Italy perfected pasta. France transformed sauces. The American West taught the world how to make a grand salad.
In the early days of the last century, as more and more people populated the West, inspiration was right outside the kitchen door in one form or another: fields of greens stretching under sunny skies, seafood just plucked from the ocean, orchards dotted with lemons, a year-round supply of fresh herbs ― in many regions, all of the above.
Some of the world's best-known salads were born then. A few came to the fore through a famous person, place, or event, and those legends live on. Others rose to fame more obscurely, shared from one home kitchen to the next.
Today these classic salads are in as fine a form as ever: Our choice of fresh ingredients just keeps getting better. We've learned to use seasonings with a bolder hand. And we expect our dishes to be as pleasing to look at as they are to eat.
A whole meal of salad ― it's a natural here. We salute the cooks ― both famous and unknown ― behind the concept.
To rinse and crisp salad greens, immerse in water and swish gently to remove any grit, then drain or spin dry. Wrap in paper towels and enclose in a plastic bag. Chill until crisp, at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.
To cut fine shreds of iceberg lettuce, first cut head in half through core; cut out and discard core. Cut each half in half again lengthwise, then place each quarter on 1 cut side and slice thinly lengthwise from the other cut side.
To cut fine shreds of other lettuce leaves, such as romaine, stack a few leaves at a time, roll lengthwise into a cylinder, and slice thinly crosswise.
The highest-quality ingredients make the best salads: Use flavorful extra-virgin olive oil and top-quality parmesan cheese or other cheeses (shred or crumble just before using).