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Salads

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A salad is a dish consisting of small pieces of food, which may be mixed with a sauce or salad dressing. They are typically served cold. Salads can incorporate a variety of foods including vegetables, fruits, cheese, cooked meat, eggs, grains and nuts.

Garden salads use a base of leafy greens like lettuce, arugula, kale or spinach; they are common enough that the word salad alone often refers specifically to garden salads. Other types include bean salad, tuna salad, fattoush, Greek salad, and Japanese sōmen salad (a noodle-based salad). The sauce used to flavour a salad is commonly called a salad dressing; well-known types include ranch, Thousand Island, and vinaigrette. Vinaigrette comes in many varieties; one version is a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, herbs and seasonings. Most salads are served cold, although some, such as south German potato salad, are served warm. Some consider the warmth of a dish a factor that excludes it from the salad category calling the warm mixture a casserole, a sandwich topping or more specifically, name it for the ingredients which comprise it.

Salads may be served at any point during a meal, such as:

Appetizer salads, light, smaller portion-salads to stimulate the appetite as the first course of the meal.

Side salads, to accompany the main course as a side dish.

Main course salads, usually containing a portion of heartier fare, such as chicken breast, salmon or slices of beef.

Dessert salads, sweet versions containing fruit, gelatine, sweeteners and/or whipped cream, or just fruit, which is called a fruit salad.

The word "salad" comes from the French salade of the same meaning, from the Latin salata (salty), from sal (salt). In English, the word first appears as "salad" or "sallet" in the 14th century. Salt is associated with salad because vegetables were seasoned with brine or salty oil-and-vinegar dressings during Roman times. The phrase "salad days", meaning a "time of youthful inexperience" (on notion of "green"), is first recorded by Shakespeare in 1606, while the use of salad bar, referring to a buffet-style serving of salad ingredients, first appeared in American English in 1976.

The Romans and ancient Greeks ate mixed greens with dressing. In his 1699 book, Acetaria: A Discourse on Sallets, John Evelyn attempted with little success to encourage his fellow Britons to eat fresh salad greens. Mary, Queen of Scots, ate boiled celery root over greens covered with creamy mustard dressing, truffles, chervil and slices of hard-boiled eggs.

The United States popularized mixed greens salads in the late 19th century. Salads including layered and dressed salads were popular in Europe since Greek imperial and particularly Roman imperial expansions. Several other regions of the world adopted salads throughout the second half of the 20th century. From Europe and the Americas to China, Japan, and Australia, salads are sold in supermarkets, at restaurants and at fast food chains. In the US market, restaurants will often have a "Salad Bar" laid out with salad-making ingredients, which the customers will use to put together their salad. Salad restaurants were earning more than $300 million in 2014.

A green salad or garden salad is most often composed of leafy vegetables such as lettuce varieties, spinach, or rocket (arugula). The salad leaves may be cut or torn into bite-sized fragments and tossed together (called a tossed salad), or may be placed in a predetermined arrangement (a composed salad). They are often adorned with garnishes such as nuts or croutons.

A wedge salad is made from a head of lettuce (such as iceberg) halved or quartered, with other ingredients on top.

Vegetables other than greens may be used in a salad. Common raw vegetables used in a salad include cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, onions, spring onions, red onions, carrots, celery, and radishes. Other ingredients, such as mushrooms, avocado, olives, hard boiled egg, artichoke hearts, heart of palm, roasted red bell peppers, green beans, croutons, cheeses, meat (e.g. bacon, chicken), or seafood (e.g. tuna, shrimp), are sometimes added to salads.

A "bound" salad can be composed (arranged) or tossed (put in a bowl and mixed with a thick dressing). They are assembled with thick sauces such as mayonnaise. One portion of a true bound salad will hold its shape when placed on a plate with an ice-cream scoop. Examples of bound salad include tuna salad, pasta salad, chicken salad, egg salad and potato salad. Bound salads are often used as sandwich fillings. They are popular at picnics and barbecues, because they can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.

Main course salads (also known as "dinner salads" and commonly known as "entrée salads" in North America) may contain grilled or fried chicken pieces, seafood such as grilled or fried shrimp or a fish steak such as tuna, mahi-mahi, or salmon or sliced steak, such as sirloin or skirt. Caesar salad, Chef salad, Cobb salad, Chinese chicken salad and Michigan salad are dinner salads.

Fruit salads are made of fruit, and include the fruit cocktail that can be made fresh or from canned fruit.

Dessert salads rarely include leafy greens and are often sweet. Common variants are made with gelatine or whipped cream; e.g. jello salad, pistachio salad and ambrosia. Other forms of dessert salads include snickers salad, glorified rice, and cookie salad popular in parts of the Midwestern United States.

A composed salad is a salad arranged on a plate rather than put into a bowl. It can be used as a meal in itself rather than as a part of a meal.

Sauces for salads are often called "dressings". The concept of salad dressing varies across cultures.

In Western culture, there are two basic types of salad dressing: Creamy dressing and Vinaigrette

Creamy dressings, usually based on mayonnaise or fermented milk products, such as yogurt, sour cream (crème fraîche, smetana), buttermilk;

Vinaigrette /vɪnəˈɡrɛt/ is a mixture (emulsion) of salad oil and vinegar, often flavoured with herbs, spices, salt, pepper, sugar and other ingredients. It is also used as a sauce or marinade.

In North America, mayonnaise-based Ranch dressing is most popular, with vinaigrettes and Caesar-style dressing following close behind. Traditional dressings in France are vinaigrettes, typically mustard-based, while sour cream (smetana) and mayonnaise are predominant in eastern European countries and Russia. In Denmark, dressings are often based on crème fraîche. In southern Europe, salad is generally dressed by the diner with olive oil and vinegar.

In Asia, it is common to add sesame oil, fish sauce, citrus juice, or soy sauce to salad dressings.

Popular salad garnishes are nuts, croutons, anchovies, bacon bits (real or imitation), garden beet, bell peppers, shredded carrots, diced celery, watercress, sliced cucumber, parsley, sliced mushrooms, sliced red onion, radish, french fries, sunflower seeds (shelled), real or artificial crab meat (surimi) and cherry tomatoes. Various cheeses, berries, seeds and other ingredients can also be added to green salads. Cheeses, in the form of cubes, crumbles, or grated, are often used, including blue cheese, Parmesan cheese, and feta cheese. Colour considerations are sometimes addressed by using edible flowers, red radishes, carrots, various colours of peppers, and other colourful ingredients.