There’s something special about the salads you order in restaurants, with their delicate flavors, vibrant colors and perfect balance of textures. With a few tricks and tools, you can take your homemade salads to the same level — and likely cut down prep time, too. Keep reading for our favorite techniques.
Shave: Use a mandoline to create quick, precise, ultra-thin slices. This technique improves the texture of hearty and potent vegetables (think fennel or raw onion), so that they can be eaten raw. It’s a go-to trick of the trade for professional restaurant chefs.
Chiffonade: The same method you use to chiffonade herbs can work wonders on your greens. Take sturdy, crunchy greens like kale or romaine, stack the leaves on top of one another, and roll the stack lengthwise into a tight cylinder. Then use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the leaves crosswise into narrow slivers. As a result, the greens soak up dressings better and take on a more manageable size and shape.
Peel: Your vegetable peeler isn’t just for removing tough skins. Use them to shave long, thin vegetables like carrots and zucchini into delicate ribbons for a light texture and beautiful splash of color. Instead of grating, try the same method for Parmesan — these shavings look elegant and are packed with flavor.
Shred: Now slaws are more creative than ever, incorporating not only cabbage but Brussels sprouts, apples and pears, fennel and broccoli. The shredding disc of a food processor makes quick work of these hearty vegetables, creating tender pieces that easily absorb dressings. Alternatively, try a box grater for shredding.
Toast: Lightly toasting add-ons such as nuts and seeds enhances their distinctive sweetness and adds even more crunch to a salad. Preheat an oven to 350°F. Spread the nuts in a small baking pan, place in the oven and toast until they’re fragrant and slightly golden, about 15 minutes. Pour onto a plate and let cool.
Plate: For a beautiful presentation, stack a salad tall on a small plate, making sure to give the dish a nice height. If you’re not tossing all of the ingredients together before serving, be sure to dress every component of the salad in the vinaigrette. Nuts and other extras like olives can be simply drizzled in oil before plating.