Salads have turned the corner. They aren’t just for sides anymore.
Nor are they just cold and boring. The trick is to layer with flavor and texture. Keep reading to get my favorite tips on building a better salad.
A plethora of greens exist. While each have their own flavor profile, they can each be narrowed into one of the following categories: mild, bitter or bold. Each leaf has its own nutritional value (in general, the darker and more bitter the better but they all count) and flavor profile.
Kale, red leaf lettuce and endive are more popular, but do try dandelion greens, beet greens, watercress, carrot tops and radicchio
HOW TO CLEAN
Clean and dry greens means you’ll actually reach for them more often. Rinsing with water is ok, but it’s easy to miss dirt and such in the nooks and crannies. Plus, the greens get water logged (read: won’t hold the dressing) and damaged when trying to dry by smooshing them with a towel.
It’s best to use a salad spinner that allows for both cleaning and drying. This Zylliss salad spinner comes in small (4-6 servings), and large sizes. Fill with water, give the greens a little bath, drain and spin. Once spun, wrap in a clean tea-towel and store in the crisper section in your fridge.
A straight up lettuce salad rarely works – except my arugula salad with arugula, evoo and flaked salt. Most salads call for vegetables. You could add just one of the prepped veggies noted below, but since this post is called “How to build a better salad,” go for the trio for the best flavor, nutritional punch and texture.
- Pickled veggies: Such as quick pickled onions or fermented sauerkraut.
- Roasted or grilled veggies: Like these oven roasted veggies.
- Raw: Shredded carrot, radish, cabbage or broccoli slaw works great here versus chunks.
LAYERS OF CRUNCH
Greens do offer a little crunch, but people crave that umami crunch that any of the below bring to a great salad:
- toasted nuts and seeds
- toasted coconut flakes
- hemp seeds
- crushed crackers
- nuts: think about a sweet versus savory, spicy finish on them
- fried shallots
- crisped bread or breadcrumbs
There’s nothing wrong with a chilled salad. Warmed beans, grains and proteins really play off of chilled lettuce!
Color is everything since we eat with our eyes. Plus eating the rainbow gives the most nutritious profile. The below are great veggies to start with; these are all best thinly slices. A mandolin is KEY to getting thin, uniform slices. Borner is my favorite, but this cute Kyocera has a built on handguard and comes in very colorful red.
- watermelon radish
- thin slices
- red onion
Massage out the bitter and tough (think kale or cabbage) with a little salt and extra virgin olive oil. Massaging using your hands helps to break down the enzyme for and easier chew.
Classic dressing was based on 3 parts fat (olive oil or similar) to 1 part acid (citrus or vinegar). I like a closer ratio of 2 to 1, or even 1 to 1 for more zing.
First, a good dressing can be as simple as citrus with olive oil. But don’t overlook tossing the dressing ingredients in a blender with a scoop or two of avocado, a handful of nuts, dried fruit, crunchy nut butter and herbs.
TASTE TEST ON WHAT YOU WILL EAT IT ON
Taste test the dressing on the actual ingredient it’s going on, not a spoon or finger. Every green has a different flavor, so your dressing will taste different on each.
DRESS. SPRITZ. TOSS.
To keep from drowning your salad in dressing, try drizzling a few spoons of dressing around the sides of the bowl. Then toss well. Spritzing works great too. Add final, or heavy, ingredients on top so they don’t get lost at the bottom.
My final thought is that you’ll never go wrong with a final topping of flaked salt and microplaned citrus zest.0