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Salads: how to promote them as a single dish worthy of Andrea Berton
Salads: how to promote them as a single dish worthy of Andrea Berton

Self Andrea Berton, starred chef already a pupil of Gualtiero Marchesi, serves in the restaurant that bears his name in Milan salads that calling only salads is at least an understatement, it does not mean that, in our home, we cannot try to emulate the chef.

In his restaurant, the classic "business lunch" is now replaced by 8 different salads, served at a price ranging from 18 to 25 euros, and which are a triumph of ingredients, tastes and flavors.

How much further can there be from the sad salad cliché we are used to, bland and sad companion in dietary misfortunes.

Shall we give some examples? Chicken and lettuce salad, salad with carrots, yogurt and hazelnut cream, octopus salad with green beans (only from Trasimeno, of course), salad with aubergine, buffalo mozzarella, capers and finally salad with mussels, Ligurian courgettes and saffron cream. Just get an idea of what ours means by "salad".

Andrea Berton
Andrea Berton

And U. S? At the stake with our escarole and our envy that languish on the plate, with the miserable drop of oil slowly dripping from the green leaf? Never!

Let's steal a little job from the starred chef, brush up on some notions of healthy eating and proceed without delay to prepare a salad that will be a complete, tasty, nutritious and above all satisfying meal on its own.

So here are some tips to implement the green foliage, to transform the saddest and dullest of meals into something pleasant and substantial.

So, let's get started.


wash salad
wash salad

It seems obvious but it is not at all. Some of us, around 18% according to recent research, do not wash vegetables and fruit before eating them. And to think that it is indispensable. Washing is an important step because it serves to break down the bacterial loads present in the green leaves.

It is important that it occurs only before consumption: it is useless to wash the salad and leave it whole days in the refrigerator because, contrary to popular belief, the foods in the refrigerator get "dirty" and the bacteria circulate - explains Marco Silano, researcher of the 'College of Health - and residual moisture from washing also tends to multiply bacteria.

The best way to wash our vegetables is to immerse them for 15/20 minutes in a basin of warm water with a couple of tablespoons of bicarbonate, more effective than vinegar, without exceeding phobias using chlorine-based products: hygiene yes, phobia no.

And for salads that have already been washed and cut in a sealed bag? Industrial washes are much safer than household washes, thanks to a stringent regulation that provides for two or three washing cycles in different tanks. However, incorrect behavior after purchase, such as not respecting the cold chain or poor home storage, can multiply the germs and bacteria which, in the wetness of the closed bag and due to the condensation generated, find an ideal environment to proliferate.

Then, immediately place the pre-washed salad bag in the fridge and cool and consume it by the indicated date.


Salad with chewable part
Salad with chewable part

And also a little energy.

After washing the green leafy vegetables, the beauty begins, aka the actual assembly of the salad according to our tastes, just like real cooks.

We have carefully chosen which type of green leaf salad to use among the varieties that our vegetable producer offers (generally attributable to the three large families of chicory, lettuce and endives, as explained in the Dissapore post on the construction of salads), but it is not enough.

A plate of green leaves, however refreshing, healthy, dietary and vegan, is certainly not inviting, and does not represent a complete meal or one that can be detached from the function of mere accompaniment. We will therefore make our own notion of the world of pastry, that is to add a "chewable" part to the crumbs (let's face it, up) and not very consistent salad leaves.

They can be diced toasted bread stir-fried, corn kernels, pieces of previously boiled and diced vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, as well as pieces of cheese or even legumes such as chickpeas, lentils or beans.

Even some cereals such as barley, bulgur or the precious quinoa (stop there: it is not a cereal, it belongs to the spinach family, but it is chewable like a real cereal - a feature that makes it suitable for our post modern salads - in addition to be gluten free, i.e. holy by definition), to add the dose of energy that carbohydrates provide.

Returning to quinoa, its seeds contain 60% carbohydrates and 11% proteins with a high biological value, comparable to that of dairy products. In short, the leitmotif is to add a more concrete pleasure, we understand, right? After all, Nicoise salad docet.


Salad with chewable part
Salad with chewable part

And after adding a full-bodied and chewable part, there is no protein. You can indulge yourself with pieces of cheese of your choice, mozzarella among all, but also edamer, provola, fontina, as well as pieces of hard-boiled egg, a mine of proteins; or even pieces of tuna, boiled or roasted chicken breast, octopus, ham and so on.

What if we are vegan? So, let's not forget the aforementioned legumes to be consumed in a dose of 30/40 grams per day if dry or 100 grams if fresh.


Fruits salad
Fruits salad

With the crunchiness we kill two birds with one stone (even three). By adding walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts to our salad, we will not only provide good proteins and fats to our meal, which nuts are rich in, but we will add that crunch touch that will make chewing the salad pleasant.

Furthermore, dried fruit is rich in mineral salts, unsaturated fatty acids, which help us keep cholesterol at bay, and also in fiber.

Another source of pleasant consistency under the teeth will be ensured by the seeds: we can choose between sesame seeds (to be used preferably after roasting in a pan), rich in vitamins and minerals, but also in sunflower seeds - with one of the highest vitamins in the world vegetable, including the precious vitamin B12 - from pumpkin, rich in proteins, pine nuts and many others.

Green light also to sprouts, ranging from the inevitable soybean, sunflower, coriander, broccoli or azuki: you are spoiled for choice!


salad, dressing
salad, dressing

As you know, we Italians are fond of simple vinaigrette - alias oil, vinegar and salt, so as not to get it too hard - at most in the lemon version alias citronette, and we abhor the condiments-mash based on mayonnaise, mustard or strange sauces that Americans throw a handful of their salads.

Yet for once, it must be said that they are not completely wrong. As already explained about the Dissapore salad dressing, or here even more scientifically, water and oil (in this case the one contained in the vinegar), however much we mix them they will never join together definitively.

In other words, water and oil form an emulsion but unstable: the two components just don't want to mix together for a long time, if not with vigorous shaking. Even with our remixing, however, the water and oil emulsion remains genetically unstable, and the vinaigrette will return to separate shortly after, with the oil on one side and the water, or rather the vinegar, on the other..

How then to unite them indissolubly?

There are four elements of a stable and perfect emulsion: water, oil, an emulsifier and energy (mechanical energy). We have water in vinegar or lemon, oil as well, hopefully energy … there is no emulsifier.

Among the emulsifiers that we can use in the kitchen we find the lecithins of egg yolk, soy but also the same mustard and mayonnaise, an emulsion already stabilized.

The emulsifier will ensure that the water (vinegar) and oil molecules form a stable bond, preventing them from separating and preventing us from finding ourselves with the oil on the salad leaves and the vinegar miserably precipitated on the bottom. In other words, we will have a homogeneous and uniform dressing that will envelop our vegetables giving us an extra touch of flavor with each bite.

And if the oil used is hazelnut or pistachio, the palate will thank you. So green light for mustard, mayonnaise, yogurt… (don't make that face that I see so much).


salad, flavorings, smells
salad, flavorings, smells

Well yes, actually there is a sixth tip, no less important, but since "six tips" sounded less good than "five tips for a perfect salad", in the title he gave up and opted for the comforting and reassuring number five.

Once the salad has been assembled and seasoned, it's time to embellish it with what your culinary flair suggests. Aromatic herbs such as fresh thyme, oregano, basil, parsley and also aromas, such as a clove of garlic squeezed in the special tool, can make the difference.

In Piedmont it is customary to eat what is simply called "cooked salad", consisting only of boiled potatoes, onions and green beans, all seasoned with oil, minced garlic and parsley, served strictly lukewarm. Don't imagine what a burst of taste garlic and parsley give to an otherwise rather anonymous and tasteless salad.

So, after a lot of work, don't forget the icing on the cake, or rather the fresh thyme on the salad, and indulge yourself with various (natural) smells, herbs and aromas: it will be your artist's touch, the chef's touch that will transform a common salad in a dish worthy of Andrea Berton.

And you, how do you make your salads?

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