Top positive review
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A very nice book of classics and seasonal salads.
on July 17, 2005
`Williams-Sonoma Salad' with recipes and text by Georgeanne Brennan, under the general editorship of Williams-Sonoma founder, Chuck Williams is an excellent little, inexpensive hardcover book all about salads. Unlike some other grandly titled books on salads, this little volume does two big things right for a salads only book.
For starters, it's first chapter of recipes has seven (7) recipes for major, classic salads, almost all of which originated in French, Italian, or American cuisines. These are:
Celery Root Remoulade
The second `big' thing it gets right is that the next four chapters cover salads appropriate to each of the four seasons. While your average megamart has virtually all fruits and vegetables throughout the year, there are still some important seasonal considerations that make a difference in the quality or cost of a salad. For example, asparagus and artichokes are far cheaper in the spring than at any other time of the year; tomatoes and fresh corn are at their very best if obtained locally in the summer; apples and pears are freshest in the fall, and citrus is most abundant and least expensive in the winter.
The last chapter of recipes gives us seven (7) `picnic' salads whose taste improves over time or which are easily assembled at the last minute `on site'. They are also very good for extended periods without refrigeration as they contain no mayonnaise or any other uncooked or semi-cooked eggs.
There is a non-recipe chapter at the end on `Salad Basics' covering the primary ingredients and techniques including vinaigrettes, creamy dressings, types of greens, and varieties of other ingredients. It is beyond me why this chapter is put at the back of the book when it is something you should read before embarking on the recipes or on a career of ad libbing salad making.
The only other quirk of the book's organization is that the two potato salad recipes are in two different chapters, one in the classics and one in the summer chapter. Otherwise, in general, this is a very well thought out book organization, making up for the slightly pricy $16.95 list price for 43 recipes. We are also well served by the fact that there is a full-page color snapshot of the results of each and every completed recipe. For a glossy book like this, one would feel cheated if there were pics of only half the recipes.
With all this good stuff going for it, I did find some things that were just a little off. In the recipes for the classic salads, I found at least four instructions that concerned me. The first two were where poaching chicken and cooking hard-boiled eggs were done at substantially longer times than what I have found to be necessary from both other authoritative recipes and from my own experience. I was inclined to think that the author was just trying to be careful with microbes, until I read the Caesar Salad recipe, where a totally raw egg was used to make the dressing. In all the very best recipes for Caesar Salad, the raw egg is `coddled' before adding it to the dressing. That is, it is cooked in boiling water for about a minute to kill off any microbeasties. I was also just a little concerned with the amount of fresh garlic used in the Caesar salad, and the method by which it was added. It called for first making the toasted croutons, then rubbing the fresh garlic onto the sides of all those little cubes. This seems to be a relatively tiresome method, which could easily be replaced by toasting the bread slices, rubbing on the garlic, then cutting the toast into little cubes. And even better and quite traditional technique is to rub the cut garlic into the wooden salad bowl before mixing the dressing.
All in all, this is a better salad book than others I have seen and it is a very good first salad book.