Friday, April 11, 2008

Dressing the divide: creamy vs. tangy

Each week we gather for a cobbled together version of potluck lunch. Today was Salad Day, and there was a spread.

Among the favorite toppings: blue cheese crumbles, toasty-sweetened pecans, mandarin oranges and chickpeas. Traditional: bacon, other cheeses, red bell peppers, cucumbers, red onion and tomatoes.

Everyone was pretty egalitarian when it came to the toppings. The beauty of Salad Day is that you can go back more than once and not feel too guilty -- assuming you lay off some of the heftier toppings.

Our lettuce selection was as diverse as could be found in Anniston on an April morn: Romaine, both red and green leaf lettuce, a butterhead/Bibb (photo). There was also one head of (ashamed to say) iceberg for "filler," in case a crowd showed up. All the leaf/Romaine varieties were nice and crisp and -- unlike iceberg on its best day -- were as great tasting without dressing as with. That's the mark of a nice lettuce, folks. Deep, rich green. Good crunch.

There was an interesting note on the dressing choices, however. The new line of Kraft naturals was presented, ranging from Toasted Asian Sesame to the classic Ranch, which was the only creamy style offered. The result: We are by far vinaigrette people. The Balsamic Vinaigrette was a clear favorite, followed by the Asian, then the Honey Dijon and Italian. The Lite Raspberry Vinaigrette was used by one or two people, and the Catalina was untouched.

However, the suprise was that, other than the ignored Catalina, the least-used was plain ol' Ranch -- that dressing that maintains its wild popularity despite its lack of character and distinction. Or perhaps it's popular because it has no character or distinction? The only professed Rancher we had has consistently eschewed any vinaigrette for as long as I can remember. His favorite, blue cheese, wasn't on the table.

Good stuff all around.