Salad greens Kim

Kim O'Donnel with a bowl of just-washed salad greens.

Stay-Put Cooking is a daily kitchen dispatch while you're stuck at home social distancing. Check out the archive for more tips and tricks. 

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At long last, homegrown salad greens are here, from the backyard garden to the farmers market. If it’s been a while since you tucked into a salad, here a few simple steps to ensure clean, crisp, dressing-friendly leaves.  

Wash: By their very nature, greens are a bit gritty from the residual dirt and sand in which they grew. Even if you buy a bag of greens claiming “triple washed” on the package, it is worth taking the 2 minutes to wash it yourself. The key is to lift the greens out of the water, rather than swish them clean, as many of us were taught. Unfortunately the swishing method does little to remove the grit. As you’ll see in the video, wash as many times as necessary in a clean change of water until the water is clear. You can do this with a salad spinner or in a large mixing bowl.

Dry: For salad spinner owners, this step is self-explanatory, but a few things to keep in mind:

  • The spinner needs space to circulate, so spin greens in batches if you’re working with a large quantity.
  • You may need to dump out residual water in between spins
  • You want the greens as dry as possible. Damp greens do not respond well to dressing and will result in the dreaded soggy salad syndrome.

In the absence of a spinner,  lay greens in a single layer on kitchen towels and place another on top, patting the greens dry. You can also let them air dry for a few minutes. 

Salt: Now that the greens are washed and dried, they need to be salted. The word salad comes from the French word salé (which means salted). So before you dress the lettuce, give it a few sprinkles of salt, turning until coated, and have a taste. It should taste salted, not salty, so go easy if this is your first time. Add radishes, tomatoes, or whatever makes you happy. NOW you can add the dressing.

One last thing: Add the dressing gradually, turning the salad with tongs or salad forks, in between additions. Be sure to taste along the way. Add just enough for the greens to glisten, and remember you can always add more dressing, but you cannot take it away.


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