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The Demise of the Salad Fork

April 01, 1998|MARION CUNNINGHAM | Cunningham's latest book is "Cooking With Children" (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995)

In recent years "mixed greens"--usually a mix of frisee, red and green lettuces, watercress, arugula, Belgian endive and radicchio cut into bite-sized pieces and usually sold by the pound--have become a supermarket and farmers' market staple.

They look very inviting until one attempts to eat them with a fork. The tines of most forks are too dull to pierce the pieces of greens. To say it is irritating is an understatement. My solution: We should all carry chopsticks, the perfect tools for eating these mixed greens. In fact, chopsticks can gracefully handle many clumsy-to-eat foods. By the way, many people think these mixed greens have been washed and are ready to eat. Often, they have not been adequately washed, and even those that have been pre-rinsed should be washed again before eating.

Mixed greens and chopsticks aside, I have discovered the perfect way to serve a no-hassle salad--in a taco. I recently served a Caesar salad in a crisp, warm corn taco; it was a neat way to keep the lettuce contained, neither forks nor chopsticks were needed, and it was amazingly good.

I served the Caesar Salad Taco with hot gazpacho. We tend to think of gazpacho as being served chilled, which is very good, but it is just as good hot with a garnish of sour cream and chopped cilantro. The chilled gazpacho is traditionally garnished with cilantro and finely chopped, peeled, seeded cucumber.

GAZPACHO

5 plum tomatoes, finely chopped

2 cups tomato juice

1/3 cup water

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

1/2 cup finely chopped, peeled, seeded cucumber, plus 1/3 cup, optional

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 bunch cilantro, washed, dried, stems removed, leaves chopped, optional

1/2 cup sour cream, optional

Combine tomatoes, tomato juice, water, onion, bell pepper, 1/2 cup cucumber, vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, sugar and salt, and stir until well-mixed. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Ladle into individual bowls, and garnish with cilantro and additional 1/3 cup cucumber if served cold or with cilantro and sour cream if served hot.

4 servings. Each serving without garnish or sour cream:

60 calories; 943 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 15 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 1.10 grams fiber.

CAESAR SALAD TACO (30 MINUTES OR LESS)

SALAD

8 cups romaine lettuce, about 2 heads

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Dash hot pepper sauce

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Salt

ASSEMBLY

4 tablespoons oil

8 corn tortillas

2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

SALAD

Remove and discard any coarse outer leaves from romaine. Separate remaining leaves, rinse and pat dry with towel. Chop leaves into bite-size pieces, wrap in damp towel and refrigerate until needed.

Combine garlic, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, whipping cream and salt to taste in 1-pint jar. Put on lid and shake until dressing is pale yellow and creamy. Refrigerate until needed.

ASSEMBLY

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 10- or 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, put 1 tortilla in skillet. After about 20 seconds, lift edge of tortilla with spatula. If lightly golden, fold tortilla in half with spatula and let brown on 1 side, 15 to 20 seconds. Turn tortilla over and let second side turn brown and crisp, 15 to 20 seconds. Remove from skillet and let drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining tortillas, adding oil as needed.

Toss romaine with dressing. Fill tacos with salad and sprinkle with Parmesan.

4 servings. Each serving:

177 calories; 77 mg sodium; 7 mg cholesterol; 18 grams fat; 4 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.40 gram fiber.

* John Gilvey frosted bowls from Freehand, Los Angeles.

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