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Keep fit with salads

The fire was invented and man learnt how to cook food. At first the cooked food was probably provided for variety and a change from raw food, but today it dominates our tables. Even now, centuries later, our taste buds do appreciate raw food. Whether just to munch on till// the main course arrives or at home as a filler,no meal is complete without a salad.

There are infinite varieties of salads. Apart from the usual salads of cucumber - tomato - onion etc., there are fruit salads, salads with sprouted grams, Russian salads, salads with nuts/almonds/raisins and other ingredients like cottage cheese, egg, chicken ham, beans, boiled potatoes and so on. The ingredients in a salad can also be varied according to one’s imagination, taste and season.

Salads can be had as a snack, a side dish, and an accompaniment to a meal or even as a main dish. Many people prefer munching cucumber or carrot sticks along with their drinks instead of fried snacks. You can serve a healthy curd dip along with the salad sticks.

While choosing vegetables for a salad we have to keep in mind that they should be fresh. No amount of maneuvering can disguise an overripe tomato or a limp lettuce leaf.

Herbs add flavour, texture and visual pleasure to a salad each of which can be changed simply by varying the kinds of herbs used. Fresh herbs (rather than dried ones) are preferable, since their flavours are milder. Some of the herbs used in salads are coriander leaves (dhania patta), tulsi leaves (basil), curry leaves, mint leaves (pudina), parsley, sage and thyme. Salads do not need such garnishing as such, because they look colourful and attractive by themselves. However, different types of garnishing may be used to make them look more attractive - e.g. cherries, cashews, dry fruits, vegetable carving flowers etc.

Salads, when served specially at parties, can specially at parties, can be attractively and artistically arranged. Beautiful and intr icate figures of peacocks, geometrical designs, flowers and trees can often be seen on the salad counter at banquets. Add a touch of colour and elegance to the spread. Even for home parties one can use an attractive salad decoration as an eye-catching centerpiece.

Salad vegetables can be cut into different fancy shapes (instead of the usual round slices), flowers can be carved out of tomatoes, radish, carrots etc., and so on. The colour combination should also be kept in mind.

Preferably, serve the salad immediately after preparing it, as it loses its taste and crispness if kept for long in the refrigerator. Peel the vegetables thinly, as most of the essential nutrients are found just below the peel. Also, wash the vegetables before cutting them, several times in running water, so that the dirt as well as the chemicals and fertilizers are washed away.

Once a salad is made, its ‘dressing’ is important. Though normally we made do with a dash of lemon juice, other dressings are vinegar, whipped yoghurt, spicy raw mango chutney, buttermilk, olive oil, salad oil, sesame oil etc. Readymade salad oils are also available. In Europe a platter of cheese and salad is often a healthy ending to a hearty meal. Americans prefer a side salad served with the main course. One can also make ‘stuffed’ salads by scooping out the flesh from whole tomatoes or capsicums and stuffing them with vegetable filling finely chopped vegetables with dressing), or shredded chicken/meat/ prawns etc., If so desired.

Salads can be packed in picnic harpers and tiffin boxes. Bite-sized salads can be served as entrees, starters and cocktail snacks. You can serve a sprouted salad for breakfast and a sweet one as a desert. Dieters are advised to start heir meal with a bowl of fresh salad. Salads are extremely nutritive and good for your hair, skin and nails. They provide us with the much-needed vitamins and minerals, which are essential for a balanced diet. Fitn ess experts consider salads to be the healthy, green and best way to stay fit and fine.

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