15 Feb2005

What is my favorite salad bowl? When your greens are fresh and crisp, abowl1your salad dressing possesses the perfect balance of acid, oil and spices, you start to wonder about these things, or at least I do. If I am taking the salad to the table or placing it on a buffet, I prefer a wooden salad bowl. If I am worried about clean up hassle I use a white ceramic bowl. If I am tossing the salad in the kitchen and plating it up before serving then I prefer a spacious stainless steel bowl.

I have two wooden salad bowls. The narra bowl pictured above is relatively new but its proportions and grain make it an instant favorite. About 18 inches in diameter and six inches in height, it can easily house a salad that feeds 12. I purchased it in Baguio at a store near the greens of the Baguio Country Club (sorry, I forgot the name) for about P1200. I was lucky enough to catch a batch of bowls that had just been given their first sanding and had not yet been finished in any way (no varnish or oils). In my opinion, unfinished bowls are the only way to go with wood – varnish dissolves with vinegars or other acids such as lemon in dressings (then you eat it), and wood oils can interfere with the taste of your salad. I have a second salad bowl that is about 12 inches in diameter made out of Mango wood that was given to me by my in-laws who at the time owned an export company that designed wooden items. This bowl has beautiful streaks of black, a characteristic of mango wood. I have had it for nearly 15 years and it still looks great though I noticed a hairline crack on it a few months ago, boohoo. I occasionally oil my salad bowls with vegetable oil to keep the wood conditioned. Experts suggest that you never wash your salad bowl with dishwashing liquid but rather use hot water to remove the remaining dressing. I agree with this concept in principle, however, I am certain that my cook still uses liquid detergent on occasion and I have not noticed any serious effects.

If I am worried about clean-up (i.e., I am washing the dishes), then I often use a nice white ceramic bowl. abowl2It does not interfere with the taste of the dressing at all and it has the added benefit of being “chillable” in the fridge so your salad is nice and cold when you serve it. The one pictured here (but totally out of focus) is about 10 inches in diameter and made of durable Limoges restaurant quality china. It can serve a salad for up to 8 people. Quick sponge job with lots of dishwashing liquid or pop it in the dishwasher for fast clean-up.

Finally, if I plan to toss a salad in the kitchen and plate it up, I use a basic stainless steel abowl3bowl because I find it easier to tell if there is enough dressing in the bowl. This can likewise be stored in the fridge to keep the greens crisp. Stainless steel, like ceramic, does not react with any of the ingredients in vinaigrette or other dressings and it is really easy to clean. No risk of breakage either.


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