Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Serving salad

I was never so excited about salad servers than the day I found this blue-and-white handled pair at Thrift Smart!

Here's a question for readers who make their own salad dressings. How do you serve them at table?
  • Do you toss the entire salad with dressing before serving? The vinaigrette ruins the possibility of leftovers, doesn't it?
  • What container do you put the dressing in? How do you keep it properly mixed throughout the meal? (As you can see, I resorted to a salad fork in the pitcher.)
  • Do you offer a choice of homemade dressings, and if so, how do you present them?

I won't be shocked if you put the bottles on the table. I just want to know the logistics!

44 comments:

Cyndi Lewis said...

Okay Meredith,
I confess... we just slap the plastic bottles on the table. Sorry. I dream about setting a beautiful table but logistically just getting dinner to the table is a feat unto itself.

Anonymous said...

mom loved the look of mason jars and mixed her homemade dressing in them and served them in the jar...you could just give a shake and pour....she only served that one, if someone asked the kraft ones were in the fridge...

i miss her dressing it was so yummy...yours looks good..what's the recipe


celina in canada

Goslyn said...

I keep pretty jars with lids - like octagonal jelly jars or jars that once held fancy mustards, wash them and remove the label, then use them for homemade dressing. It's the same idea as the mason jar suggested above, but somewhat prettier.

I never pre-dress a salad, because I hate the pool of dressing at the bottom of a plate that inevitably results.

Anonymous said...

I love the dressing on the salad at Olive Garden. We don't go to Olive Garden very often. When we do I sometimes buy a bottle of their dressing to take home. Over the years I have collected 4 of their bottles. Very nice bottles with a handle...I saved them and mix my own dressing now. I keep it in those bottles...It looks pretty on the table too.
Roxie

Anonymous said...

I "plate" the salad in the kitchen and go ahead and put dressing on the ones I know will want it (I don't care for salad dressing personally, and hate going somewhere where the whole big bowl is already dressed.). We do this both with homemade or storebought dressings.

Cathy

Anonymous said...

I personally don't like salad dressing -- I tend to eat my salad dry. But some of my family will use the mason jar trick -- mix their own dressing and serve it on the table that way, allowing people to dress their own salads.

Gina said...

Depending on the salad, it could go either way. If we are doing a viniagrette, then I have a "shaker" bottle that is a beautiful glass bottle. If we are having premade (like ranch), then we just bring the store bought bottle to the table -- yeah, I'm guilty! ;)

Theplaceofh said...

We always allow persons to dress their own salads, mostly because I can't stand the dressing that dh chooses, and he doesn't like mine. I have some nice salad cruets passed down from family that I can make my own dressing in, but you can often find them in flea markets and thrift shops.

martha said...

I always pre-dress the salad if the dressing is a vinaigrette. If it's creamy, I use a small vintage gravy boat.

You ladies are special. I am so grateful to have found other women who think through these little details too. My family tends to appreciate the overall impression, but has little patience with the specifics.

Marsha said...

I usually make my dressings in a half-pint mason jar and, if pressed, will just put that on the table for shaking and pouring. I don't usually put lots of choices out at any given meal - one of those things where having lots of options is kind of silly, I think, and where too much choice is a symptom of overabundance.

If there's company for dinner or it's a holiday, I'll pre-dress the salad. The thing about salad dressing is that one needs much less than one usually pours. A well-dressed salad, in my opinion, is a sparingly dressed salad. As for leftovers, I don't worry overmuch simply because I don't put out a big old bowl of too much. Instead, I treat a salad as an accent (unless it's the focus of a meal, like a salade nicoise-type) and not a course unto itself.

Lettuce isn't in season right now where it live. There simply will not be salads on my table until late April or May.

Anonymous said...

For special occassions or for homemade dressing, I use a small - what I guess you would call - gravy boat, although it's much smaller than what you would serve with gravy. I also add a small spoon to it so that people can mix up the dressing or spoon it on, if that's their preference. If it's just a casual family dinner, I admit, we use the bottles.

3bean said...

I always have dressing on the side since my husband will only eat salad undressed. I have found that when I make dressing in the food processor or mini-chopper it never separates. Something about the whirling blades must emulsify it. I usually serve the dressing in a small creamer pitcher with a napkin underneath. I store it in a small Tupperware.

Patty said...

Love the salad servers, a great find !
We put the bottles on the table for the less formal meals and if its a more formal meal, I add the dressing to the salad before putting it on the table.
All homemade salad dressings are stored in small mason jars or "promise land" milk bottles

Jane said...

I make my own dressing and serve it in a small serving bowl with a spoon for them to use to put the dressing on the salad.

I have put the mason jar on the table itself when I have company that I know really well over - but find that the jar gets so messy with dressing running down the side - that it is worth the extra effort to put it in a bowl with a spoon and do it that way.

I love the salad servers! You got a good buy!

Blessings,
~Jane

LAUREN at Faith Fuel- said...

Never mind how I serve salad- I just want to salivate over those gorgeous blue willow salad servers. Beautiful.

Amy said...

I also dress the salad before serving, but I mix my dressing up by using a mason jar and shaking it. I like to make a Greek-style dressing with oregano, red wine vinegar, and olive oil with loads of salt. Emily actually sucks on the lettuce leaves until she gets every last drop off of the leaves. Your dressing looks yummy that is pictured here. You will have to share your recipe!

I love the salad servers- they match so well with all of your dishes!

Willow said...

If I make a salad dressing, it goes with a particular salad, so I toss it in before serving. Bought dressings? Well, they just go on in their bottles, unless it's a formal dinner, which almost never occurs at my house.

Mama Squirrel said...

If it's homemade dressing, I serve it in a small cream pitcher.

A.D. said...

We all have quite a variety of opinions on dressing a salad, don't we? lol

I usually make my own dressings, thoroughly whisking the ingredients together in a measuring cup. I always dress the salad in the bowl b/c I don't believe a person can adequately blend salad and dressing together on their plate. Glops of dressing interspersed with undressed areas of lettuce is SO unappetizing! A salad is much more flavorful if sparingly dressed in the bowl, then tossed and tossed and tossed. And tossed some more. Read Emilie Barnes' description in one of her books for the explanation (Sorry, can't remember which book!).

As far as leftovers, it's a joke in our home that "Mom always eats the dead salad"! Yep, salad dressed with vinaigrette, especially, doesn't age well. But Mom always comes through! She eats it for breakfast the next day! No one else will touch it.

Anonymous said...

I like to serve a homemade vinaigrette dressing in a small pitcher with a mini whisk right in the pitcher. That way if it seperates, your guests can just give it a stir before they pour it. I like to place the pitcher on a small plate to catch the drips.

Homemaker05 said...

It's not fancy, but Pampered Chef has a salad dressing mixer thing (at least they used to) that has a plunger type mixer in it. You mix everything right in it and then you can store it in the fridge and just bring it out on the table. I don't make our dressing these days, but if I did, I'd use this. :)

Karen said...

I usually dress and plate the salad in the kitchen. Yes, you're correct that vinaigrette prevents leftovers, so I plan portions carefully.

Anonymous said...

I never pre-dress salad greens, preferring to allow each person a choice of 3 or 4 different kinds. When I make it (yes, we have storebought, bottled stuff too!), I like to serve it in a small pitcher on a plate. I save interesting bottles as well, & use those sometimes.

I have to agree with 3bean about using a blender to make dressings...they just seem to stay mixed a lot better!

Brenda

Cat from Scaling Back said...

I hope I can help! I was bothered by this little dilemma for ages (the fork or mini whisk in the server).

We use. . . drumroll. . . a small vintage ladle spoon. Simply give your dressing a little "churn" with the ladle, and then use it to pour a serving over your salad. It's oh so civilized, elegant, and efficient. The kids love to use it, too.

A vintage ladle will have a gentle shape that does not require an awkward turn of the wrist to use.

Google "ladle spoon" or "cream spoon" for ideas.

By the way, for family, I offer one vinaigrette that we all like. With guests, I add another choice--ranch or French--in a little pitcher.

I hope this helps.

Cat from Scaling Back said...

I couldn't resist including a link to a pretty ladle spoon (middle spoon in photo). Of course, this one's expensive but you get the idea.

http://www.trocadero.com/20thcvintage/items/687249/en1store.html

TJ said...

Want something more shocking than putting the bottle on the table? We don't have a table. I mix up our ranch or italian in a tupperware container in the kitchen, and each person puts it on themselves. Then we take our plates to the bar to eat.

I have owned one of the pretty glass dressing holders that you get when you buy the name brand mix. Those work really well, and you could probably find one at a thrift store or yardsale.

Brandy said...

I'm a bottles gal ... BUT, I do want to start making our own dressing. It's a lot better, I think.


Don'tcha just LOVE Thrift Smart? That's the thrift store here in Nashville we go to too. We're moving to Chattanooga this Friday, but I may still come back once a month or so when they have 50% off the whole store sales lol. My sister will still live here, so visiting her will be a good excuse lol

Munkamama said...

I think your idea is nice. When I make my own dressing I do toss it on just before serving. I only do this when we have company - and yes, it eliminates leftovers but it's not something I do too often.

Anonymous said...

I also wanted to salivate over the Blue Willow servers. Are the handles ceramic? If so, I have that same set (bought them on eBay years ago) and love them.

Really enjoy your blog!
Toni (Toni_KY on PH)

Mrs. Pivec said...

Oh, I covet your servers! :)

I save jelly jars and use mason jars too. I'll put store-bought in the bottle on the table... but, hey, now that I think of it, I could put those in jars too if I want to pretty things up.

I usually only dress the salad if it's a particular recipe I'm following.

Anonymous said...

On fast nights we have:

Oil/Vinegar cruet set for hubs and me.

Ranch, either in the bottle (no shame) or if I have homemade on hand, loaded into an oversized creamer, for kids. They pour, don't spoon. We mastered the art of dripless pouring but granted, they are tweens/teens : )

When I dress the salad before serving, I use Leanne Ely's recipe (sp?) of Flylady fame: called Leanne's Simple Dressing. 1 part rice vinegar, 2 parts oil of choice (or is it 2 parts vinegar, 1 part oil?) and 1 crushed garlic clove. Sea Salt to taste.

To save cruddy leftovers, I only tear off as much lettuce as each person will eat (knowing the family's habits helps). I put dressing in bottom of serving bowl before adding lettuce and veg. lightly toss, scooping dressing up from bottom, when ready to serve.

You can also lay a couple of Ritz-type crackers on top of a dressed salad before storing (covered) overnight in the fridge. It will keep the degrading down, enough that it is still appetizing for lunch next day.

deb meyers

Kathleen Grace said...

We use the Good Seasons dressing bottles to store and servoe our dressings. I have found that if you very slowly wisk the oil into the other ingredients that it does not separate, it emulsifies much better. You must wisk vigorously though and add the oil s-l-o-w-l-y.

Ann'Re @ Home said...

I have a glass salad dressing cruet with a plastic top that I picked up at a yard sale for a dime. It's not the most beautiful thing when you set it on the table, but it holds the dressing and when you close the pastic cap it allows you to shake it up if needed without making a mess.

Anonymous said...

Blue Willow Salad mixers go pretty high on ebay (as someone who has bid on a pair)

Katie said...

I usually like to toss the salad before and have it all ready with a pair of tongs to serve it up...

However, I've made the mistake of doing that *too early* and it wilts so quickly!! I'm still getting that timing thing down...

:-)

Lovely salad servers! I have blue in my kitchen - I love dishes with blue accents!

Blessings,
Katie

Ewokgirl said...

I really have only one homemade dressing that I use for a specific salad. When serving that, I put the dressing on the salad and serve it that way. It's rare to have leftovers of it, so that's not a concern.

The rest of the dressing is kept in a shaker container. I think it's actually intended for alcoholic drinks, but I use it for dressing. I wouldn't have a problem putting it on the table, though. Sometimes function trumps fashion.

Anonymous said...

I once had the luxury of eating oil & vinegar dressing at a friend's house. She quickly splashed a little sweet vinegar and a little olive oil on each plate - and the bottles looked nice! The vinegar being sweet really made it a treat! YUM! Since then, I've often served with a bottle of each on the table, but some guests are wary--so I keep out bottles too. I need to see this Olive Garden bottle. It sounds pretty. Angela

Kalee said...

I really love making my own vinegarette....my husband for 23 years of his life hated salad until he ate it with my dressing after we were married! But I am with you on leftovers......so I make a nice batch of dressing, separate out enough of the salad that I think we will eat that night, mix in enough dressing to lightly coat it, and then put up the extra salad. Then the remaining dressing goes into either a little jam dish I have that has a silver spoon and a lid, or it goes into a cruet to pour, in case anyone wants any extra!

Andrea said...

I find it really funny that some ladies are admitting feeling 'shameful' for putting dressing bottles on the table...I never really considered that there could be another way. ;) Dressings went in fancy containers at weddings, and other get together of that nature...

But then again, growing up, we ate a lot on paper plates - didn't bug me in the least, and saved my mom, who was working full time, going to school full time, and doing a great job of raising two kids with my dad's help, a lot of time.

I only serve salad dressing in a fancy container if I actually make it; DH is picky about dressing, and if I DO make dressing, it is just for me, so what is the point?

And please post your dressing recipe! :)

Meredith said...

Andrea, there's certainly no shame in that!

Since I do make a lot of our dressings from scratch, what to put it in and how to serve it has been a problem for me.

I knew other ladies would have some ideas, but I NEVER in a million years would have predicted this many comments about salad dressing!!!!!

I'll share my basic recipe in another post and see if anyone else would like to share theirs in the comments, too.

Andrea said...

Oh, I have one that I'll share...It is to die for! And a pretty green color for this time of year! :)

Meredith, I have to say, I LOVE your site too...my husband teases and says that I've found someone as cheap as myself! I'd probably deny that though - I don't bat an eye at dropping money on my Bare Escentuals make up (dry, sensitive skin - it is the only thing that doesn't irritate me!), or salon hair products. It is nice to know though, in all other things, that there ARE other folks out there who strive to be frugal. :)

Annette said...

I have an actual salad dressing maker. Very pretty. Comes with a built in stir stick. Can just sit on the table and be used as is. Would never pre-mix the dressing on as people like different amounts of dressing, and I tend to like none. :)

Daniel Koontz said...

I'm enjoying your blog!

I've always thought it was presumptuous to put the dressing on the salad FOR the guests. Better to offer them their own choice of dressings (homemade or otherwise) and also let them decide how much dressing (or if any) to put on their own salads.

Let me share a very easy and inexpensive homemade salad and dressing combo that we make in our home: Fattoush

Keep up the great work!

Daniel Koontz
Casual Kitchen

Elizabeth said...

To toss the salad with dressing or put it on the side? Ah, that's a question I've considered many a time. I think it depends on what type of salad you are making. Some salads call for a particular dressing, such as a salad with mandarin oranges, sugared almonds and raspberry vinaigrette -- or a seven layer salad. And, if you're serving a casual Italian buffet with a tossed salad, it's sometimes easier to toss the salad with some kind of Italian dressing than to offer a variety.

But, usually, I put out several types of dressings and let people choose. Sad to say that I do often use bottles, because I have some inexpensive glass cruets that could be used, and I can always buy more -- They're really easy to find for a low price.

I think I'm going to start storing my dressings -- even store bought ones in inexpensive covered glass containers so that I can just pull those out at the last moment and set them on the table.

I keep tub butter and sometimes other spreads in inexpensive glass dishes in the fridge for that very reason. So, why not for salad dressings?

Dh prefers to put dressing on at the table, rather than tossing it even slightly beforehand, because he thinks the greens remain crisper.