|Main ingredients||A base of vegetables, fruits, meat, eggs, or grains; mixed with a sauce.|
A salad is a dish consisting of a mixture of small pieces of food, usually vegetables. However, different varieties of salad may contain virtually any type of ready-to-eat food. Salads are typically served at room temperature or chilled, with notable exceptions such as south German potato salad which is served warm.
Garden salads use a base of leafy greens such as lettuce, arugula/rocket, kale or spinach; they are common enough that the word salad alone often refers specifically to garden salads. Other types include bean salad, tuna salad, fattoush, Greek salad (vegetable based, but without leafy greens), and sōmen salad (a noodle-based salad). The sauce used to flavor a salad is commonly called a salad dressing; most salad dressings are based on either a mixture of oil and vinegar or a fermented milk product like kefir.
Salads may be served at any point during a meal:
- Appetizer salads—light, smaller-portion salads served as the first course of the meal.
- Side salads—to accompany the main course as a side dish.
- Main course salads—usually containing a portion of a high-protein food, such as meat, fish, eggs, legumes, or cheese.
- Dessert salads—sweet versions containing fruit, gelatin, sweeteners or whipped cream.
The word "salad" comes from the French salade of the same meaning, from the Latin salata (salty), from sal (salt). In English, the word first appears as "salad" or "sallet" in the 14th century. Salt is associated with salad because vegetables were seasoned with brine or salty oil-and-vinegar dressings during Roman times. The phrase "salad days", meaning a "time of youthful inexperience" (based on the notion of "green"), is first recorded by Shakespeare in 1606, while the use of salad bar, referring to a buffet-style serving of salad ingredients, first appeared in American English in 1976.
The Romans and ancient Greeks ate mixed greens with dressing, a type of mixed salad. Salads, including layered and dressed salads, have been popular in Europe since the Greek and Roman imperial expansions. In his 1699 book, Acetaria: A Discourse on Sallets, John Evelyn attempted with little success to encourage his fellow Britons to eat fresh salad greens. Mary, Queen of Scots, ate boiled celery root over greens covered with creamy mustard dressing, truffles, chervil, and slices of hard-boiled eggs.
Oil used on salads can be found in the 17th century colony of New Netherland (later called New York, New Jersey and Delaware). A list of common items arriving on ships and their designated prices when appraising cargo included "a can of salad oil at 1.10 florins" and "an anker of wine vinegar at 16 florins". In a 1665 letter to the Director of New Netherland from the Island of Curaçao there is a request to send greens: "I request most amicably that your honors be pleased to send me seed of every sort, such as cabbage, carrots, lettuce, parsley, etc. for none can be acquired here and I know that your honor has plenty,...".
Salads may be sold in supermarkets, at restaurants and at fast food chains. In the United States, restaurants will often have a "salad bar" with salad-making ingredients, which the customers will use to put together their salad. Salad restaurants were earning more than $300 million in 2014. At-home salad consumption in the 2010s was rising but moving away from fresh-chopped lettuce and toward bagged greens and salad kits, with bag sales expected to reach $7 billion per year.
Types of salads
A salad can be composed (with the ingredients specifically arranged) or tossed (with the ingredients placed in a bowl and mixed).
A green salad or garden salad is most often composed of leafy vegetables such as lettuce varieties, spinach, or rocket (arugula). If non-greens make up a large portion of the salad it may be called a vegetable salad instead of a green salad. Common raw vegetables (in the culinary sense) used in a salad include cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery, radishes, mushrooms, avocado, olives, artichoke hearts, heart of palm, watercress, parsley, garden beets, and green beans. Nuts, berries, seeds, and flowers are less common components. Hard-boiled eggs, bacon, shrimp, and cheeses may be used as garnishes, but large amounts of animal based foods would be more likely in a dinner salad.
Bound salads are assembled with thick sauces such as mayonnaise. One portion of a true bound salad will hold its shape when placed on a plate with an ice-cream scoop. Examples of bound salad include tuna salad, chicken salad, egg salad, and potato salad. Bound salads are often used as sandwich fillings. They are popular at picnics and barbecues.
Main course salads
Main course salads (also known as "dinner salads" or as "entrée salads" in North America) may contain poultry, seafood, or sliced steak. Caesar salad, Chef salad, Cobb salad, Chinese chicken salad and Michigan salad are dinner salads.
Fruit salads are made of fruit, which may be fresh or canned. Examples include fruit cocktail. Note that "fruit" here refers to culinary fruits, many common components of vegetable salads (such as tomatoes and cucumbers) are botanical fruits but culinary vegetables.
Dessert salads rarely include leafy greens and are often sweet. Common variants are made with gelatin or whipped cream; e.g. jello salad, pistachio salad, and ambrosia. Other forms of dessert salads include snickers salad, glorified rice, and cookie salad.
Sauces for salads are often called "dressings". The concept of salad dressing varies across cultures.
In Western culture, there are two basic types of salad dressing:
- Vinaigrettes based on a mixture (emulsion) of salad oil and vinegar, often flavored with herbs, spices, salt, pepper, sugar, and other ingredients.
- Creamy dressings, usually based on mayonnaise or fermented milk products, such as yogurt, sour cream (crème fraîche, smetana), or buttermilk.
In North America, mayonnaise-based ranch dressing is most popular, with vinaigrettes and Caesar-style dressing following close behind. Traditional dressings in France are vinaigrettes, typically mustard-based, while sour cream (smetana) and mayonnaise are predominant in eastern European countries and Russia. Thicker sauces are sometimes referred to as "baked potato", as a form of metonymy, although they rarely contain any starch products. In Denmark, dressings are often based on crème fraîche. In southern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, salad is generally dressed by the diner with olive oil and vinegar. In Asia, it is common to add sesame oil, fish sauce, citrus juice, or soy sauce to salad dressings.
Other salad dressings include:
On 4 September 2016, the largest recorded salad, weighing 20,100 kilograms (44,300 lb), was created in Red Square, Moscow, Russia, by Mouzenidis Travel. It was a Greek salad consisting of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives, feta cheese, olive oil, oregano and salt.
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