Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Salad Days Ahead! Salad Class Notes

Last Saturday was the day for salads! I taught two classes in two great communities, one in Santa Fe Springs and the other in Yorba Linda Public Library. With so many eager folks excited to learn about preparing healthy salads including; the care of greens, types of salads, dressings and preparation. I felt it would be good to recap some of the information and tips for a season of successful salad making at home. If you like these salads, recipes are in the book Cook like a Caterer, party sized recipes for entertaining!

First off lets go over the basic types of salad; There are 4 main types of salads: Appetizer, Main Dish Accompaniment, Dessert Salad. Most have alternative names you know them better by.

Buttermilk Dressing, Cook like a Caterer
1. Appetizer or Side Salad  Smaller side salad served before the main course conservative in size, most have some greens and 2 or 3 additional vegetables. The role of the Appetizer Salad is to serve as a starter to stimulate the appetite and is served at the beginning of a meal.
Make it with crisp greens, fresh or dried fruits or raw vegetables, and keep the servings small. A side salad is often served on a 7 inch plate be served in a small bowl. It is most often served with dressing over the top or on the side.
Mandarin Chicken Salad, Cook like a Caterer

2. Main Dish or Entree Salad Large salad with lots of greens. It may also have a pasta or grain base with or without greens. The Main Dish Salad can be made with meat, fish, eggs, poultry, vegetable, fruit or cheese and are usually a combination of these. This salad is served in a meal size portion and can also have warm components. Main Dish Salads are usually served on the main dish plate.

Broccoli Salad, Cook like a Caterer

3. Accompaniment Salad or Prepared Salad contrasts with the entree can be made with shredded greens, such as cabbage or vegetables, beans, pasta, grains or potatoes.
Potato salad, pasta salad, coleslaw, are all good examples of Accompaniment Salads.

4. Dessert Salad may also be considered a Accompaniment Salad - This may be a sweetened, molded or frozen salad made of fruit gelatin or fruit mixture in a binding dressing. If dressing is involved, it is usually whipped cream, yogurt or other syrup type and slightly sweet. This salad can act as a dessert or as another accompaniment to the meal.
A beautiful assortment of salad makes a stunning display for any gathering. Catering by Chef Renee, Fresh Ideas Events

Now we can look at basic salad structure. There are four main parts of a salad:
1. The base – in a green salad, this is usually either one lettuce, or an assortment of leafy greens.
2. The body – in a green salad, this is usually added vegetables like tomato or cucumber. It can also include protein like chicken of ham, tuna or egg or cheese.
3. The dressing – there are two main types, with many variations including, a mayonnaise base or a vinaigrette.
4. The garnish – this is any product used to finish or enhance the salad, like parsley, basil, green onion or olives.

Vinters Salad, Cook like a Caterer

The two most common presentations are composed salads and tossed salads. 

Composed Salads are arranged either in the serving container or layered.

Tossed Salads are usually greens and smaller size vegetables tossed together. A dressing can be either tossed with it or served on the side.

Lemon Basil Vinaigrette, Cook like a Caterer

Vinaigrette – a mixture of vegetable oil, vinegar, and seasonings. Mayonnaise – a thick, creamy dressing that is an emulsion of oil, vinegar, egg yolk and seasoning.

Vinaigrette is the most common salad dressing. It is a mixture of oil, vinegar (or acid) and seasoning.
The addition of even a small amount of mustard helps create an emulsion. Emulsion is mixture of one liquid with another with which it cannot normally combine smoothly, oil and water being the classic example.

The usual ratio for a vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid Example: 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil, 2 T. white wine vinegar and 1 t. Dijon mustard.

Other examples: Walnut, Sunflower seed, rape Seed oil, Canola oil. Red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar. Flavorings include; Herbs, spices, citrus zest, and berries.

 Mayonnaise Based Dressings-
Typically the base of the dressing is mayonnaise and seasonings are added. Mayonnaise is a thick, creamy dressing that is an emulsion of oil, vinegar and egg yolk. Some dressings have sour cream or yogurt in addition to mayonnaise. This type of dressing has a thicker and creamier consistency. Ranch, Blue Cheese,Thousand Island and Green Goddess are examples of mayonnaise based dressings.
South American Grilled Vegetable Salad with a Creamy Cilantro Dressing, Cook like a Caterer 


  •  Wash and dry greens thoroughly. Do this well before serving. Air drying tends to be the most gentle, spinning in a salad spinner and or towel drying is also alternatives.
  • Do no over handle or smash greens or they become bruised and wilted. 
  • Keep washed and drained greens wrapped in a dry paper towel and refrigerate in a plastic container or a large plastic bag. 
  • Protect greens from freezing. Store in the warmest part of your fridge. Wrapping a dry towel around the container can help insulate.
  • Crisp up limp greens by placing in cool or ice water for an hour before draining and drying. 
  • When preparing salad days ahead, tear greens instead of cutting with a metal knife. This will help avoid brown rusty edges.

Orchard Chicken Salad, Cook like a Caterer 


  • The dressing should complement the other flavors in the salad.
  • Handle greens as little as possible.
  • Choose fresh, quality products and prepare salad just before serving.
  • Prepare salad dressing 2-3 hours before serving and chill.
  • Avoid too much dressing. You will need nearly half as much dressing if tossing on the greens. 
  • Do not put the dressing on or salt a green salad until just before serving.
  • Salad Ingredients should be well drained and dry.
Happy Salad Days Everyone!


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