Cake Pan Math

Have you ever seen a cake recipe that sounded scrumptious and you decided you just had to make it? Then, as you are reading the recipe (hopefully before you started baking), you notice it calls for a size of cake pan that you do not have. You do have other cake pans, though, and you wonder if you can just use those. In this Cooking Tip, I will give you some guidelines for doing just that. If you are math-averse, you may want to stop reading and just run out for the specified pan size — assuming you have storage space for one more pan! However, if you are willing to bear with just a bit of figuring, read on.

At its most basic, you want to know the capacity of your cake pan and then find another pan with the same or similar capacity. For square pans, that is pretty easy. Just multiply length by width. For example, if you have an 8-inch square pan, multiply 8X8 to get 64. For your 9X13 pan, you get 117.

For a round pan, you have to reach back to what you learned in school. Do you recall that equation Pir2? That is “Pi multiplied by the radius squared.” Oh yeah, you remember hearing that somewhere, don’t you? And, Pi is 3.14. Well, in reality it is more than that, but 3.14 will suffice for our purposes.  (If you care to read about it in-depth, here is an article from Wikipedia. Let’s do an example for a 9-inch round pan. The diameter is 9 inches, which makes the radius 4½ inches. So, we get 3.14 x 4.52 = 3.14 x 20.25 = 63.6. Round it up to 64. If you shriek at even this little bit of math, here is an online calculator that will do it for you.

Remember the capacity of the 8-in square pan? It was 64. Bingo – an easy swap for an 8-in square pan would be a 9-in round pan since they both have the same capacity. (Note: this assumes a pan depth of 2 inches.)

Let’s get a bit more complicated. If you have a recipe for a cake made in a 9×13 pan and you want to make two round layers, what do you do?

Step 1: Figure the capacity of the 9×13 inch pan. Easy – 9 X 13 = 117.
Step 2: Figure the capacity of your round pan. If it is 9-inch, we already know it is 64. Doing the same calculation for an 8-in round, you get 50.
Step 3: Divide the capacity of your bar pan (117) by 2 since you want to put the batter in two pans. That gives you 58.5, which lies in between the capacity of the two round sizes.
Step 4: Make your choice. If you divide the batter into the two 8-in pans, the batter may overflow the pans. If you use the 9-in, the layers may be shorter than you want. So, if you have never made the recipe before, the safer bet would be the 9-inch pans. If you have made the recipe before in the recommended pan size (something I would highly recommend the first time you make it), how high did it rise in that pan? If it had a high rise, you would definitely want go with the 9-inch. If, however, it really did not rise that much, you might be fine with the 8-inch.

Another option is to use an oval-shaped casserole dish although the end shape may not be what you are looking for. To do that, we need to do a bit more figuring. Let’s say you have an 8×12 inch oval dish. Measure from the center to the top – 4 inches. Then, from the center to the side – 6 inches. The equation is now 4 in X 6 in X 3.14 (pi) = 75. Compare this to the capacity in the recipe to see if it might be a viable alternative. For example, this would be too large if the recipe calls for an 8-in square pan (capacity of 64) but not too bad if it calls for a 9-in square pan (81). One caveat – most oval casserole dishes are not made of metal as cake pans are. Rather, they are usually stoneware, ceramic or glass. You might need to tweak the oven temperature and/or baking time but that is another discussion.

Do you love the look of a Bundt cake? Do you have a Bundt cake pan that you barely use? Most recipes that are to be baked in a 9×13 pan can be baked in a Bundt pan. (This only works for a standard butter/oil cake, not for sponge or angel food cakes.) For here, we look at volume rather than capacity as how would you ever calculate the capacity of a Bundt pan???

Bundt cake pans are usually 10-cup or 12-cup but this is just the actual volume you would find if you filled it with water and measured how much water you used. Since the cake will rise to fill the Bundt pan, you cannot put that much batter in the pan. What you need to know is how much batter you can actually bake in that pan. Experts tell us that for a 10-cup Bundt, the batter amount would be about 6 cups. A 12-cup Bundt pan can take up to 7¼ cups of batter.

It just so happens that a 9×13 cake is usually equal to about 6 cups of batter – an amount that would be just fine in your Bundt pan. It may not bake in the same amount of time as it would in the 9×13 pan. Just think about how much thicker the batter is in that Bundt pan. Start checking your cake at the recommended bake time but do not be surprised if you need to add up to 30% more time.

There is much more that could be said but I think the above should suffice for most of your cake baking needs.

Nut and Seed Oils

I am teaching a class on how to cook with all those wonderful summer berries – both sweet and savory dishes. One of the recipes is for a Strawberry & Mango Salad with a Champagne Vinaigrette. The latter is made with walnut oil. Walnut oil is only one of a myriad of nut & seed oils and I wonder how many of you use any of them. In this Cooking Tip, I will tell you about some of these delicious oils. I will discuss best uses for the different types as well as their respective smoke points. The lower the smoke point, the less appropriate it is for high heat cooking.

Nut and seed oils are used mostly for flavor. They are considered seasoning oils rather than cooking oils. Some can handle high heats; some cannot. If they are used in hot dishes, they are usually added at the last minute. Most nut and seed oils do not have a long shelf life and so should be purchased in small amounts. They need to be stored in a dark, cool place. Many should be refrigerated.

This is a topaz colored oil with a rich/nutty flavor. The best walnut oil is said to be made from walnuts from the Périgord and Dordogne regions in France. As with most of these oils, it does not have a long shelf life and should be kept in a cool, dark place. Some recommend against putting it in the refrigerator as the cold could cause a deterioration in flavor. Not all agree with this, though.

It is wonderful in salad dressings (as in my recipe) but may be used in baking, especially if the item also contains walnuts. It is also nice with poultry, fish or veggies.

Smoke point
Unrefined – 320°F
Semi-refined – 400°F

This is oil is made from sweet almonds and is pale in color. It is primarily used in baking and confectionary. If heated gently with slivered almonds, it is great to serve with fish or green veggies.

Smoke point – 420°F

This is a very richly flavored oil that is produced mainly in France. It is paired with very good vinegars for salad dressings or as a marinade for fish/poultry. Its delicate flavor is lost when heated but it can be whisked into a sauce at the very last minute. It can also be used in baked goods in combination with hazelnuts.

Smoke point – 430°F

Although peanuts are actually a legume and not a nut, I will list it here. Since it is almost tasteless and usually has a high smoke point, it is good for more general use such as in salads, cooking and frying.

The cold pressed variety has a mild peanut flavor that is good with fruit-flavored vinegars for salad dressings. It also has a lower smoke point then refined peanut oil.

Smoke point
Unrefined — 320°F
Refined – 440-450°F

Pumpkin seed
This oil is either dark brown or green in color and has a pleasant flavor of toasted pumpkin seeds. It is popular in Austria, where most of it is produced. It is used as a last minute seasoning for steamed veggies or fish.

Smoke point — 320°F or less

Sesame oil
All sesame oils are aromatic and the most common are able to withstand high temperatures.

There are three varieties.

European sesame oil is cold-pressed and is light in color and nutty in flavor.

The Asian variety is made from toasted sesame seeds and is darker with a more pronounced flavor.

Middle Eastern sesame oil is lighter in flavor than Asian and has a deep golden color.

Smoke point
Unrefined — 350°F
Semi-refined – 450°F

This oil has a beautiful green color and is usually used in cookies, cake and ice cream.

Smoke point – 250°F

Pecan oil is light and mild and is great in baked goods and in dressings, sauces and marinades.

Smoke point – 470°F

Macadamia nut
This oil is very light in color with a mild, buttery taste.

Smoke point – 390°F

I took a look at my regular supermarkets and, without resorting to online sources or specialty stores, I could easily find peanut, sesame, avocado and walnut oils. A couple of stores carried almond oil and occasionally macadamia and pumpkin oil. What can you find in your stores? Let me know.

Even though I could find these oils, not all of them were unrefined. Unrefined oils are less processed and thus, have a fuller flavor and, according to some, more of the healthy antioxidants we seek. However, this also means their smoke point is lower. The choice is up to you.

If you have never tried a nut oil, I encourage you to do so. They are a very nice addition to your culinary arsenal!

Pesto — make it your own!

I was making sandwiches for lunch the other day and wanted something different. Off to the freezer I go where I found cubes of three kinds of frozen pesto – classic Genovese pesto, basil pesto with manchego cheese and sun-dried tomato pesto. Out came the latter, which I then mixed with grilled and chopped red onion & mayo. I proceeded with spreading that on some nice bread, topping with ham and grated Parrano cheese, brushing a bit of olive oil on the outside of the bread and finishing the sandwiches off on my stovetop grill. Very yummy if I do say so myself. That got me thinking that Pesto might be a good topic for a Cooking Tip.

Pesto is such a delicious sauce and requires no cooking. Classic pesto (aka Genovese pesto) is made from fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil. Traditionally, it is made in a mortar and pestle although modern cooks tend to use a food processor or blender. The different methods give different results. The mortar/pestle will give you a coarser pesto with a fresher basil flavor where as the food processor results in a finer texture with a less fresh (but still yummy) flavor.

There are many different recipes for classic pesto. Although they all have the same basic ingredients, they may use different ratios of ingredients. I encourage you to try different recipes until you find the one (or ones) you like. Techniques will vary, too. Some will have you put all the ingredients in the blender (or food processor) at once, blend and finish with seasoning with salt to taste. Others will have you blend all the solid ingredients to a paste and then stream in the olive oil to the desired consistency and ending with salt to taste. Others will have you hold off on the cheese, only adding it just before serving. Another method is to start by grinding the garlic and salt to a paste followed by the pine nuts and grinding again. Then, basil leaves are pounded into the mixture. Cheese is next and it is finished by drizzling in the olive oil as desired.

Some professionals recommend blanching the basil leaves before using to help keep the color as green as possible. The blanching supposedly deactivates the enzymes that cause the basil to turn brown. Testing by did show this to be true but there was a downside – the pesto made with blanched basil tasted less fresh with less basil flavor. did a different type of testing. They made pesto with three variations. The first was made classically with fresh basil using a mortar/pestle. The second used fresh basil but made in a mini food processor. The third was also made in the mini processor but rather than fresh basil, they used basil that had been frozen and then defrosted. The theory for this latter technique was that freezing leads to cell rupture thereby releasing more flavor into the pesto. Their interpretation of the results was that the classical method produced the best pesto – very creamy with the brightest flavor. They thought the pesto made with the fresh basil in the mini processor was the worst – gritty texture with flavor that was too mild. The final batch – made with frozen basil and the mini processor – fell in the middle. It did have a nice creamy texture and improved flavor over batch #2. However, they still preferred the classic approach. They did conclude, though, that if you do not want to go the mortar/pestle route, at least throw the basil in the freezer before putting it in the processor.

Find your preferred technique and then mix up the ingredients. Use different herbs (cilantro, parsley, arugula, spinach, mint or a combination) or swap out the pine nuts for almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios or walnuts. You could also vary the cheese from Parmesan to another hard cheese such as pecorino, asiago or manchego. Add some citrus for a bit of zip.

How about that sun-dried tomato pesto I used in my sandwich? It does have some of the classic ingredients (basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, olive oil) but adds roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, tomato paste and chili powder.

You may store your homemade pesto in the refrigerator. Just put it in the smallest container possible, pack it down to eliminate air pockets and either pour a thin layer of olive oil over it or put a piece of plastic wrap directly on the pesto before covering the container. It should keep in your refrigerator for up to a week. Or, do as I do. Spray an ice cube tray with nonstick spray, spoon the pesto into the compartments and freeze. Once frozen, you can remove from the ice cube tray and store either in a freezer bag or other freezer-safe container. You may lose some of the vibrant green color but I think that is a fair trade-off for always having homemade pesto at your fingertips.

Rarely does one make pesto as an end in itself. It is always an accompaniment to something else. The most common is as a pasta sauce, usually thinned out a bit with the pasta water. How about spreading it on a sandwich or on a pizza crust? Dollop it on your grilled chicken breast. It is classic served with potato gnocchi.

You will note that I did not give you any one recipe. That is because I think (unlike many culinary professionals) that there is not just one way to do things or one recipe that is the best. You need to find what is best for you. That depends on your taste, your kitchen equipment, your available time, your budget for ingredients as well as your interest in simple versus more complex techniques. Find what works for you and then branch out and experiment. Have fun and realize that there do not have to be so many hard and fast rules in cooking!

Mustard — Love it or Hate it?

Mustard is one of those ingredients of which I am not a fan. I use it in cooking but refrain but spreading it on a sandwich, a burger, etc. This Cooking Tip is for those of you who (like my husband) love mustard. Real mustard aficionados may want to visit the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin. It boasts having “more than 6,090 mustards from all 50 states and more than 70 countries.”

Mustard is made from ground mustard seeds that are mixed with liquid. Different types of mustard seeds yield different levels of spice. Yellow seeds are the mildest with brown and black having a higher spice level. The seeds on their own really have no heat; it is only when they are combined with liquid that the enzymes present in the seeds help to release the compounds that account for the heat of mustard. The more acidic the liquid, the slower this reaction occurs resulting in a longer-lasting heat. This is why mustards made with vinegar hold their heat whereas ones made with water lose their pungency more quickly. Even the temperature of the water affects the flavor. Hot water tends to deactivate the enzymes and break down some of the heat compounds. This is why the mildest mustard you can buy is that made from yellow seeds and abundant vinegar. On the other end of the heat scale is mustard made with brown or black seeds and cold water.

Here are a few of the mustard varieties that you may see on your supermarket shelves.

Yellow mustard – made from yellow mustard seeds, this variety is mild rather than spicy. It is what we think of when we grab for that American-style mustard. Its yellow color comes from the mustard seeds as well as the addition of turmeric. The liquid used is a mixture of vinegar and water. Although not very hot, its flavor still has a sharp note. It is a favorite for topping a burger or hotdog.

Brown mustard – made from the small and hotter brown mustard seeds and less vinegar than the yellow variety. It is more assertive and spicier as well as being more coarse (due to leaving the bran on the seeds). At times, other spices such as cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg are added. Because of its full flavor, it stands up well to meats such as pastrami, roast beef and sausages, earning it the name “Deli” mustard.

Dijon mustard – this variety was first made in 1865 in Dijon, France. It is made from the hotter brown mustard seeds and originally the liquid was “verjuice”, an acidic juice made from unripe grapes. Today, low acidity liquids such as white wine are used. Both the brown seeds and the lower acidity result in a strong and sharp flavor. Because of its smooth texture, it is a favorite for salad dressings or creamy sauces. It is considered a medium-hot mustard.

Whole-Grain mustard – also known as Coarse mustard. The seeds are only ground enough to make a paste yet leave a coarse texture with bits of mustard seeds. The different brands will have varying heat levels.

Honey mustard
– a mixture of honey and mustard, usually on a one-to-one ratio. The mustard is generally of the milder, yellow variety. Because its flavor is on the sweet side, it is often served as a dipping sauce.

Hot mustard – the high heat level comes from using brown or black seeds along with cold water. Chinese hot mustard is of this variety.

English mustard – this is really just a type of Hot mustard. The one we usually see is Coleman’s, which is made from a mixture of yellow and brown mustard seeds. By not using vinegar, the goal is for an increased heat level. However, since it uses both yellow and brown seeds, it is not quite as hot as Chinese mustard.

German mustard – these mustards cannot be put into one category. Rather, they range from sweet to spicy and from fine to coarse. Some also add other ingredients such as horseradish.

Beer mustard
– in this type of mustard, beer is the typical liquid although vinegar may be added. Since there is less acid, the heat level is significant. The flavor of the beer can vary from mild to strong depending on which beer is used. Similarly, Spirit mustards use spirits rather than beer although vinegar is typically also added. Whiskey and bourbon are common.

There are also many creative variations although they are certainly not as common on our supermarket shelves. These include mustards that use wines other than white wine, mustards flavored with horseradish, sriracha & balsamic vinegar. Other sweet mustards such as Pecan/Honey & Brown Sugar are also made.

Although mustards made with acidic liquids retain their punch longer than those made with water, all mustards will lose some of the pungency over time. Therefore, buy it in small quantities and store it in the refrigerator once opened.

If you do not think you like mustard, perhaps this guide will help you find a mustard you like. But, then again, if you are like me, none will make it onto my bratwurst!



40,000 Varieties of Rice

A while ago I wrote a short Cooking Tip about rice. In that Tip, I discussed the different varieties in terms of grain size. In this Tip, I would like to expand on what I wrote previously. According to, there are over 40,000 varieties of rice. I don’t know about you but I cannot imagine that. We will only cover a very small number of these types.

To recap on grain size, rice comes in short-, medium- and long-grain. Short grain means each kernel is only slightly longer than it is wide. Examples include sushi rice as well as packages just termed “short grain”. Medium-grain rice is about two times as long as it is wide. Examples include Arborio and Valencia. Long grain rice is three to four times longer than it is wide. Jasmine and Basmati are in this category.

Another point to understand is that rice contains two kinds of starches – amylose and amylopectin. Different varieties contain different ratios of these starches and that leads to a different result when cooked.

A higher proportion of amylopectin (as found in short and medium grain rice) means that the rice softens more completely and thickens sauces better. The grains have a greater tendency to cling together and make rice sticky when cooked. This makes them great for risotto, rice pudding or sticky rice.

If amylopectin is low and amylose high (as in long grain rice), each cooked rice grain is dry and fluffy and remains separate. This is a perfect type of rice to use in pilafs, fried rice or as a side dish.

Here is a list of just a few rice varieties that are available.

You might just read Long Grain rice on the package at your supermarket. It is probably what most people have in their pantries and can be bought in both white and brown.

Basmati rice is the “go to” rice in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. More than 70% of the world’s supply of this rice comes from India. It is very fragrant with a somewhat nutty flavor. Being a long-grain rice, it works great in pilafs or as a side dish for curries. It is available in both white and brown.

Jasmine rice is what you find served with Thai meals. It has a floral aroma with a slightly sweet flavor. Even though it is a long grain rice, it does become slightly sticky when cooked. You can find it in both white and brown varieties.

Arborio rice is best known as “risotto” rice although this is not the only rice that is used to make risotto. It is the most available in our supermarkets, though. Because it is high in amylopectin starch, when cooked correctly, it is chewy and creamy – making it ideal for risotto and rice puddings.

Carnaroli rice is another Italian rice that is perfect for risotto and rice puddings. It has a firmer texture and holds its shape better than Arborio.

Valencia/Bomba rice is a Spanish short grain rice with kernels that are almost spherical. It is the rice most commonly used in paella. As it is highly absorbent, it requires more water to cook than other varieties. Due to its high amylose starch content, it does not stick together.

Brown rice is a whole grain rice. It comes in short, medium and long grain varieties. It is processed by only removing the outer, inedible husk. As opposed to white rice, the germ and bran is left intact. This results in a denser texture with a nutty flavor and preferred by nutritionists because of its higher fiber and vitamin content.

Red rice is also known as Wehani if American-grown. Imported versions are called Himalayan, Bhutanese or Camargue rice and it takes its name from the red color. It is considered another whole grain rice and thus is touted for its higher nutritional content.

Black rice is sometimes labeled as Forbidden rice, Japonica or Emperor’s rice. It is very high in a certain antioxidant (the same one as found in eggplant and blueberries) and this is the reason for the black color. It turns a purple or lavender color when cooked. It is not only very flavorful but very high in nutritional value.

Glutinous rice (sticky rice, sweet rice) is very sticky when cooked due to the low amylose content. When ground, it is known as mochiko or sweet rice flour. Despite the name “glutinous”, this rice does not contain any gluten. Glutinous actually means “glue like”.

Sushi rice is a short grain Japanese rice. It is sticky in texture but not quite as much as glutinous/sticky rice. The rice is rinsed to remove the outer coating, boiled and then mixed with a vinegar mixture. In fact, the word sushi translates to “vingarized rice”.

Wild rice is not a rice. Rather, it is a seed of a grass that is native to North America. It takes much longer to cook and has a very chewy texture. It is another good source of nutrients.

You might see something called Parboiled or Converted rice. It has been treated with steam pressure before milling, which produces a tan grain that is firm & stays separate when cooked.

Instant rice has been partially or completely cooked and so, only takes only a few minutes to prepare. What you gain in convenience, though, you lose in taste and texture.

So many rice varieties to try. If all you eat is white rice, I encourage you to try some of the other types. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Are you into Buddha Bowls?

 A tasty Bulgogi Beef Bowl I recently made . A tasty Bulgogi Beef Bowl I recently made .

Have you noticed the popularity of so-called “Buddha Bowls” lately? Just what are they and why are they all the rage? This Cooking Tip will attempt to answer these questions.

Although “Buddha Bowl” is the most common term I see, they have also been called Grain Bowls, Hippie Bowls, Macro Bowls and other terms. They are basically very artfully arranged single-serving bowls of food. They are usually, but not exclusively, vegetarian.

There is no definite explanation for the term but according the authors of Buddha’s Diet: The Ancient Art of Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind, it may have come from the way that Buddha ate. “Buddha woke up before dawn every morning and carried his bowl through the roads or paths wherever he was staying. Local people would place food in the bowl as a donation, and at the end he would eat whatever he had been given.”

The Urban Dictionary has a different idea. They define it as “a bowl which is packed so full that it has a rounded “belly” appearance on the top much like the belly of a buddha.”

No matter the origin of the name, they are generally considered healthy and they are composed of fresh and whole ingredients. There are certain elements that usually go into each bowl although the variations are only limited by your taste and imagination. Most bowls contain the following components: Whole Grains, Veggies, Protein, Dressing and Toppings.

Grains – Keep it interesting by choosing different grains, preferably whole grains. Try brown, black or red rice, farro, quinoa, bulgur, barely or millet. These can be made ahead and kept if the refrigerator for a few days.

Veggies – There are a plethora of veggies out there that you can add either raw or lightly cooked. Not only do the veggies add nutrients, they also lend beautiful color to the bowl. Choose from greens, carrots, cabbage, cucumber, bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower or zucchini. Roasting the veggies adds another dimension that can be very nice. How you prepare them is up to you – they can be chopped, shredded or sliced.

Protein – Since many Buddha bowls are vegan or at least vegetarian, the protein is often tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, beans, lentils and so forth. However, feel free to add a lean animal protein such as chicken or fish. Some bowls even feature pork or beef.

Dressing – A wonderful mixture of liquid flavor is typically drizzled over the bowl to make it complete. These may be homemade or store-bought and can include a vinaigrette, hummus, guacamole or even salsa.

Toppings – Sprinkle seeds or nuts on top. Scatter tender, fresh herbs such as parsley or cilantro.

Your bowl should be not only visually attractive but full of flavor. Use different colors such as yellow, green, red, white and pink. Include a variety of textures so you have both soft and crunchy elements. Don’t cut everything in the same shape but have variety – cubes, sticks, grated, julienned, etc. Finally, balance the different flavor components of sweet, salty, acid, bitter & umami.

Although Buddha bowls have seen a definite uptick in popularity recently, the components are really nothing new. Just good, clean, healthy and flavorful food. What’s not to like about that?

Summer equals Salads!

Warmer weather is often an incentive to eat more salads. The word “salad” can mean a lot of things but it usually includes some sort of greens. Americans tend to equate lettuce with iceberg lettuce but, there are so many more varieties of lettuce and greens to liven up your salads. In this Cooking Tip, I would like to open your eyes to all there is out there. The following list is not all-encompassing as the Yuma, Arizona, County Cooperative Extension office claims there are more than 100 varieties of lettuce and salad greens. I will only discuss some of the most common greens.

Leaf lettuce – This type of lettuce comes in red & green. Rather than coming as a “head” of lettuce, the leaves all branch off of a single stalk. Both red and green leaf are mild in flavor and have tender leaves. It is often found in varieties termed spring lettuce, mesclun, etc. It is great for the base of many salads.

Romaine lettuce – This lettuce has elongated leaves with a thick white rib. Its leaves are sturdy but a bit more bitter. It provides more texture to your salads.

Iceberg lettuce – Although iceberg is looked down upon because it does not have as many nutrients as other types, it does provide a nice crunch. It also is less perishable and will last longer in your refrigerator than other lettuce.

Butterhead lettuce – Two types are Boston and Bibb. Boston is an extremely tender and soft lettuce and due to it flexible leaves that can be separated from the head, it is great for making lettuce cups. Bibb comes in smaller heads and has a sweeter taste.

Kale – Although not a “lettuce”, it is thought of as a nutrient-dense green. It does have a bitterness that is not to everyone’s taste.

Arugula – Known as “rocket” in Europe, it has dark green leaves usually with a long, spiky shape. It has a peppery bite to it. It can be used on its own but is often a great addition to other lettuce mixes. It is also used in sandwiches and as a pizza topping. Because of its peppery flavor, it goes well with tangy dressings.

Spinach – Another green that is full of nutrients that can be the sole green in a salad or mixed with other varieties.

Radicchio – Easily recognized by its reddish-purple color, it also goes by the name of “chicory”. It also tends towards bitterness but that can be tempered by grilling or roasting.

Endive – Also known as Belgian endive, these small leaves are a relative of radicchio and are crisp and slightly bitter. Due to their spoon-like shape, they are great for acting as a vessel for dips or fillings. Another popular preparation is to braise them.

Frisée – Other names include curly endive & curly chicory. These are also in the same family as radicchio and endive and are known by the very curly leaves that are tinged with yellow and green. It has a fairly potent flavor and so, often just a small amount will be added to lettuce blends.

Escarole – This is a type of endive that is mildly bitter. It holds up well to cooking, making it a great addition to soups and pastas.

Mâche – Also known as lamb’s lettuce or corn salad, it is a delicious and sweet green with soft green leaves. Its dark green leaves grow in a rosette pattern. This is one of my favorite greens to add to a salad.

Watercress – The name derives from its semi-aquatic growing nature and is classified as both a green and an herb. It is another green with a peppery flavor.

Mizuna – Also known as Japanese mustard greens, it has a mild, peppery taste. Some say it is like a less intense version of arugula.

For the best salad, try to buy whole heads of lettuce when you can. (Even better, grow your own.) The texture and flavor will be much better than pre-bagged items. They do need to be thoroughly washed before consuming. If you do buy bags of pre-washed greens, the question that always arises is if you need to wash them once you get them home. According to the FDA, prewashed greens can be consumed directly from the bag. They say that prewashed items probably have less bacteria (if any) than what is found on your kitchen counter or sink. Therefore, washing the prewashed greens is more likely to introduce bacteria into an already clean product. Another point made by a microbiologist is that any pathogens remaining on prewashed greens is not likely to be removed by your own washing of them. Here is a link to the FDA Guidelines. If you choose to wash the prewashed greens, make sure your counters/sinks are very clean and store the washed greens in the refrigerator.

For proper storage of crisp heads of lettuce such as iceberg and romaine, core the heads, wrap it in moist paper towels and refrigerate in a plastic bag that has been left slightly open. For leafy greens, including arugula & spinach, either store them in the original container or, if you have room, leave them in the salad spinner after washing and drying them & put the spinner in the refrigerator. More tender heads such as Boston lettuce with the root attached can be stored in the original plastic container or in a plastic bag left slightly open. If there is no root, wrap in moist paper towels and place in a plastic bag left slightly open. tested three different methods of storing greens. The favorite in this test was to line a plastic storage container with paper towels, put the greens on top and cover with more paper towels followed by the lid before placing in the refrigerator.

If your lettuce has wilted, it means it has lost water. To refresh it, just soak it in plain ice water for about 30 minutes.

According to WebMD, eating a salad almost every day may be one of the healthiest eating habits we can adopt. It is also one of the simplest and, if you branch out with some of these less-frequently used greens, it can also be a very tasty one!