by Douglas Abrams
Believe it or not, spring is just around the corner. For most people, spring means more pleasant weather, more time spent outside and shorts-wearing weather. For the student foodie, warmer months means one thing: fresh produce.
I have been in a culinary hibernation of sorts for the last few months. Without high-quality produce, which can only be obtained during spring and summer, my cooking has become boring and bland. It’s time to vamp up our weekly menus with springtime salads. There is no better way to showcase fruits and vegetables than in salads. They are fast enough for the foodie on the go.
To start any good salad, one must make a dressing. The vinaigrette, one of the easiest dressings, is my favorite. Its flavor is simple and clean—it enhances the vegetables’ flavors.
To make a classic vinaigrette, emulsify two parts fat and one part acid. Emulsification is how one makes the acid dissolve in the fat. Two emulsify you need two things: arm strength and an emulsifier. The most common emulsifier, mustard, works by dispersing the acid particles in the oil, creating a more homogeneous and thick mixture. However, the only way to achieve an emulsion is by whisking the oil vigorously into the acid.
The most classic fat and acid combinations involve extra virgin olive oil, which is the oil taken from the first press of the olives. My favorite acids are lemons and balsamic vinegars, but any vinegar or any citrus fruit will work. Always be sure to season your vinaigrette with salt and pepper, and don’t be skimpy.
For the vegetables, you can use anything you’d like. I suggest making a bed of greens, such as lettuce or arugula, and top with other vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers.To prevent wilting, dress the salad right before you eat.
Salads are not limited to vegetables. In Italy, the classic panzanella salad, includes day-old bread.
Add olives and feta cheese to a salad for a distinctly Greek flavor and a salty finish. Incorporate watermelon or berries into your salads for a modern salad that is both sweet and savory.
Feel free to express yourself with your salads. As long as you have a flavorful dressing, you can mix produce as you wish and almost always end up with a perfect salad.