An experienced salad chef once said that it takes four people to make a salad. A spendthrift for the oil, a miser for the vinegar, a counselor for the salt and a madman to mix it all up. Perhaps a botanist should be added to the group as there are so many different kinds of leaves which can go into even a simple green salad. Their proper blending is just as important as the dressing.
Of course, to the salad purist, the word salad has only one meaning.
It stands for green lettuce leaves with olive oil and vinegar served in a wooden bowl that is rinsed, not soaped, after using. The best basic leaves for this are the head lettuces, tender Boston lettuce and the crisper iceberg. The taste of this green salad can vary by mixing these leaves with some of the others – Bibb, romaine, raab, endive, chicory, celery cabbage, dandelion and many more. While the head lettuces are bland, some greens, like water cress, are sweet. Collards are cabbagy, escarole is sharp and mustard greens are bitter. A careful blend of leaves will yield a bowl that tempts even the salad squeamish.
To salad lovers who do not subscribe to the purist philosophy, a salad can be a lot more. To them a salad can be made of almost anything, even potatoes, with no greens at all, or greens with mixtures of meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit and of course, our Bahamian staple… fish. Such salads can make tempting side dishes or fine main courses for a meal. In them the dressing is not limited: it can be French, Russian, Thousand Island, sour cream, mayonnaise or anything you like. For both kinds of salads there are only a few rules to follow.
The greens should be meticulously washed of grit and sand and tossed gently in a French salad basket or swung gently in a towel until dry. Then they may be crisped in the refrigerator. As for the dressing, if French is used, the oil should be put in first and the salad tossed until its leaves are covered. Then add a little vinegar and some salt and pepper. If bottled or premade dressing is used, it should be added a little at a time.
And a green salad should be tossed lightly at the table, just before serving.