Special to The Leader
The Orange Leader
Calorie-conscious people often turn to salads as a low-calorie options come mealtime. Salads can be consumed at any time of the day and are no longer considered just an appetizer or side dish.
Despite their simplicity, healthy salads are not always easy to make. But there is a method to making the perfect salad. The following are a handful of ways calorie-conscious men and women can prepare a healthy and delicious salad.
• Start with fresh ingredients. Choose your own fresh ingredients rather than buying prepackaged salads. Salad mixes sold in many stores may be convenient, but they tend to get old rather quickly and could be hiding already spoiled pieces of lettuce and other greens. Use the salad kits as a guideline to which lettuce varieties go well together, then buy your own heads of lettuce. This may take more time, but it will be worth the effort. Mixing spicy greens with sweet ones like endive and romaine will balance flavors. Also, choose varying textures of greens so that there is variety in every bite.
• Wash everything well. It is essential to wash salad greens thoroughly, not only for flavor but also for safety. Even organic lettuces grown with all-natural ingredients could be harbingers of bacteria, and you don't want to run the risk of becoming ill due to a foodborne pathogen. E-coli outbreaks have been traced back to spinach and other lettuces in the past, requiring recalls on these foods. Lettuce leaves also can collect dirt and silt, which tend to lodge in the inner ends of lettuces. Insects also may be hiding out in salad greens, and that can be an unwelcome surprise to anyone.
Soak the salad greens in a bowl of cold water, then drain and repeat. The cold water will not only clean the lettuce but also perk up the leaves. Wash all salad accoutrements, including tomatoes, cucumbers and citrus fruit rinds, as well.
• Thoroughly dry. Nothing can ruin a salad faster than limp, overly wet leaves. Salad spinners are invaluable tools that can quickly rid leaves of moisture. Dry the lettuce in batches to ensure it is as dry as an be.
• Choose fresh vegetables to add punch to salads. To improve the nutritional content of salads, add an array of vibrantly colored raw vegetables. Tomatoes, peppers, artichoke hearts and beets can be combined to create a healthy and delicious salad that's loaded with flavor and vitamins.
• Add lean protein. If the salad will be your entree, adding lean protein can help you feel more satisfied after you eat. Anything from tofu to sliced salmon to kidney beans can add protein and even fiber to a salad to make it a more complete meal.
• Add dressing at the end. Wait until the last possible minute before you add salad dressing. When adding the dressing, remember the dressing should enhance the flavors of the salad and not overpower them. Light vinaigrettes made with seasoned vinegar and oil pair well with many salad combinations. Keep in mind that the oil in a dressing will penetrate the lettuce and make it limp. That is why the dressing should be added just before the salad is served. Think about placing a dollop of dressing in the bottom of a salad bowl and then toss right before eating to mix all ingredients.
Once you have become a master of salad basics, consider new ingredients and flavors to come up with combinations that please the palate.