Defining what exactly a salad is is a complicated task. The term really only refers to a mixture of ingredients among which vegetables have a leading role, and although we associate it with a cold dish, warm salads open up another world of possibilities almost infinite. And they are not only valid for the cold months, in summer we can also take advantage of all their advantages to eat well and healthy.
It would be necessary to distinguish between two types of warm salads: those that are actually conceived to be eaten at a certain temperature, and those that add cooked ingredients.
Both typologies can be mixed, of course, and in fact they give us some of the tastiest recipes by the contrast of textures and flavors.
A warm salad is not only one that is not served cold
Few people use the expression “warm salad” anymore, and it is very rare to find it on restaurant menus, since we have assimilated well that not everything is lettuce and tomato with tuna. The mixed salad evolved, international influences arrived and we realized that a good mixed salad can be a complete meal more than satisfying.
But, in a certain way, the idea still remains that a salad has a base of leafy vegetables. Once the overexploited iceberg has been overcome, we have many varieties to choose from, acquiring whole specimens or taking advantage of the convenience of bag mixes, the typical mesclun.
If we add cabbage, spinach, chard and herbs such as arugula and lamb’s lettuce to the lettuce, the spectrum of that base of green leaves multiplies. In addition to giving a lot of volume in an economical and low-calorie way, it also They provide a refreshing and crunchy touchThey satiate and help hydrate us.
But to be truly appetizing, leafy salads need to be as fresh as possible. The lettuce and others are very delicate products that spoil quickly once cut and handled, and humidity and heat are their worst enemies.
That is, at least, the theory, because we can also apply heat to leafy vegetables, and thus get a salad Totally different tempers and with a spectacular flavor.
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How to Cook Lettuce and Other Greens for a Salad
We have assimilated that certain vegetables are prepared in a specific way and others are eaten raw, but everything has its twist. In the same way that we can eat raw zucchini or mushrooms, lettuce can also be cooked.
But to assemble a warm salad with cooked leaves, not everything goes; we seek to give a point of heat to these vegetables to extract other flavors and textures without losing a certain crunchy touch, so appreciated in these dishes.
For it you have to differentiate between the softer leaves -all lettuces, basically- of the hardest, such as cabbage, which will appreciate the high temperatures much more. The famous kale is almost inedible directly raw due to its hardness, but rubbing the leaves and marinating them makes them softer. The same thing happens if we pass them through the iron or the oven.
Lettuce and other salad leaves can be roasted in the oven
In the case of lettuce, it is best to opt for large specimens or a harder, firmer texture, such as large Roman leaves or buds. In the first case, a few 5 minutes of strong oven, about 220º Cwhile the seconds are great cut in half and grilled well marked.
We want them to char a little on the outside, always without burning, to completely change their texture and obtain new much more complex flavors thanks to the caramelization of its natural sugars. The toasty touch provided by the oven or grill completely transforms any product, including vegetables.
Round head cabbages, such as cabbage or red cabbage, can also be baked or grilled, cut into wedges or wedges, letting them roast well on the outside while the inner layers become tender and juicy. It is convenient to paint their faces with olive oil and turn them over so that they cook equally on both sides.
The hard varieties like kale or radicchio can be roasted or sautéed in chunks in large pieces, alone or combined with other vegetables, for example cauliflower or broccoli florets, or diced squash. The easiest way is to cut everything into pieces of the same size, mix them well with a dressing of your choice and spread them on a tray or platter to roast everything together.
When cooking them in the oven, always use a high temperature and be vigilantes to control that they do not pass us; We don’t want them to char and we don’t want them to lose that point of crunchy firmness.
Once ready, Let them cool down a bit before mixing them. with the other ingredients, which can be raw vegetables or previously cooked proteins, such as prawns, eggs, canned fish or leftover roast chicken. They can also be kept in the fridge, separately, and served later, tempered.
Warm or lukewarm salads: an almost infinite world of possibilities
Raw and cooked ingredients should be mixed just before serving
Theoretically, any salad is likely to be “warm” if, instead of being served cold, it is eaten at a certain temperature, in some or all of its components. The ingredients can be cooked on the spot or prepared in advance, but they should always be assembled at the last moment, just before servingespecially if we combine raw and cooked elements at different temperatures.
A good formula that always works is to combine a base of raw vegetables (lettuce, spinach, arugula, escarole) with cooked vegetables (roasted peppers, sautéed mushrooms, boiled potatoes, steamed beans) and a warm animal or vegetable protein, plus dressings.
For example, we can sauté cooked chickpeas with spices and serve them on a bed of lamb’s lettuce along with roasted radishes, or combine fresh escarole with cooked chicken breast and feta cheese. The typical salad with prawns will gain nuances if we grill the seafood, or we can cook quinoa or barley to combine them with roast beef leftovers and various lettuces.
Potato salads are very typical, and although they can be eaten cold, they can also be served warm. Once they are cooked whole, they are peeled while still hot, they are cut and seasoned before they completely lose their heat, to make them tastier. And before they cool down they are combined with the other elements, for example avocado and smoked salmon, or tomato and mackerel.
Another salad classic, the hard-boiled egg, can be added hot, or better yet, poached or poached at the moment, letting the semi-liquid yolk bathe the rest of the components. Also cheese can add temperature if we use a variety that can be grilled, such as feta, halloumi or a good firm fresh cheese.
As in any good salad, the final dressing or sauce will give the touch of grace, and we can go much further than the classic oil vinaigrette. Contrasts with acidic, fruity or spicy touches are always welcome, as is the crunchiness that nuts, seeds, fried onions or croutons can provide.
The best warm salad recipes from Directo al Paladar
After theory we move on to practice. Here we have a selection of our best warm salad recipes to bring inspiration to your kitchens. Cheer up to play and experiment by changing ingredients and playing with the contrasts of flavors and textures.
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