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Fri Sep 30 05:13:08 CAT 2016

It's vital to be a tosser

Andrea Burgener | 28 January, 2016 00:23
Andrea Burgener. File photo
Image by: Supplied / Times Media Group

We do such bad things to salads. The leaf kind, I mean.

Salad days

We anoint fashionable chickpea, brinjal or quinoa concoctions with much care, but a bowl of leaves is more often than not treated shabbily. It's the old familiarity and contempt story.

Here's how to make a bowl of fronds a thing of wonderment. First up, leaf salads should be just that: leaves. Herbs are fine, yes, but leaves don't want wodges of solid stuff plonked on top of them, and most of all, no bloody tomatoes. The only time tomato and lettuce should hold hands is inside a burger. Second, leaves shouldn't be put in one of those insane salad spinners; it's like putting a newborn baby on the end of a bungee-jump line. The shock is too great for them. Just wash gently in a sink, drain and pat very dry.

Pre-washed salads are risky, and pre-torn - with the inevitable browned edges - is totally beyond the pale. Most of all though, these salads need to be dressed correctly. And that means they should be tossed with their dressing in a roomy bowl. Leaf salads placed on side plates naked, with the dressing or dressing components on the table for each person to add, are an abomination. There is no way on earth you can properly toss such a thing on a tiny flat plate. Even when you add three times the dressing you need, nothing is coated properly or evenly.

As for the dressing itself, (I'm talking simple oil and acid combos only, no creamy stuff), the standard ratio of one part acid (vinegar or lemon juice usually) to three parts oil is a good starting point, but acids and oils vary, so your taste-buds need to fine-tune this. The method I like best, oft touted by Italians, is to add things one by one, rather than making an actual separate dressing. Here, dressing is only a verb. Add the oil first, to coat the leaves and protect them from the vinegar which wilts them pronto, then the salt, then - with restraint - the vinegar. Taste as you go. Any other cast members in the dressing, such as pepper, may enter stage left with the vinegar.

William Boyd, in his 2013 Bond novel Solo, changes the classic formulation to give us a Bond dressing with the ratios more than reversed. The recipe, appearing in the book's only footnote, stipulates 100ml of red wine vinegar to 20ml of olive oil. Garlic, Dijon mustard, sugar and black pepper complete it. Perfect for a heavy drinking, chain-smoking assassin I guess, but after trying it, with some wincing, I prefer Fleming's less radical take on Bond's eating habits.

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