Salads, in Jewish cuisine, are essentially an elaboration of the first courses served in the Ashkenazic tradition and the _mezze_ of the Sephardic one [see introduction to Vegetables listing]. Today, they are further amplified by experimentation and fusion with other cuisines, many taking advantage of the fact that modern agriculture and shipping make countless fresh vegetables available year 'round.
In the developed parts of the world, therefore, one can hardly distinguish salads as being from one cuisine or another. This is particularly true of those which come from the Mediterranean basin, where there has been so much exchange between cultures. Now, with the popularity of Mediterranean cuisine in North America, inventive fusions blur the lines even more.
Still, there are some clues as to what might have started in the Jewish kitchen. A major one is the combined use of vinegar (to lightly preserve the vegetables) with a sweetener, whether sugar or fruits (to offset the bite of the vinegar), as this technique was employed in preparing food in advance for the Sabbath. Another clue might be found in the use of vegetables which have symbolic use at certain holidays, such as leeks at Passover.
So, side by side, we might enjoy a typically Ashkenazic dish of slawed carrots with vinegar and raisins, a Sephardic salad combining cooked and fresh vegetables, and a carefully constructed Italian-Jewish caponata, each distinguished by a process of light preserving. Regardless of the sources, however, it is clear that salads play an important role in the kosher kitchen, where they can readily be incorporated into a meat or dairy menu, as required.
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