Choose the Greens
Keep It Simple
Clean and Dry the Greens
Clean and dry your lettuces as soon as you get them home (they'll keep longer): Rinse lettuce leaves in a large basin of cold water (it'll perk them up if they seem a bit dreary from the car ride home), lift them out of the water, spin dry in a salad spinner or dry on several layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. If you're not going to use them right away, roll up the lettuce leaves in a layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel, seal in a plastic bag, and store in your refrigerator's hydrator or "crisper" for up to 1 week. This storage method keeps the leaves hydrated but not damp, keeping them crisp without wilting.
See this Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Lettuce for pictures and more detailed instructions.
Make the Dressing
Bottled salad dressings may be convenient, but homemade dressings take minutes to make and you know exactly what's in them. Best of all, they taste great. Once you get the general principle down—about 3 parts oil to 1 part acid (such as lemon juice or vinegar)—you can play with variations until the cows come home. Salt and sweeten to your tastes; use mustard (dry or prepared), cream, or egg to thicken and "bind" the dressing, if you like. Mix in cheese, use nut oils, add toasted spices: the possibilities are endless. Here are a few to get you started:
- Classic French Vinaigrette
- Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette
- Balsamic Honey Dressing
- Buttermilk Dill Dressing
- Blue Cheese Dressing
Toss With Care
The secret to a perfectly tossed salad is simple: use your hands. Wash them first (and after!), of course, but no tongs or salad tools can possibly replicate the delicacy and feel of human hands. Once you get the hang of it, you'll never go back to brutalizing your lovely salads with bruising, damaging spoons or forks:
- Put 2 to 4 tablespoons dressing for every 4 cups of clean, dry greens in a clean, dry bowl that seems much too big
- Add the greens
- Hold your fingers as far apart from each other as possible and run them down the sides of the bowl to the bottom, lift up, bringing the greens that were touching the dressing on the bottom of the bowl to the top.
- Repeat until salad is evenly dressed
- Serve with pride
See more at How to Toss a Salad.