The secret to a good salad

Among them was the Caesar salad that made Richard Caughey cry. (Photo: Unsplash/ Chris A. Tweet)

Green pleasure

Salads that make our author cry again and again – of course with joy. Genius lies in simplicity.

I cry a lot Mostly from happiness and emotion, rarely from emotional or physical pain. Food brings more happy tears to my blue eyes. How many times I cried! Because in those moments I understood what was before me; it is so grand and unique that it cannot be prepared any better. The special occasion demands and earns its place in my culinary eternity. And it shows me that food and cooking are the plasters for the wounds that life has inflicted on me.

Anyone who thinks of complex and expensive creations is wrong. My world is just dying. Even (three) green salads made it onto my personal list of tears. No, my mother was not there. He sprinkled lots of sugar on lots of leaves to tempt us kids into the salad bowl. But it was in terms of focusing on green things. But my interest in him was awakened.

Genius is that simple

Nevertheless, decades passed before the first salad tears. At that time, Amorum’s aunt in Modena served coniglione in a bowl filled with crispy leaves. It wasn’t just because of the very short three meter distance between her garden bed and the kitchen table.

Signora taught me that it takes four chefs to make the perfect salad. Generously, for olive oil (150 ml for 2-3 servings). A patient person who stirs until no oil is visible at the bottom of the bowl. economical with a pinch of salt. And stingy with a teaspoon of wine vinegar. Genius is that simple.

The second time I cried was over Judy Rogers’ Caesar salad at San Francisco’s legendary Zuni Cafe on Market Street. Here, too, it was not just bursting fresh and completely empty leaves of lettuce hearts piled on a plate in front of my hungry mouth. On top of that were the perfect croutons, well-balanced, fried in the best olive oil and crispy on the outside, with the taste of fresh white sourdough bread on the inside.

But the main thing that shook my perspective at that time was dressing. An unparalleled flavor balance, whipped to a creamy consistency with an umami bomb of anchovies, peppers, lemon, parmesan, garlic, olive oil and egg. Of course, there are tricks that should be taken into account when preparing it. Judy told me.

the secret is water

For a long time, I was skeptical of a particular method of salad dressing: vinaigrette. Too sour, too oniony, often too much mustard and strong garlic flavor. Before I met Jody Williams and Rita Sodi in Manhattan, they ran three wonderful restaurants in the West Village. They gave me a green salad, which is also a standard for me. Endive, lettuce hearts, watercress, and frisée leaves are piled high as gravity allows.

Between the sprinkled drops of yellow mustard seeds and finely chopped shallots. It all tasted so well-balanced and robust that I long suspected the chef was smuggling in sugar and even glutamate. He didn’t. At that time I did not ask for a prescription – a serious mistake. I saw this on the food page of The New York Times a few years ago. Others have noticed this unusual salad.

His secret? It’s hard to believe, but the unique scent is based on something even more insipid: water. And three times. First, wash the leaves. In three different temperature ranges. Second, shallots. Finely chopped, wash them in warm water for two minutes. This suppresses the allium fire that bulbous plants produce. Water the third time: straight vinaigrette.

What? Diluted the salad too? Infidelity! But Williams puts it into perspective: “We want to make the sauce tastier. A tablespoon of warm water thoroughly breaks down the acidity of the sherry vinegar. The sauce should be so nice and delicious, you’ll want to drink a glass of it!” He is very right.

I have to control myself every time not to gulp down this vinaigrette. And it goes well with fresh asparagus, even fresh-from-the-oven chicken or grilled fish. Thank you Jody Williams, I will be visiting you again soon at Via Carota. And cry over your lettuce. If you are not interested enough to read about the exact preparation on, then the salad should take the whole sugar bowl.

Richard Kagy is a food expert and cookbook author. She has a video on her blog showing how to make the perfect vinaigrette.

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