Salads for Food-Lovers: Recipe Tips and Tricks

”Salads are so BORING.”

”Salads make me feel like I’m on a diet.” 

”What is that, rabbit food??”

Are you a salad-basher? Maybe you’ve heard someone say these before (If you’ve met my dad, you’ll recognize the last one) or never thought much of salads in general. In these cases, I’m hoping this post might open to your mind to the world delicious, varied, colorful salads.

I love to cook, and I would consider salads one of my specialties. You might be thinking, that’s not cooking, in which case I’ll ask you to reconsider. I’m not talking about side salads that come topped with leftover sad cucumber slices or dumped in creamy dressing to drench them in taste.

Where to Begin?
First let’s look at some basic ingredients that are my go-to’s for salads. When my pantry is stocked with the right ingredients, making a restaurant-worthy salad is simple.

Bases
Lettuce:
-Kale
-Spinach
-Baby spinach
-Arugula
-Romaine
-Iceberg
-Butterhead
-Green Leaf
-Bibb lettuce
-Cabbage (nappa, purple)
Beans:
-Black
-Garbanzo/Chickpeas
-White/Cannolini
-Kidney
Potatoes:
-Yams
-Yukon gold
-Russet
-White
-Red

Toppings: Fruits and Veggies
-Broccoli
-Carrots (shredded, chopped, thinly sliced)
-Cucumber (chunked or sliced)
-Tomatoes (chopped or baby tomatoes)
-Red onion
-Zucchini/yellow squash (I like it raw or grilled)
-Bell peppers
-Blueberries
-Strawberries
-Apples (Green or Honeycrisp are my favorites)
-Pears
-Dragonfruit
-Mango
-Green onions/chives
-Edamame
-Corn
-Roasted butternut squash
-Roasted brussel sprouts
-Grapes

Toppings: Nuts, Fats, and Spices
-Cashews
-Peanuts
-Walnuts
-Pecans
-Shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
-Sunflower Seeds
-Dried fruit (craisins, raisins)
-Avocado
-Olives
-Hard boiled eggs
-Cheese (goat, feta, Gorgonzola, Parmesan, manchego)
-Cayenne pepper
-Curry powder
-Cumin
-Paprika
-Garlic powder
-Crushed pepper
-Cilantro
-Sea salt
-Italian herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary)

Dressings
-Apple cider vinegar
-Balsamic vinegar
-Sherry vinegar
-Red wine vinegar
-Champagne vinegar
-Raspberry vinegar
-Extra virgin olive oil
-Toasted sesame oil
-Soy sauce
-Lemon juice
-Lime juice
-Honey (local and unfiltered)

Steps to a Successful, Sensational Salad
1. Choose a cuisine or theme for your salad (example from my recipes include Italian, Thai, or Mexican).
2. Choose a base, 2-3 fruit/veggie toppings, and 1-2 other toppings. Salads can easily get overcrowded and confusing with too many ingredients. Keep it simple!
3. Pick a dressing combo that suits the theme (i.e. a light, fruity salad would pair well with a champagne vinegar + olive oil combo; a thai salad is topped well with sesame oil + soy sauce + lime juice).
4. Enjoy experimenting! It may take a few combos to find the right balance for yourself. For example, I love red onions, but only if they’re very thinly sliced on my salad and few in quantity. When I make Greek salads, I love everything chopped into big chunks (cucumber, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese).

Example Recipe: Summer Strawberry Salad
1. Theme: Summer Refreshing and Fruity
2. Base-Bibb lettuce, Toppings-Strawberries and sliced cucumber, Other Toppings-Walnuts, craisins, avocado, crushed pepper
3. Dressing: Olive oil, Champagne vinegar, Raspberry vinegar
4. YUM! Dive in, share with a friend, and savor the flavors

Strawberries-Bowl.jpg

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think!

What are your favorite salad toppings?

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