French eat their salads last, at the end of a meal. The daily salad is usually dressed with a homemade (never bottled) simple vinaigrette. Vinegar based sauces were developed during the French Revolution when famine was rampant. What little meat the poor did have, it was old and carried a lot of parasites and bacteria. In a feeble attempt to ward off such nasties, the French made vinegar and garlic based sauces for their salads and ate it at the end of the meal. While I have listed it here as a starter, my family and I follow tradition and eat it at the end of the meal.
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
4 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard,
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
salt and pepper
In a large bowl, sprinkle salt and pepper in the bottom of the bowl. Add the garlic and olive oil. With the back of the spoon, crush the salt into the garlic and oil. Add vinegar and mustard. Stir until well combined.
Clean romaine but washing the leaves under cold water and patting the leaves dry. For a formal salad, remove the white centers of each leaf. For a more rustic salad, leave them. (Leaving the white center of each leaf will add a hint of sweetness to the salad). Tear the leaves with your hands and fill the salad bowl.
When the end of the meal approaches (of just before beginning a meal if following American meal courses), stir the salad with large tongs bringing the sauce from the bottom to the top. Continue “folding” the salad until the leaves and sauce are mixed well. Serve immediately.
*Note: due to the power of the vinegar and mustard, the mixed salad will be very wilted if you save it for the next day. Consuming the entire bowl once it is mixed is really necessary. Fortunately, its so fresh and delicious, an extra helping is never a problem.