- How can I prevent the fruit in my gelatin salad from sinking to the bottom of the mold?
For best results, wait until the gelatin is semi-firm--about the consistency of cold egg whites--before pushing in the fruit and other ingredients like nuts and marshmallows. They will stay right where you put them.
- I want to take pasta or potato salad to a picnic. Is this safe?
Any type of pasta salad or potato salad should be kept well chilled until you are ready to serve it, whether it's made with oil and vinegar dressings or the wrongly maligned mayonnaise. The true culprits in cases of food poisoning are the potatoes and pasta: they're the perfect warm, moist, neutral environments in which bacteria thrive. Since it's not a picnic without pasta or potato salad, pack them in a cooler and keep your salads safe to eat.
- What is the secret to making a good, homemade vinaigrette?
Start with two parts oil for every one part vinegar. Taste, and adjust the proportions to satisfy your taste buds. Extra-virgin olive oil, toasted sesame oil, hazelnut oil, and walnut oil are all bold-flavored oils, and you can get by with using much less oil while still adding superior flavor if you choose a bold one. To add that all-important zing to the dressing, try cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, raspberry vinegar, or even lime or lemon juice. Round out your dressing with salt and pepper, a teaspoon of sugar for balance, and perhaps a dash of red pepper flakes, a little bit of crushed garlic, a dab of mustard, or anything else you think will make your vinaigrette distinctive.
- Can I substitute another vinegar for sherry vinegar in my dressing?
Yes. Vinegar in salad dressings adds a dash of brightness and enhances flavors. It should be fine to replace one with another. The best choices to substitute for sherry vinegar in a salad dressing are probably the wine vinegars (red, white, champagne) or balsamic and cider vinegars. Rice wine vinegar is a bit less acidic, more mild; so if you substitute with rice wine vinegar, add a bit more vinegar.
Arugula is a slightly bitter, aromatic salad green with a peppery mustard flavor, long popular with Italians. Recently, American palates have been catching on to its assertive flavor. Also called rocket, roquette, rugula, and rucola, arugula (which resembles radish leaves) can be found in specialty produce markets and many supermarkets. It's sold in small bunches with roots attached. The leaves should be bright green and fresh looking. Arugula is very perishable and should be tightly wrapped in a plastic bag and refrigerated for no more than 2 days. Its leaves hold grit and must be thoroughly washed just before using. Arugula makes a lively addition to salads, soups and sautéed vegetable dishes. It's a rich source of iron as well as vitamins A and C.