Salad days

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Salad days

As appetizer or main course, balance is the key
Red Snapper owner John Sheehan estimates he orders about 125 pounds of lettuce each week for the restaurant’s popular salad bar.
Bob Kauer grows several varieties of leaf and head lettuce at his farm on County Road 234 for about 70 member families belonging to Shared Harvest, an organic gardening cooperative.
Heads of Romaine are ready for picking at Shared Harvest’s organic garden on Bob Kauer and Jama Crawford’s La Plata County farm.
Shared Harvest’s salad team planted the All Star blend of mixed leaf lettuce in early April between drip lines that irrigate the colorful crop.
Red Romaine heads of lettuce are ready to be harvested at the half-acre Shared Harvest organic garden on County Road 234.
The Red Snapper’s salad bar includes curly kale, fruits, vegetables, dressings and croutons.
For dressing, perfection is in
the proportions

Bare and naked salads were the bane of all dieters until someone figured out that a little oil won’t kill you.
The operative word here is “little.”
Vinaigrette of oil and vinegar can pack a flavorful punch and not cost you the calories of blue cheese, ranch or avocado-based dressings.
Making your own vinaigrette is simple and practically goof-proof. Just remember the magic ratio of 3:1. That’s three parts oil to one part vinegar. Use a glass bowl or better yet, a blender. Add the salt, pepper and seasonings before dribbling in the oil to create an emulsion.
Don’t expect the emulsion to last for long. Oil and watery liquids eventually separate. That’s why we describe adversaries as “together like oil and water.” You can coax an emulsion, but just like forcing opposite personalities to share the same space, vinaigrette, too, takes encouragement or the union soon divides.
You’ve got to shake, rattle and roll that vinaigrette immediately before serving. Honey, being the sweet thing it is, helps stabilize the relationship between oil and vinegar and can be added to the emulsion. Sugar doesn’t work nearly as well.
The flavor profiles are endless, once you begin to wander off the straight and narrow path of salad oil and distilled vinegar. Try extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar for starts. This classic combination is hard to beat, especially if you add fresh herbs, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
Don’t stop with the classic vinaigrette. Try balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, tarragon-flavored vinegar or rice vinegar.
Keep in mind that to attain the sweet spot and achieve a balance in flavors, mix light oil with a light vinegar. For example, saffron or canola oil balances nicely with rice vinegar.
Drop in a slice of ginger, a speck of minced garlic, a few drops of soy sauce and a teaspoon of honey and you’ll have a great Asian slaw dressing. Add a couple drops of sesame oil and you’ll open a new realm of Asian tastes.
It’s pretty hard to go wrong if you keep to the 3:1 ratio, but know that there are plenty of “acids,” such as lemon or orange juice, that can substitute for vinegar, entirely or in part. What can beat fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper over fresh arugula and shaved Parmesan?
Citrus enhancement is perfect, too, for fruit or melon salads, plus it offers the added benefit of keeping avocados and apples from turning dark.
Move over to more exotic oils such as walnut or avocado and know that you can blend neutral oils with more richly flavored oils to achieve the effect you’re after.
Taste your dressing by dipping a dry piece of lettuce and shaking it to see how the dressing coats the leaf. Adjust seasoning and let the flavors marry on the counter for an hour or so before dressing your salad. Mixing ingredients at room temperature also gives you a more accurate read on how the flavors will meld.
Take baby steps until you get the hang of it, but know that vinaigrettes can elevate a bowl of greens from mere nutritional sustenance to a first-rate flavorful salad.
kbrucolianesi@durangoherald.com

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Salad days

Purchase
Red Snapper owner John Sheehan estimates he orders about 125 pounds of lettuce each week for the restaurant’s popular salad bar.
Purchase
Bob Kauer grows several varieties of leaf and head lettuce at his farm on County Road 234 for about 70 member families belonging to Shared Harvest, an organic gardening cooperative.
Purchase
Heads of Romaine are ready for picking at Shared Harvest’s organic garden on Bob Kauer and Jama Crawford’s La Plata County farm.
Purchase
Shared Harvest’s salad team planted the All Star blend of mixed leaf lettuce in early April between drip lines that irrigate the colorful crop.
Purchase
Red Romaine heads of lettuce are ready to be harvested at the half-acre Shared Harvest organic garden on County Road 234.
Purchase
The Red Snapper’s salad bar includes curly kale, fruits, vegetables, dressings and croutons.
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