I’ve often said life would be ideal if I only owned Rachael Ray‘s refrigerator. That woman opens the door to her vintage fridge and pulls out already-washed veggies. Cleaned and dried lettuces. Pitted cherries. Peeled carrots. Trimmed beef. Vats of homemade chicken stock. It’s like she has a sous chef working in a secret compartment behind her refrigerator.
Where can I buy that fridge?
Of course, not everyone has a full staff to stem their strawberries, wash their grapes and scrub their pots. Sigh.
But we still need to eat, and we need to eat a lot of fresh foods. Everyone likes a salad before (or after) dinner, but salads are a lot of work and can use a lot of water to prepare. Here are a few tips to make salad prep a breeze – at home or in the RV… until Ms Ray’s fridge is sold at Target.
1. Buy lettuce. Don’t buy the bagged already-washed stuff, even if the bag reads “organic and triple-washed”. Germs lurk. Bagged greens are recalled all the time (Listeria and Salmonella), so you are going to have to wash it when you get the bag home. Just buy a head of lettuce already! Nice butter lettuce. Crisp Romaine. Iceberg. Whatever your family likes or which ever suits your menu. You will save a lot of money. Arugula, baby spinach, baby kale and several other greens are only available packaged – wash it before serving anyway. This is especially important if feeding children, elderly people, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
2. Or don’t buy lettuce. Think of all the ingredients you might put in a tossed salad – tomato, cucumber, onion, avocado, radishes, olives, peppers, etc. Nothing is going to happen if there is no lettuce in the bowl. Toss with a little oil, vinegar or lemon juice and herbs. A plate of sliced tomatoes? A plate of sliced avocados? Voila! Salad!
3. Use a salad spinner to clean greens. I recommend this nice compact model. It is the perfect for two-to-four people, and doubles as a nice serving bowl. Wash just what you need for your meal, or prepare the entire head in advance. Place extra washed-and-dried lettuce in a zip-top bag. Line the plastic bag with a dry paper towel, and the leaves will stay fresh (and ready to use!) for several days.
4. Don’t buy bottled salad dressing. Go to your fridge and read the ingredients on a bottle of salad dressing lurking somewhere. What is that stuff? Should you be eating monosodium glutamate, artificial flavors, natural flavors, disodium phosphate, sorbic acid, calcium disodium EDTA, disodium inosinate or disodium guanylate? No! Especially when you probably have olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, herbs, salt and pepper in your house. Throw in a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and your kitchen is practically Zagat-rated. If your family enjoys a particular type of dressing, learn to make it from scratch – again, the ingredients are most-likely already in your kitchen.
5. Make a salad. And make it upside down by putting the dressing in the bottom of the salad serving bowl. Use your favorite dressing, or make a simple vinaigrette by adding a generous amount of good-quality olive oil, a splash of vinegar (white wine, red wine, cider, balsamic) or lemon juice, a little Dijon mustard with salt and pepper to taste, into the bottom of the bowl (or the bowl of the trusty salad spinner). Stir or whisk to blend. Add anything you like to the salad bowl – tomatoes, herbs, cukes, radishes, peppers, avocados, olives, berries, sliced pears or apples – and toss to gently coat in the dressing at the bottom of the bowl. Lay the cleaned/torn greens over – but do not toss. Put a little cheese, nuts or croutons over the lettuce, if desired. Toss and serve now, or put the entire (untossed) bowl in the fridge for several hours until it is time to serve. The vinegar or lemon juice will keep the avocado or fruit from turning brown, the greens will remain crisp and chilled. Remove from the fridge a few minutes before dinner. Toss and serve. Easy make-ahead salad, with only one bowl to wash.
6. Channel Rachel. There is nothing like opening a refrigerator door to find containers of washed and chopped veggies or fruit ready to eat. If you are going to be dry-camping for a few days, plan ahead. Make your fridge Rachael Ray’s fridge! Wash and dry lettuce – and all other fruits and veggies in advance. This step will save precious water while boondocking, and time better spent making ‘Smores around the campfire.
Until my next update, I remain, your tossed correspondent.