My Specialty?

I’m not sure how it happened, but apparently I have a specialty. It’s not those colorful macarons, it’s not those elaborate fondant cakes, it’s not even pastry at all — I’m a salad specialist.

I’m not sure when it happened, but I’m pretty sure it started off innocently. I joined a CSA, bought local, ate seasonal. Somehow during all of this fresh and local I transformed my pastry chef teachings into garde manger magic.

Like many chef-type people, I’m hypercritical of my cooking, my ingredients, and my presentations. I guess that’s why the eater always claims that, “this is the bet * ever” or, “you make the best *!” I tend not to skimp on extras when I put a salad together. A salad, in my opinion, is far more than lettuce, a few tomatoes, and dressing out of a bottle. My salads burst with color and flavors – No ingredients are off limits: pasta, potatoes, eggs, meat, fish — anything fresh, grilled, fried, boiled or raw is fair game.

Curious how it’s done? Here’s my method for putting together a good salad.

Lettuce is important. Try to get the notion out of your head that lettuce comes in a bag and is pre-washed. If you’re buying lettuce in a bag, you’re already doing it wrong. Real lettuce comes in a head with dirt still on it. Care should be taken when washing and tearing the lettuce; properly cleaned, spun, and dried lettuce is the base of your salad. This step sounds unimportant but I believe it’s the most unappreciated step of them all. Wet leaves will not hold dressing and will just taste wet.

Speaking of dressings. Is it really too much work to make your own dressing these days? Dressing is, at it’s most basic, TWO ingredients plus seasonings – oil + vinegar + salt + pepper. You can whisk it in a bowl, put it in tupperware and shake it, or buy one of those fancy dressing bottles and shake it up in that! Dressing can be enhanced with mustards, honeys, mayonaises, and pretty much whatever else you can think of putting in it. Want an Asian-style dressing? Add some shoyu and miso paste.

When garnishing a salad, spend the time to make it look nice. I know it’s cliche, but we really do eat with our eyes first. A jumbled plate of leaves with a few hacked up vegetables mixed in is technically a salad just like dressing out of a bottle is technically salad dressing. (seriously have you read the labels of pre-made dressings?)

Salads should get all the glamor of a main entree. Use the freshest ingredients you can find, lightly dress it, and don’t forget the seasoning.That’s pretty much all there is to it.

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5 Responses to “My Specialty?”

  • kristina says:

    Hey, there’s a new website about to launch called Behind the Burner: it features exclusive tips on products and cooking techniques, as well as video demonstrations with New York City’s best chefs! Be sure to check out the website,, where you can sign up for email updates and more info.

  • michelle @ TNS says:

    so with you on the dressing thing. you don’t even have to whisk, just put everything in a jar and shake the crap out of it.

    also, CSA tomatoes are the best thing to ever happen to my salad-composing abilities.

  • shelley says:

    I’m a total salad specialist!! I get my organic produce delivered every Friday and as soon as it gets here, I wash and bag everything!

    And yea, there is nothing better than homemade salad dressing. Your salads are beautiful!

  • Thumbbook says:

    I found you blog while checking palanchinka’s beetroot recipe. Your salads look so delicious! In case you are looking for other beetroot recipe here is foodista’s Roasted Beet Soup Recipe my son loved it and the color is just amazing.

    if you have time, drop by anytime at foodista

  • Dharm says:

    My Wife is the Salad Specialist over in our house. Those salads look just lovely and I love the presentation!

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