Types of Salad & Salad Dressings
Different types of salad and salad dressings are a staple in the culinary world. There are many types of salads to master, some easy and some difficult. While there are some basic guidelines to follow, types of salads and salad dressings are largely left up to interpretation. Indeed, there are many classic types of salad such as a Nicoise, Cobb or Caesar, salads on the whole were born from the creativity and infinite combinations that can be used. The best types of salad and salad dressings in the world have yet to be discovered. Understanding what defines the many types of salad and what types of dressings there are, your options and horizons widen. No longer will you have to pick up dressings from the store when you can make your own!
There is quite a bit to cover when it comes to salad. From composed salad to salad greens to salad dressings, knowing and being familiar with each type of even the basic ingredients can take a long time to experience. We’ll start off this article with the identification and labeling of the various types of salad greens.
Types of Salad
You can break salads down into 3 types of salad. Each of these categories have their benefits and strengths.
Tossed salads is the most common salad and is prepared by tossing the greens and garnishes (Such as tomatoes, onions, or cucumber) in a dressing. A tossed salad uses leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach or watercress. It is important to remember that the greens be well dried before tossing. If the leaves are wet, the dressing won’t properly adhere to the greens causing the dressing to become watered down and generally unenjoyable. They can be garnished with many different ingredients such as nuts, cheese, fruits and vegetables. All kinds of dressings can be used including a light oil and vinegar dressing to a hearty hot bacon dressing.
Always remember to combine the dressing with the greens at the last possible second. Acid causes most greens to wilt and become soggy.
Matching dressings and salad greens
There is a rule when dressing salads: The more delicate the texture and flavor of the greens, the lighter and more subtle the dressing should be. Mayonnaise-based dressings should be used for more stronger flavored greens while a vinegar-oil dressing should be used for lighter greens.
Composed types of salad are inspired and a properly composed salad tells of that inspiration. A composed salad is one of order and detail. A composed salad is also built from the ground up, and is carefully arranged to produce a beautifully crafted salad. There are 4 layers to a composed salad: Base, Body, Garnish, and Dressing.
The Base is more often than not salad greens that line or anchor the plate where the salad will be served.
The Body is the main ingredient and can consist of other greens, vegetables, another salad made from cooked ingredients such as chicken.
The Garnish is added to the salad for color, texture and flavor. A good example is grilled chicken on a Caesar salad. It can also be simple with chopped herbs. It can be warm or cold as well. There are many options to use, but always use a garnish that compliments the flavor of the salad.
The Dressing, while sounding simple, should always compliment the salad rather than masking it. A composed salad is often served with the dressing on the side or by having it ladled over the top before serving. You may also dress the individual ingredients before composing the salad.
Preparing a Basic Composed Salad
- Gather all your ingredients and be sure to wash, cut, trim or otherwise prepare them as necessary
- Arrange your ingredients on the plate, dressing them if needed and keeping in mind the 4 layers
- Before serving, cook any items that are required to be served hot and add them to the salad
Bound types of salad are one that is made by combining cooked meats, fish, shellfish and/or legumes with a dressing and garnishes. A bound salad literally means each of the ingredients are bound together in one mass. The binding agent is usually mayonnaise based, but can include thicker vinaigrettes as well. Trying to standardize the proportions of a bound salad is difficult due to the many different types of bound salads out there, each with their own varying amounts.
Bound salads can also be used as the body for composed salads (For example, salmon salad on a bed of sorrel)
You probably haven’t heard of these types of salad but no doubt you have seen them before. A farinaceous salad is a salad that is made with potatoes, pasta or grains. A farinaceous salad differs from a bound salad in that many farinaceous salads are not bound. Many pasta salads use combinations of light dressing and flavorful ingredients to bring it together. A farinaceous salad is almost always tossed, but can be used as the body for a composed salad. A famous and popular farinaceous salad include potato salad.
There are many different types of salad greens to choose from, and chances are you already know a fair share of them. While tasting is the best method to fully acquaintance yourself with them, this guide will help you get a good head start.
Boston: Boston and bibb are among the most popular types of salad known as butterleaf lettuces. They are soft, pliable and have pale green leaves with a buttery texture and flavor. They are excellent for creating cups for holding other foods and provide great presentation appeal.
Iceberg: Probably the most popular types of salad in restaurants and food chains, iceberg is inexpensive and neutral in flavor. Many people prefer iceberg due to these qualities and mixes well with almost anything. It is almost nutritionally devoid when compared to other types of salad and eating iceberg promotes the use of more dressing due to the lack of flavor present.
Leaf: These types of salad lettuce grows in bunches and is a great choice for salad bases. It comes in both red and green variety and is easily damageable. Loved for its mild flavor and awesome deep color, leaf lettuce is a staple in gourmet salads.
Romaine: Strongly flavored, romaine is probably the more well known types of salad for its use in the classic Caesar salad. It has semi-firm and crisp leafs that are packed in a loose head. Romaine is also known as “cos”. Due to its strong flavor, romaine is well suited and can stand up to strong dressings such as garlic and Parmesan cheese. Look for a head with crisp, dark green leaves free of blemishes or yellowing.
Baby Lettuce: These types of salad lettuces are harvested before they reach maturity and give a delicate, mild flavor compared to their mature counter-parts. They are often used for composed salads. Some varieties of baby lettuce include Lola Rosa, Brune d’hiver, Baby Red Bibb, Micro Greens, Red Sails, Pirate.
The types of salad known as Chicory comes in a wide variety of color, flavor, shapes and sizes. Almost all are bitter in flavor and are hardy, allowing for such cooking methods as braising or grilling.
Belgian Endive: Small and grown in tight heads, the Belgian Endive types of salad are the shoot of a chicory root. The small sturdy leaves are great for using as cups/bases for presentation and can be filled with many different foods. They are usually grilled or braised and served with poultry or meats.
Curly Endive: Sometimes referred to as its categorical name, Chicory, or it’s french name, frisee, the curly endive has a bitter flavor the darker the leaves are. The strong flavor goes well with strong cheeses, game and citrus. Often used in a mixture with other less strong greens.
Escarole: This chicory is often called broadleaf endive and has a slight bitter flavor with thick leaves. These types of salad is a very sturdy green and is often mixed with other greens for texture. The strong flavor stands up to full-flavored dressings and is a good compliment to meats and poultry.
Radicchio: Small head and tightly packed, the red-leafed radicchio has a very strong bitter flavor and is usually grilled or braised and served as a side dish. Its attractive color makes it popular in cold salads. Due to its strong flavor, it should be used sparingly. It is quite expensive.
Other Types of Salad Greens
There are many other types of salad greens out there that you can incorporate into your salads. Many of these greens can’t be categorized into the above but are unique enough to warrant mention.
Arugula: This type of salad is spicy green and has a strong peppery flavor that is actually a member of the cabbage family. Use of this green is rarely done alone due to its strong flavor, and it should be used in conjunction with other greens.
Dandelion: You will be familiar with this type of salad green as being known as most prolific weed in the world. Its leaves are harvested while young and are slightly bitter. Older leaves can be cooked and served as a vegetable side.
Sorrel: Sometimes referred to as sourgrass, this green has leaves that look similar to spinach in color and shape. It has a very tart, lemonly flavor that goes exceptionally well with fish and shellfish and should be used sparingly and combined with other less strong greens in a salad.
Spinach: Spinach can be cooked or used in a salad and is similar to sorrel. A popular method of preparing this green is using a dressing of hot bacon fat and pouring it over the spinach which will wilt it slightly. It has a rich, tender texture. A good quality spinach should be deep green and fairly crisp. Avoid wilted or yellowed bunches.
Watercress: You can identify these types of salad watercress by its tiny penny-sized leaves and substantial stem. It has a peppery flavor that gives a good kick to salads. Buy dark green watercress with no yellowing. Watercress must be kept very cold and moist and is usually packed with ice. Individual leaves are plucked and washed before serving.
Sprouts: While sprouts aren’t salad greens, they are often used in salads, sandwiches and as a garnish. Sprouts are very young alfalfa, daikon, sunflower, radish or mustard plants.
Edible Flowers: There are many edible flowers that you can use as garnish. They offer beautiful color and presentation. Flowers you can use are nasturtiums, calendulas and pansies. Caution must be used when selecting flowers to be used. Many blossoms are toxic and some flowers have pesticides that can be harmful if ingested. Use only specially-grown flowers grown to be eaten from reputable sellers.
Without dressings, salads just wouldn’t be salads. There are many things to learn about when it comes to dressings, and this article will get you up to speed. Many of the methods taught here are used in many other capacities in cooking.
An emulsified sauce or dressing is unique. An emulsion is the uniform combination of two liquids which are unmixable, such as water and oil. By forcing these two liquids together with the help of lecithin. Lecithin is a protein that is also unique in that it has the property of being able to combine with both water and oil. The most common source of lecithin is egg yolks.
The most common emulsion is a mayonnaise. By whipping egg yolks until frothy, you slowly add oil drop by drop while whisking vigorously. Once the emulsion begins to form, the oil is added in more quantity. The fastest way to prepare mayonnaise is to make it in a Robocoupe, or food processor while slowly adding the oil. It is recommended to start with a whisk so you gain an understanding of the process.
The higher the proportion of oil to water in an emulsification, the thicker the emulsion will be. The higher the proportion of water to oil will produce a thinner emulsion.
A vinaigrette is a simple dressing, and comes from the classic French Dressing. Not to be confused with the North American commercially-available dressing that is creamy, tart/sweet and red-orange in color, a classic French dressing is 3 parts oil, 1 part vinegar, salt and pepper. When using stronger flavored oils, using less oil will help offset the strength. Some dressing recipes call for citrus juice ot be used in place of all or part of the vinegar, in which case it will take more than 1 part to balance the acidity.
There are countless ingredients to add to a vinaigrette dressing. The classic nature of a vinaigrette opens itself up to a lot of interpretation. Items such as garlic, fruit, and different types of vinegar can be used.
Because oil and water do not combine without the help of a emulsifier, it is important to whisk them as close to serving as possible.
If you’re looking for hearty, a mayonnaise-based dressing is sure to provide it. Mayonnaise by itself is a pretty heavy product, and using it in a dressing will require some robust greens that can withstand it. In order to make a mayonnaise dressing work, you’ll have to play around with it. There probably aren’t many people who would toss a salad with mayonnaise, but adding different ingredients to change the texture, color and flavor is definitely a plus. Dairy products are especially popular and include buttermilk and sour cream. This will help lighten the mayonnaise a bit. You can add vinegars, fruit juices, vegetables that are pureed or minced, tomato paste, garlic, onions, herbs, spices, capers, anchovies, boiled eggs. The list goes on and on.
Emulsified Vinaigrette Dressings
As we learned earlier about emulsification, an emulsified vinaigrette is simple a basic vinaigrette that is thickened by emulsification. Using the proportional guidelines above for oil/water, we can get the desired thickness easily. Being thinner and lighter than a mayonnaise dressing, the emulsified vinaigrette is excellent for delicate flavors and textures.
How To Prepare Emulsified Dressings
- Gather all ingredients, hold at room temperature (Room temp. ingredients emulsify easier)
- Whip eggs until frothy
- Add dry ingredients and flavorings such as herbs, garlic, shallots.
- Add small amount of liquid from recipe. Whip until incorporated.
- With your stand mixer on high or by whisking vigorously, slowly add the oil in a steady stream.
- Once the emulsion forms, add the oil a bit faster.
- Alternate between oil and liquid a few times until all the oil is used. The dressing will be much thinner than the mayonnaise. If you find your dressing too thick, thin it out using a little water, vinegar or lemon juice.
We have covered the basics in salad preparation and identification, and you have also learned how to properly make an emulsified dressing. Much of what we learn here when it comes to dressings will be applied in more advanced cooking as you progress. For example a hollandaise sauce is an emulsification that requires the use of many other skills. By using your knowledge of cooking, and coming back to The Culinary Cook to hone them, there is no limit to what you can cook! Read more