Who knew chopping up a few vegetables to make a salad could provide so many opportunities for teaching points for Chef Jen of Plate Catering? I thought this would be one of the easier ones for Plate Catering. Just salads, a break from baked pastas, roasted veggies, homemade scones… but the amount of work, energy, and information these salads presented was quite a surprise! Chef Jen and Sous Chef Anthony transformed 20 different fruit and veggies, with the addition of some herbs, into mouthwatering salads! The dressings were nothing more than fruits, veggies, vinegar, oil, or fresh juices so everything tasted incredibly light, flavorful, and delicious.
I originally wanted to write this blog as “Five Things I Learned from Making Salads”, but with the amount of information presented, five things quickly turned in to ten. So here goes:
- Use salt to enhance flavors. It doesn’t make things salty (unless of course you add too much), it enhances and draws out the natural flavor.
- Watermelon rinds are great pickled! Chef Jen highly recommends trying them sometime.
- Chopping herbs, especially basil or mint, requires a very sharp knife to minimize the blackening of the leaves due to oxidation. A dull knife mashes rather than slices like a sharp knife. If your knives are anything like mine (rather dull) Chef Jen recommends forgoing the knife and tearing the leaves instead.
- Root vegetables, once picked, are ripe. Unlike bananas and other fruits and vegetables that continue to ripen, potatoes, carrots, beets, etc. are ripe when they are plucked from the ground.
- If you have an avocado that is not ripe, stick it in a brown paper bag with either a banana or apple overnight. Bananas and apples emit ethylene gas which encourages the ripening of the avocado.
- When choosing an avocado, feel the avocado. It should be soft, but not too soft and not too hard. You can ripen hard avocados with the tip above. Do not pick off the little stem as that is not always reliable, and certainly does not help the next person choosing an avocado.
- Avocado pits will slow the browning of avocados. If only using half of an avocado, leave the pit in the other half and wrap as air-tight as possible to prevent browning. If you have just made guacamole, stick the pits of the avocados in the guacamole before wrapping as air-tight as possible.
- Cut veggies like celery, fennel, and carrots “on the bias” for an elevated look. This means cutting stalks or carrots, on a 45 degree angle. It lends a more professional look to your finished dish.
- Layer salads that will be used in a buffet. This way, all of the toppings can’t be picked off of the top, but are layered throughout. For example, layer lettuce, nuts, cheese, veggies, croutons, and repeat at least once or twice. When the top layers are gone, the next guests in line still have a plethora of toppings for their salads.
- English cucumbers are better to use in salads than your typical garden variety because their skin is thinner and not so tough, and the seeds are smaller. Give them a try!
We learned all of this in addition to 5 spectacular recipes and which proteins to pair with the salads. Hope to see you at the next cooking demo!