When you ask a cook to list the most useful tools in the kitchen, (impeccably clean) hands are consistently at the top of the list. The good news is you’ve always got them at the ready and, provided you keep them clean in the kitchen, they can do the job of many pricey gadgets, often better. One of the best ways to put your hands to work in the kitchen? Tossing salads.
As a rule, salads should have just enough dressing to coat the ingredients, with nothing extra pooling at the bottom of the bowl. I’m always shocked when a recipe says to prepare the greens, make your dressing, and toss everything together, inevitably leading to leaves just swimming in an overwhelming amount of dressing. Once that dressing goes in, you can’t get it out, so gauging the right amount is key.
Next time you’re making a salad, lose the utensils, wash your hands, add about 1/3 of your dressing to the recipe—or eyeball the increments because, let’s be honest, do you really need a recipe for salad, anyway?—and mix the whole thing with your hands. You want to feel that the coating is light, not too wet, with no puddles at the bottom; feel and taste as you go. (Tongs are not as good at predicting whether the greens are well-saturated!) This method ensures perfectly tossed, lightly coated salads, whether using a vinaigrette or something creamy.
Unlike salad tongs that inevitably bash and bruise ingredients, especially more delicate greens like gems, baby arugula, or mâche, your fingertips can do the job while keeping everything sprightly. And when it comes to tougher greens like kale, mustard, or sturdy spinach, massaging a few teaspoons of dressing into leaves first before adding more helps tenderize the greens by breaking down those fibrous walls. (For more on how to give kale a soothing rub-down, wander this way.) Another bonus: your hands help evenly distribute “add-ins,” everything from nuts, seeds, cheese, croutons, and fruit. Clumps of avocado, begone!
This winter, I’ll be tossing robust kale salads with punchy lemon vinaigrette, feta, and crispy breadcrumbs, as well as my go-to entree-style salad of arugula, farro, roasted winter squash, toasted almonds, and sherry vinaigrette with my hands—a messy job, yes, but one that will get me perfectly-coated, never-crushed greens every time.
How do you feel about getting touchy-feely with salad? Let us know in the comments!