Six O’Clock Solution: Try giving this salad a spin

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A good salad is not hard to make if you follow basic rules offered by New Zealand cookbook author Alice Zaslavsky in her third book, Better Cooking (Appetite by Random House, $40).

Start with good greens and be wary of ready-made mixtures of lettuces because, she notes, each of those types of leaves has a different water content and was probably picked at a different time. I buy a mix when it looks good and is on special and then weed out any overage leaves.

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Zaslavsky is a big fan of the salad spinner. This gadget allows you to get the ingredients really dry, allowing the dressing to stick. Another basic tip is to include a member of the onion family in any salad. She likes a dash of sweetness in her salads, such as honey or maple syrup, particularly if the greens are bitter.

Be kind to your greens, Zaslavsky directs. She would like us to trim, wash, dry and store our greens when we get them home. And put a little money into the oil or vinegar you will use in the dressing. Instead of parsley, try adding dill, tarragon, chervil or mint.

Every one of her 100-plus recipes in this fine cookbook includes tips. She calls them “golden nuggets of info.” Example: Make the dressing in the bowl you will use for the salad, beginning by wiping out the bowl with the cut clove of garlic.

Not Just a Side Salad

Serves 6


1 tablespoon (15 mL) best quality vinegar or citrus juice

Pinch sea salt

Pinch sugar

1 teaspoon (5 mL) mustard

3 tablespoons (45 mL) good olive oil


The best-looking greens: a head of lettuce — romaine, iceberg, oak leaf, frisée, radicchio, etc.

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1 to 2 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, leaves only, chopped

1 garlic clove

1 to 2 green onions, finely chopped


Alice  gives detailed advice on vinegars. She likes white wine vinegar, verjuice or rice wine vinegar, the latter when cooking Asian-style dishes. Chardonnay vinegar is a choice when cooking French dishes. To accompany a rich-flavoured dish, she chooses red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or black vinegar. To cut the budget with a cheap balsamic vinegar, add a little maple syrup or brown sugar heated over medium heat until thickened, or use pomegranate molasses.

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Be sure greens are dry; the easiest way is to use a salad spinner. Alternatively, roll them in a clean towel. “Getting them really dry is crucial.” To revive crispness, prepare leaves, then soak in cold water for 10 to 15 minutes (you can chill the water with ice cubes). Many more salad tips are offered in this excellent book.

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