Kitchen Hacks

The Salad Trick I Wish I Learned Sooner

May 20, 2020
Photo by Ty Mecham

Don’t get me wrong: I love garlicky anything, be it Caesar dressing, pot roast, or potato chip dip. But sometimes—and especially when it comes to warm-weather salads—I want garlic-ish, not garlicky. A whisper, not a shout.

Until now, this simply meant using less garlic in a salad dressing. But while reading Cook Something by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer (the Geniuses behind these crispy chicken thighs and these spice-fried eggs), I stumbled upon a smarter strategy:

“Instead of adding it to the vinaigrette or dressing...just rub the inside of the salad bowl with a peeled clove.”

As the authors explain, this simple step holds back that punch-you-in-the-face pungency, while still adding “lots of subtle flavor to the salad.” Think of whirling a citrus peel around the rim of a cocktail glass—the drink gains all the benefits of the ingredient (brightness! Vibrancy! Good vibes!), but isn’t overtly citrus-y.

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Top Comment:
“The first thing I learned about making a salad after my sorry salad upbringing of the early 1960's, when salads were always - iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber - was to explore all the other luscious things available and make a giant bowl with different greens and colorful vegetables - and to rub the bowl with garlic, first.”
— Mary R.
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You can show off this trick in a couple places: salads that call for garlic (that you’d like to tone down) and salads that don’t (that you’d like to dial up). With the former, just skip the garlic in the dressing and season the bowl instead.

While we’re at it, though, why stop at leafy greens? Garlic-rub the bowls for pasta salad, cucumber salad, or broccoli salad.

Once the garlic clove has done its job, refrigerate in a little airtight container (wrapped, if you’d like), and put towards something purposefully garlicky within a couple days.

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  • Cklein4
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Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

14 Comments

Cklein4 May 30, 2020
I, too, have rubbed garlic on the inside of a wooden salad bowl. My mother who died at 97 always made our salads with garliced bowls
 
Mary R. May 30, 2020
The first thing I learned about making a salad after my sorry salad upbringing of the early 1960's, when salads were always - iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber - was to explore all the other luscious things available and make a giant bowl with different greens and colorful vegetables - and to rub the bowl with garlic, first.
 
Dot1948 May 29, 2020
I remember mom doing this years ago, but the garlic left went into a tightly covered jar with high quality olive oil for later use.
 
wahini May 29, 2020
This is how salad has been prepared in France ever since the French began making salad. As a small child, this was one of my first cooking tasks—followed by stirring ingredients for vinaigrette in the prepared bowl, until emulsified, before adding the salad and tossing it. Suddenly the food world is discovering the magic of every day French cuisine.
 
mc.farine May 29, 2020
I grew up in France in a family where garlic was never added directly to a salad. Instead we rubbed the bowl with a peeled garlic clove. I still do it.
 
Claudia I. May 29, 2020
My dad, a brilliant pantry cook, was way ahead of the times. He taught us girls how to do this with a wooden salad bowl in the family to this day, some 80 years later.
 
Merry May 24, 2020
We feel the same way about onions - onion-ish is what we really want, so our vinaigrette includes part of a shallot, finely grated. Perfect.
 
Veronica B. May 23, 2020
My Italian grandmother taught me this trick 40 years ago. :) And I've been rubbing my wood salad bowl with a garlic clove as long as I've been making salads.
 
Liz L. May 26, 2020
Does it need to be a wood bowl?
 
razzy May 29, 2020
It wouldn't have to be, Liz but the wood's sort of rough texture just makes it easier.
 
FS May 22, 2020
I'm surprised this "hack" isn't known to more cooks.
 
Rickeia A. May 21, 2020
I have been doing this for years. I sprinkle a little salt in the bowl first and then rub the garlic clove around the bowl.
 
Looperman May 21, 2020
Looking for Farm Fresh Garlic's. Grown in Oregon. Then go to
www.ElephantGarlicWorld.com.
They have both Food Grade garlic's and Seed Grade garlic's if you prefer to grow your own. Non GMO and Pesticide Free. Inspected by the Oregon Department of Agriculture. They ship everywhere. 2020 harvest starting soon. Don't miss out.
 
Lori E. May 20, 2020
My dad (not a gourmet cook by any stretch of the imagination) used to do this with our wooden salad bowl. Well done, Dad!