The men in my family do not like most vegetables but, oddly enough, they’ll eat salad without complaint. As a vegetable-lover myself, this used to frustrate me: I’d laboriously wash and chop vegetables and put together a lovely salad, only to find that any leftovers looked and smelled horrid the next day. Then I learned a few tricks to keep salad fresh in the refrigerator all week, so getting my guys to eat their vegetables takes a lot less time. As an added bonus: there’s always a nice salad waiting for me at lunch time, which means I’m making better food choices throughout the day now, too. Here’s how.
Kill the stuff that kills your salad. Gross as it sounds, vegetables often come home from the store with mold spores on them, among other things. Simply washing with water doesn’t kill these pathogens that will breed in your salad, causing your lettuce to “rust” and other veggies to rot. Get rid of these invisible nasties using my homemade fruit and vegetable wash (the third one works best for long-lasting salads).
Dry it, and dry it some more. Sure, a good salad tastes juicy, but that’s from the water content in the vegetables. Failing to completely and totally dry your ingredients will promote rot, so dry all leafy greens and other salad fixings thoroughly. I use a salad spinner, but you can just as easily roll them up in a clean kitchen towel, grab the ends and twirl it like a madman to spin the water off yourself. Or pat them dry individually if you’d rather.
Remove the seeds. This step makes such a huge difference in how long my salads last that it’s a wonder I didn’t figure it out until just a few months ago! When cutting tomatoes, run your fingers through and pull out the seeds, as well as the gel surrounding them. The flavor’s in the flesh, anyway, so why put the slime in there that will make your salad go bad? For cucumbers, slice them lengthwise and run a spoon down the center to scoop out the seeds and surrounding flesh.
Never, ever chop lettuce. Lettuce is full of moisture, and its cellular structure keeps it that way. Cutting leaves releases an ascorbic acid oxidase which turns into that “rusty”, unappetizing brown stuff. When torn, the leaves separate without causing as much damage to that cellular structure so they stay green longer. Don’t twist when tearing, though; gently tug the leaves into bite-size pieces and they’ll break apart at structurally softer points, keeping that moisture-retaining structure intact.
Moisture ON your veggies is the enemy of a good salad. If you’ve ever tried storing a bowl of salad overnight, you’ve no doubt noticed condensation drops on the lid or plastic wrap the next morning. That’s because the salad contents still emit a lot of humidity, which will in turn drip back into your salad and cause rotting. There are two steps to preventing this. First, put a fresh, dry paper towel on top of your salad before storing it. Replace that towel daily. Second, when you’re replacing the towel, wipe the inside of the lid off to remove any condensation. Combined, these two steps will keep your veggies crisp for days. (In addition to these two steps, I store my salads in the spinner itself and fill our salad bowls before serving meals — so I know everyone’s eating getting the right amount — then lift the mesh basket out and wipe the bowl daily.)
Don’t dress until dinner. Your salad, I mean, not YOU! Lettuce lives doused in dressing wilt quickly, so serve dressing on the side or take out only enough salad for that dinner and toss it with the dressing in a separate bowl.
The nice thing about having a salad that last all week is how much time you save by washing, chopping and tossing only once, then dishing it up as you go. With fresh salad on hand, even picky eaters like the guys in my family wind up getting their vegetables without it feeling like yet another chore for me!