Monday, October 7, 2013

Making Perfect Salads - Salad Spinners

Last month, I posted a tip on making a beautiful salad - start with a simple homemade vinaigrette. This week, we're talking about an essential tool for making a perfect salad: the salad spinner. In today's supermarket, you can get pre-washed salad greens. Your greens will be clean (maybe; even with triple washing, there are cases of pretty bad contamination in salad greens) and dry. You won't need a salad spinner. But, packaged salad greens are very expensive, costing as much as steak per pound. Heads of lettuce require more work to break apart and wash but cost as little as 88¢. That is much, much cheaper than any salad green in a bag.

The trick to turning that head of lettuce into a perfect salad? The leaves must be dry before you dress it. If your lettuce is wet, the dressing will dilute and run off. Get those greens dry before dressing. How? Salad spinner!

Yes, it's a bit of an investment. The spinner in the photo above costs about $30 at Target, Macy's, and Kohl's. You can get it for $24 if you have a 20% off coupon for Bed, Bath & Beyond (which you can get by signing up at their website; they will keep sending you additional coupons too). Salad spinners are the most effective way to get nearly all the water off your salad greens. Unlike patting lettuce dry with a towel, it doesn't bruise the greens at all and it spins all the water out of the crevices. They are fun to use too!

The steps to getting clean and dry salad greens are:
  1. Pull off the leaves and trim away any icky or brown parts.
  2. Tear or cut into bite-sized pieces, if desired.
  3. Fill a large bowl with cool water and drop the greens in.
  4. Swish around a bit and let sit for a few minutes. It takes a little while for the water to dislodge the dirt.
  5. Swish it around gently and, carefully lift the greens out of the water. The dirt will sink to the bottom of the bowl, and you want to make sure it stays there.
  6. Place the greens in the spinner but don't try to stuff too many in there at once. They need room to move around. Give them a good spin. Then, I like to open it up, toss around the greens and give them another spin, just for good measure.
You can spin a whole head of lettuce and store your clean, dry greens back in a clean dry plastic bag. They will keep for a few days, even if cut. After a few days, cut lettuce will start to brown at the edges. Because the leaves are dry, they will not break down as quickly, extending the life of your lettuce. 

One way to keep control of your food budget - make sure you get to eat the food you paid for. No one wants to throw away a head of lettuce because it rotted in the fridge. This is a big problem these days because most markets spray lettuce to keep it from drying out. Unfortunately, wet lettuce rots quickly. Spin your lettuce soon after you get it home from the market to prevent "supermarket spraying rot syndrome."

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