RECENT experiments, undertaken as part of the search for a solution to our national energy problems, have once again indicated that "oil and water do not mix." No where is this more apparent than in the making of salads.
Take a bit of bibb lettuce dripping from the bath, a leaf of spinach still splashing in the washing water. Outrageously price olive oil will never cling to these wet greens. All of the ingredients, time, effort and money put into a salad dressing will drain to a pool at the deepest point of the salad bowl. How does one prevent this sort of loss?
You could wrap the greens in a fluffy towel or dry them between paper towels. But my preference in salad drying has always been to rely on the Force, centrifugal of course. When wet grees are spun around in a clothes dryer-like device, the leaves are forced against the walls of the container and the water driven off each leaf.
The least expensive piece of equipment used in the kitchen to demonstrate the principle of centrigugal force is the classic French salad basket. This utensil is constructed of a tinned wire, chainlink body that is 5 1/2 inches deep and attached at its top to a wire hoop 8 3/4 inches in diameter. It looks like a miniature basketball hoop, closed at the base with two connecting handles off the top. Put the greens in the basket, grasp the handles at the top and swing the basket in great sweeping circles, like Huckleberry Finn making believe he was a Mississippi paddle-wheel boat. Your shoulder marks the central point of the circle and the basket just whips around. The water on the leaves is pulled out of the basket.
The best place to perform this culinary task is outdoors some distance from people and things. It's a splashy event. For those who have taken up residence in apartment buildings, the bathroom or shower area makes a choice alternative. Give yourself lots of room for the swing. This type of basket sells for about $4.
A technologically more advanced and convenient model of this object is the Mouli Plastic Spin-Dryer. It has an outer bowl 10 inches in diameter and 6 1/4 inches high. A slotter colander basket fits within. The greens are placed inside the colander basket. The lid contains a series of gears that constitute a spinning mechanism. Turning the handle on top of the lid sets the basket inside spinning. Most of the water on the leaves is forced outside the colander and against the inside of the bowl. It is much neater device to use than the tinned steel mesh basket. The Mouli and its imitations are selling at about $10.
A new salad drying tool that also uses this system is the Copco dryer. It has some distinct advantages over the Mouli. The ouside basket is attractively designed and can easily be used as a serving bowl. The inside colander basket sets on legs that provide for better drainage and make it extremely useful as an all-purpose colander with other foods. The top has a hook for easy storage. At $12.50, I would definitely consider this best of class.
It is important to point out that with each of these devices not all the moisture is removed. You can remove the leaves from these dryers and go directly to the bowl and dressing, but you will enjoy the final result much more if you take the greens from the spin-dryer, roll them in a kitchen towel, place the roll in a plastic bag and let the bag rest in the refrigerator for about one hour before adding the dressing and serving.
A few words of warning: Two manufacturers have chosen to produce spinning salad dryers that utilize a rope or ribbon attached to a top-like device within the bowl. The ribbon is wound up by turning the inside basket. The leaves are placed inside the basket, the top put on and the ribbon pulled out to start the spinning.