When it comes to salads, most people have a love-hate relationship with the bundle of greens. They love salads because they’re healthy, guilt-free, and packed with vegetables. They hate salads because they’re boring, too difficult to make, and packed with vegetables.
It’s time to break free of the sad, stereotypical side salad and bring forth the main salad! Once you stop treating salad as an afterthought and begin thinking of it as a main dish, you can truly begin to have a love-love relationship with salad.
Lettuce, it’s not easy being green
There’s nothing wrong with a head of lettuce, a bag of spinach, or even the basic pre-packaged salad mix from the grocery store. It’s a good base to start with. But you need to add some excitement- in the form of different textures and flavors.
If it’s grilling weather, try grilled items like zucchini, yellow squash, or peaches. Grains are also great to throw in- I really like quinoa because it’s so easy to make and it absorbs a lot of salad dressing, making every bite more flavorful. I’ve also had success with leftover rice and couscous! You should also add your favorite vegetables. I like corn, chopped bell peppers, onions, celery, and butternut squash. Greens are a flexible ingredient, so add whatever you want to it!
B-ranch out of the boring dressing
Let’s face it… the dressing is everyone’s favorite part. Growing up, I had two options for salad dressing: ranch and buttermilk ranch. After seven years of cooking experience, I can now safely state that there are more than two salad dressings in the world!
Making salad dressing is EASY. All you have to do is follow the same ratio we use in the kitchen: 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. That’s right… just combine 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, and presto… salad dressing!
In all honesty, canola or olive oil is the best for making dressing. The goal of a good oil is to balance or enhance whatever you’re putting with it, not take over the flavor. Oils like flaxseed or avocado have too much of a flavor that could negatively impact what the overall dressing will taste like.
Next is the vinegar. My personal favorites are apple cider, balsamic, and white wine vinegar. If vinegar isn’t your thing, you can add/substitute lime, orange, grapefruit, or lemon juice.
You can stop there with your dressing, but adding an emulsifier (something to help the oil and vinegar combine) will take your salad over the top. Mustard, honey, mayo, and peanut butter are the best because you can use them with almost any dressing.
The final step is to season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste. To save time and dishes, use a squeeze bottle to combine and shake your ingredients. If you use an emulsifier you won’t have to worry about separation.
Toppings that won’t make you sink to the bottom
I like to think of toppings as a small part of each bite I want to take. So finish your masterpiece by adding toppings that you look forward to in each bite! This could be croutons, pickled onions, nuts, seeds, edamame, tomatoes, wonton strips, or even a protein. While you are grilling those vegetables you should throw on a skirt steak or a chicken breast (bonus points if you make twice the amount of salad dressing and use half as marinade!).
After following these three easy steps, you too can have a love-love relationship with salad… and be like a stock photo of a woman laughing alone with salad:
Kevin Giles is Project Angel Heart’s modified meals assistant. Kevin grew up in Dallas, Texas where he spent most of his time working in kitchens and attending a technical high school that taught culinary arts. In 2011, Kevin made the move to Denver to attend Johnson & Wales, and graduated with his degree in Culinary Nutrition in 2015. Kevin enjoys spending time snuggling with his two cats and going to the gym.