Many times, when we cook a meal, we pay much more attention to the main dish. This may seem logical since the other dishes function as side dishes, so we think that they do not deserve much preparation.
The matter changes if, instead of the cooks, we are the ones who consume the dishes. In this case, we can give the same attention to the accompaniments, and if they are not very elaborate, at least we demand that they should be tasty and suitable for the main course. Here we will tell you about the star of side dishes—salad.
Not A Dish, But A Family Of Dishes
Salad is not a dish with a single presentation or preparation. In fact, it is a whole family of dishes with very varied ingredients and preparations, which makes them very versatile and can serve multiple purposes at a table. In a salad, ingredients that are usually seen and eaten separately can be mixed to form a delicious combination that can be served not only as a side dish, but also as a main course. Such is the case with this excellent shrimp salad with rice that you can find at riceselect.com/recipe/bangkok-rice-shrimp-salad.
What They Have In Common
Since there are so many kinds of salads that they cannot be reduced to a single type, we can find them made with the most dissimilar ingredients to please the most diverse and even opposite tastes.
However, all salads have these three features in common:
- At least one of their main ingredients is a vegetable, raw if it can be eaten raw—such as lettuce—, or cooked if it must be eaten cooked—such as potato.
- Its dressing is based on a liquid substance, usually oil or vinegar. The traditional oil is olive oil, but nowadays we have a great variety that are equally tasty and appropriate according to the dish—corn oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, etc. Likewise, we can find more elaborate oily dressings such as mayonnaise or mustard sauce.
- They are mainly savory dishes. It is from this characteristic that salads take their name. As historians and etymologists indicate, the origin is the Latin phrase herba salata, ‘salty herb’. In fact, the Romans had the custom of eating herbs seasoned with brine and olive oil.
What Makes Them Different
Everything else that salads can contain makes them different. Therefore, it is difficult to find some order in the “chaos” of salad flavors. However, we can attempt a classification without pretending to be definitive.
Due to their simplicity, raw salads are perhaps the most frequently prepared salads. They have at least one raw vegetable, such as lettuce, cabbage or spinach, as a main ingredient. A typical raw salad is the lettuce-and-tomato salad, an example of the so-called “green salads”.
Cooked salads, on the other hand, have their vegetables cooked, although they may also have some pieces of raw vegetables—parsley, coriander—, generally as a complementary dressing or garnish. The typical raw salad is the Russian salad or Olivier salad, which contains cooked potatoes and carrots.
Salads With Grains & Seeds
Increasingly popular, salads with grains or seeds can contain cooked grains, such as rice or wheat, or cooked seeds, from legumes—beans, broad beans, green beans, etc. Among seeds, we must also include nuts, which can be eaten raw—walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, cashews, etc.
Salads With Bread Or Pasta
It is also very frequent to add croutons —pieces of toasted or fried bread— to salads. Other salads may contain cooked pasta, especially the varieties called “short pasta”— rigatoni, farfalle, sedani, penne…
Isn’t it a contradiction to say “salad” and “non-vegetarian” in the same phrase? Actually, it is not. Salads can have chunks of meat among their ingredients. There are also fish salads, such as the very popular tuna salad, or salads with seafood, such as shrimp or prawn salads.
Even green salads, which can be considered undoubtedly vegetarian, may contain ingredients of animal origin. For example, Caesar salad may contain some chicken breast, fried bacon or canned anchovies. Russian salad, in turn, is often mixed with slices of hard-boiled egg, and its original version even included some lobster or crab.