressing, honey dijon, Italian, Louie and Thousand Island. But, did you know that tahini is also a common dressing? And, now that we have broached the subject of topping your salad, lets not forget the area of garnishes.
Maybe you prefer croutons or bacon bits or sunflower seeds, or nuts, or shredded parmesan cheese…or maybe even anchovies or edible flowers. All in all, there’s a lot to consider when you set out to make a salad. More often than not though, it’s the simplest recipes that produce the most memorable dishes. With that in mind, we present to you as part of our Picnic Series of blog posts one of the simplest salad recipes we know of. Three basic ingredients – romaine, red onion and blue cheese – plus salt, pepper, oil & vinegar. That’s all you need. Go on, what are you waiting for?
- Slice heads of romaine in half. Set in large bowl. Drizzle with EVOO & balsamic vinegar then sprinkle with salt & pepper.
- Clean red onion and leave whole.
- Place onion on grill first to give it a head start cooking. The onion only needs to be partly cooked so that it no longer has that raw, red onion bite.
- Once outer layer of onion begins to char, place romaine halves on grill. Cooking quickly turn once. Allow romaine to partially wilt and char, but not so that then entire head becomes mushy.
- Remove romaine and red onion from grill.
- Chop romaine in 1-1/2” pieces.
- Slice red onion longitudinally in ¼” strips.
- Toss romaine and red onion strips together with blue cheese crumbles.