THE STRUCTURE OF A SALAD
A plated salad may have as many as four parts: base, body, dressing,and garnish. All salads have body, and most have dressing, but base and garnish are parts of only some salads, as you will see in the following discussion.
Of course this discussion refers only to individual plated salads.When we use the term salad to refer to a bulk mixture, as in "two pounds of potato salad," references to the four parts of a salad do not apply.
A scoop of potato salad looks bare when served by itself on a salad plate as a side dish. Placing it on a bed of lettuce leaves makes it more appealing and also emphasizes its identity as a salad. Although most tossed green salads and many composed salads are presented without an underliner, bound salads and some other vegetable salads may be more attractive and appetizing when served on a bed of leafy greens.
Cup-shaped leaves of iceberg or Boston lettuce make attractive bases.They give height to salads and help confine loose pieces of food.
A layer of loose, flat leaves (such as romaine, loose-leaf, or chicory) or of shredded lettuce may be used as a base.This kind of base involves less labor and food cost, as it is not necessary to separate whole cup-shaped leaves from a head.
This is the main part of the salad and, as such, receives most of our attention in this chapter.
A garnish is an edible decorative item that is added to a salad to give eye appeal, though it often adds to the flavor as well. It should not be elaborate or dominate the salad. Remember this basic rule of garnishing: Keep it simple.
Garnish should harmonize with the rest of the salad ingredients and, of course,be edible. It may be mixed with the other salad ingredients (for example, shreds of red cabbage mixed into a tossed green salad), or it may be added at the end.
Often, the main ingredients of a salad form an attractive pattern in themselves, and no garnish is necessary. In the case of certain combination salads and other salads with many ingredients or components, there may be no clear distinction between a garnish and an attractive ingredient that is part of the body. In general,if a salad is attractive and balanced without an added garnish, don't add one.
Nearly any of the vegetables, fruits, and protein foods listed on pages 676-677, cut into simple, appropriate shapes, may be used as garnish.
Dressing is a seasoned liquid or semiliquid that is added to the body of the salad to give it added flavor, tartness, spiciness, and moistness.
The dressing should harmonize with the salad ingredients. In general, use tart dressings for green salads and vegetable salads and use slightly sweetened dressings for fruit salads. Soft, delicate greens like Boston or Bibb lettuce require a light dressing. A thick, heavy dressing will turn them to mush.
Dressings may be added at service time (as for green salads), served separately for the customer to add, or mixed with the ingredients ahead of time (as in potato salad, tuna salad, egg salad, and so on). A salad mixed with a heavy dressing, like mayonnaise, to hold it together is called a bound salad.
Remember: Dressing is a seasoning for the main ingredients. It should accent their flavor,not overpower or drown them. Review the rules of seasoning in Chapter 4.
Perhaps even more than with most other foods, the appearance and arrangement of a salad are essential to its quality.The colorful variety of salad ingredients gives the chef an opportunity to create miniature works of art on the salad plate.
Unfortunately, it is nearly as difficult to give rules for arranging salads as it is for painting pictures because the principles of composition,balance,and symmetry are the same for both arts. It is something you have to develop an eye for, by experience and by studying good examples.
Guidelines for Arranging Salads_
1. Keep the salad off the rim of the plate.
Think of the rim as a picture frame and arrange the salad within this frame. Select the right plate for the portion size, not too large or too small.
Plain iceberg lettuce looks pale and sickly all by itself, but it can be enlivened by mixing in darker greens and perhaps a few shreds of carrot, red cabbage, or other colored vegetable. On the other hand, don't go overboard. Sometimes just a few shades of green will create a beautiful effect. Too many colors may look messy.
Ingredients mounded on the plate are more interesting than if they are spread flat. Lettuce cups as bases add height. Often just a little height is enough. Arrange ingredients like fruit wedges or tomato slices so they overlap or lean against each other rather than lie flat on the plate.
4. Cut ingredients neatly.
Ragged or sloppy cutting makes the whole salad look sloppy and haphazard.
Cut every ingredient into large enough pieces that the customer can recognize each immediately. Don't pulverize everything in the buffalo chopper or VCM. Bite-size pieces are the general rule, unless the ingredient can be cut easily with a fork, such as tomato slices. Seasoning ingredients, like onion, may be chopped fine.
A simple, natural arrangement is pleasing. An elaborate design, a gimmicky or contrived arrangement, or a cluttered plate is not pleasing. Besides, elaborate designs take too long to make.
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