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salad  days make a super salad
by Cindy Alvarez
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continued from page 1

romaine lettuce | Romaine lettuce rivals the crunchiness of iceberg lettuce, but with a much stronger flavor. The green ends have a mild peppery bitterness, and the lighter-colored cores are sweeter. Because of its flavor, crunch, and relatively long fridge life (5-7 days), romaine lettuce is an ideal "base" for a variety of salads.

Mesclun | Mesclun is the name for a mix of lettuces and wild greens. The traditional French mesclun includes chervil, arugula, baby lettuce and endive, but the mix you find in produce markets -- and even in the produce aisles of most chain grocery storesthese days -- can also include mizuna, chicory, purslane, and escarole. The mixture has notes of bitter, peppery, lemony, herbal, sweet, and mustard flavors. Mesclun is 2-3 times more expensive than the other greens, so I recommend mixing it with other greens and serving with a light dressing.

Spinach leaves | Baby spinach leaves are flavorful and chewy. The classic spinach salad -- with citrus, nuts, and strong cheese -- is an excellent match for the bitterness of spinach. Spinach also goes well as an accent to sweeter lettuces, like Bibb or Green-leaf.

If you like stronger bitter herbal flavors, full-sized spinach leaves make a very dramatic salad. Just remove the stems and tear or slice the leaves in half, and pair with strong flavors like red onion, blue cheese, or spicy vinaigrettes. With all spinach leaves, be sure to wash them well because the dirt clings stubbornly.

Basil, mint, cilantro | In traditional Vietnamese cooking, it's not uncommon to find herbs generously mixed into their salad dishes. Basil, mint, and cilantro add peppery, spicy, bright notes to salad. These herbs are best paired with stronger-flavored greens like Romaine or Red-leaf lettuces, or mesclun.

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