Eating for Life

A slimming salad reduction

Editor’s note: This column was first published in 2005.

Chefs have a technique in their culinary arsenal that home cooks should steal: It’s called a reduction — and it has absolutely nothing to do with liposuction.

A culinary reduction is made when a chef slowly simmers a liquid, allowing the total volume to reduce to its essence through evaporation. The cider in The Star’s Romaine and Spinach Salad With Cider House Dressing is eventually reduced to the consistency of syrup. The process concentrates the earthy, naturally spicy flavor of this popular early American beverage.

Although gourmet stores have been peddling exotic-flavored vinaigrettes spiked with fruit flavors for years, it’s easy and much less expensive to make your own. Plus, this cider reduction cuts the amount of oil down to a mere teaspoon and adds few calories to the dressing.

Pretty to look at, this hearty seasonal salad features a base of good-for-you green lettuce and spinach artfully garnished with the rich, robust flavors of fall: apples, walnuts and dried cranberries.

Each of the salad ingredients adds a layer of good nutrition. For instance, a combination of green and red apples is low in calories, high in flavor and adds a good amount of vitamin C to the diet. Leaving the skin on is not only attractive; it adds fiber.

Walnuts are considered healthful, thanks to their omega-3, a “good” fat that can help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol.

Dried cranberries add tart sweetness while contributing more vitamin C.

Preparation tip:

Lemon juice helps keep the apple slices from turning brown.

Pump it up:

Spritzing a little extra lemon juice on the salad makes the iron in the spinach more available for your body to use.

Romaine and Spinach Salad With Cider House Dressing

Makes 6 servings

1 cup apple cider 1/3 cup walnut pieces 2 teaspoons sugar 5 cups torn romaine 4 cups torn spinach 1 small Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced 1 small red delicious apple, cored and sliced 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 1 teaspoon olive oil 1/8 teaspoon salt

Boil apple cider, uncovered, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, 13 to 14 minutes or until cider is reduced to 3 to 4 tablespoons. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Combine walnuts and sugar in a small skillet. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar melts and coats walnuts. Remove from heat and cool completely.

Combine romaine and spinach in large salad bowl. Toss apple slices in lemon juice; drain and add to greens. Sprinkle with cranberries.

Whisk together cooled apple cider syrup, vinegar, olive oil and salt; drizzle over salad and toss to coat. Sprinkle with walnuts.

Per serving: 111 calories (37 percent from fat), 5 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 16 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 66 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.