Lettuce is one of the prime ingredients in most green salads, meaning the variety of lettuce salads is wide. On the most basic level, a lettuce salad can consist of lettuce and a few other vegetables, such as tomatoes, carrots or celery, although some type of simple dressing usually is added to bring some zest to the greens. A wilted salad can be made by heating oil and vinegar in bacon drippings and then pouring the resulting hot dressing over a mixture of different lettuce leaves, wilting them slightly and coating them with savory flavor. Simple lettuce and dressing salads can be enhanced with the addition of shredded meats such as tuna or chicken, toasted croutons, and roasted vegetables such as peppers or corn. A lettuce salad can be turned into a full meal when a number of ingredients are added to make salads such as Cobb salad, Caesar salad or chef’s salad.
The base ingredient in this salad is lettuce, and there are several types available. Iceberg lettuce is fairly standard and provides a neutral taste and crisp texture. Butterhead lettuce, such as Boston Bibb lettuce, has a silkier texture and richer flavor. Romaine lettuce has a distinctive taste and shape and often is used for aesthetic purposes as well as taste. Salads can use a single type of lettuce or contain a combination of different greens.
A simple lettuce salad usually is made from lettuce, possibly some other vegetables, such as cucumbers, green peppers, tomatoes or scallions, and some type of salad dressing. The dressing usually is made from oil and vinegar but also can contain salt and pepper, basil, thyme, oregano, Parmesan cheese or anchovies. A creamy dressing can be made by adding sour cream or buttermilk, while balsamic vinegar will make a sharper, more robust dressing. A wilted salad is simply made with a dressing that has been heated in bacon fat before being poured over the lettuce.
Some salads are intended to be a hearty meal by themselves instead of an appetizer. This is the case with a chef’s salad. Green lettuce is tossed with salad dressing and topped with sliced hardboiled egg, pieces of cheese and a combination of diced or sliced meats such as chicken and ham.
More elaborate versions of lettuce salad are sometimes distinct because of the complexity of the dressing. A Caesar salad is an example of this, with romaine lettuce and croutons coated in a dressing made from Worcestershire sauce, eggs, oil, vinegar, garlic, fresh lemon juice and grated Parmesan cheese. The salad often is served with slices of chicken, salmon or tuna on top to complement the heavy taste of the dressing.