I love salads. They are so light yet filling and most importantly packed with vitamins and antioxidants yet absolutely delicious. But how do you make a salad interesting – every time?
Making a salad can be time consuming and sometimes you run out of ideas (“Chicken salad, again..?”). In this article I will give you some tips and tricks on how to cut that prep time short and how to build a delicious salad for every day of the week.
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Let’s make a salad – welcome to my salad bar:
How to make a salad
In order to make a salad you need to choose your salad base and a source of both protein and fat. You should also use some extras and other condiments to make it more interesting.
Here’s a how it works:
1. Start with a salad base
Make a salad base funny and inviting by using vegetables with different colors and textures. Use a couple of different leafy greens and then shred and cut other vegetables to go with them.
First, choose your leafy greens:
- Arugula / Rocket
- Leaf Lettuce
- Swiss Chard
If you want to learn more about leafy greens, Kathy Maister has featured a really good list of leafy greens with pictures.
Then add your vegetables:
- Artichoke (heart, marinated)
- Bean (all varieties)
- Beetroot (cooked)
- Bell Pepper
- Eggplant (grilled)
- Herbs (all varieties)
- Zucchini / Courgette (grilled)
Follow with some fruit (optional, if you like to add some sweetness to it):
- Melon (all varieties)
- Orange (and other citrus fruits)
- Strawberry (and other berries)
2. Go for different sources of protein
Adding protein to your salad is what really turns salad from a side dish to a proper meal. We’ve already covered some proteins in vegetables section (for example beans), but here are some other options to choose from:
- Beef (roast beef, pastrami etc.)
- Blue Cheese
- Cottage Cheese
- Egg (boiled)
- Goat Cheese
- Pork (ham, pulled pork or souvlaki)
- Shrimp / Prawn
3. Make a salad pretty and delicious with some extras
These extras truly add some flavor and texture to your dish:
- Dried Fruit
- Edible Flowers
- Fried Crispy Onions
- Nuts (all varieties)
- Parmesan Cheese (grated)
- Seeds (all varieties)
- Sun-dried tomato
- Tortilla Chips
4. Dress and season your salad and you’re done!
Make a salad taste good by adding a salad dressing. Just a little bit of oil and spices turns your salad from boring to brilliant. It is always best to make your own dressing – it will be fresh and healthy with ingredients you know. A dressing is so easy to make. Just add:
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar (or other vinegar of your choice)
A little bit of salt and black pepper to taste
Spices and herbs that you like
Give it a stir and mix with your salad. Don’t be skimpy with olive oil, it’s good for you!
Here are some other great salad dressing recipes:
How to serve a salad
Just a salad – or with something else?
Your salad looks beautiful and you’re ready to eat. But what should you eat it with? A salad is great (and often enough especially if you’re on a diet) just by itself. However, if you feel like having that little something extra with it, here are a couple of ideas:
And for drinks?
(Sparkling) water complements a salad perfectly. It has a clean taste that let’s the flavors of your dish shine and makes you feel fresh and healthy.
If you feel like spoiling yourself a bit though:
Go for wine. Choosing a wine for a salad can be a bit tricky if you use a vinegar in the dressing as it makes the salad a bit tart. It might seem strange but to balance that tartness you would have to pick a wine that’s tart too with higher acidity. Sauvignon Blanc for example goes well with vinegar based dressings and Chardonnay with creamy ones.
It’s not just about the dressing though, you should consider the other main ingredients of your salad as well: Which wine would they pair well with? Prosecco for example would work brilliantly with a salad that has some salty cheese.
Fiona Beckett’s Matching Food & Wine has a great article on which wine pairs best with salad.
In search of salad recipes?
Overwhelmed? Is my salad bar giving you too many choices to make? If you’d rather have a tested and measured recipe, then you’ll be spoiled for choice in the wonderful world of internet.
Here are a couple of great sites, that will tell you about different types of salads and give you ideas on how to mix and match your salad ingredients:
14 salad tips
#1 Wash, peel, chop and store
When you buy salad ingredients such as lettuce, cucumber, carrots etc. always wash, peel, and chop them straight away, before putting them to the fridge. Just store them in airtight containers. It’s not only great for packing your lunch but also for making sure that you eat them! I can’t believe how many bags of lettuce I’ve thrown away…
#2 No more soggy vegetables
If you have problems with your chopped vegetables becoming soggy in containers, you can place a paper or cloth towel at the bottom of the container to absorb the moisture.
If you like, you can also purchase a vacuum sealer to keep your ingredients fresh even when they are chopped.
#3 Try marinating your onions
They taste amazing in a salad but are so easy to make:
- Take one onion (red onion is great for color) and slice it into rings and place the onion rings in a bowl.
- Pour in 1/4 cup (0,5 dl) red/white wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
- Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Mix well.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight.
- Drain and serve.
#4 Make a salad easy to eat
When making a salad cut everything to bite-sized portions – everything includes leafy greens and chicken breasts.
#5 Taste the salad dressing before serving
When you’re making a dressing yourself it might be difficult to be sure about the balance of flavors. Take a leaf of lettuce and dip it to your dressing to taste it.
#6 Dress the bowl
If you are serving salad as a side dish at dinner and want to add the dressing to the salad beforehand, you might want to try this little trick for dressing the salad:
Instead of dressing the salad, dress the bowl. Take a serving bowl and swirl some dressing around the bowl. Add your salad and toss gently. This way the salad dressing will be mixed evenly.
#7 Take shortcuts and utilize left overs
Make as much as you can by yourself but when you’re hungry and in a hurry take some shortcuts. It is OK to buy that rotisserie chicken from the store to make the Caesar salad 🙂
And you can often use leftovers from your dinner in your lunch salad the following day. For example pulled pork or smoked salmon works great.
#8 How to arrange a salad in just one container
If you want to use just one container (when you are packing the salad for lunch) then build your salad so that you put the dressing and toppings to the bottom and all the greens to the top of the container so that your leafy greens won’t get soggy. Plate it by flipping the container upside down.
#9 Buy a proper lunch box
If you like to keep your salad ingredients separately before serving but are tired of carrying all the containers and bags to work every day, why won’t you purchase a proper salad lunch box?
#10 You do spin your salad, don’t you?
Salad spinner. Enough said. You just really, really need one. Great for storing the salad as well. It doesn’t have to be fancy: My Ikea salad spinner does the job very well.
#11 Make your own crunchy salad mix
Extras are great if you try to avoid bread but miss the crunch. If you take your salad to work for lunch, make a small bag of mixed nuts, seeds and crispy fried onions that you can sprinkle on top of it. It is so delicious and you’ll add some healthy fats to your portion at the same time. Keep them in a separate bag though before it’s time for lunch, otherwise you’ll have horrible soggy onions instead of crispy ones…
#12 Make your own bottle of salad dressing for work
Having a proper seasoning kit for salad at work is just too much trouble. Make your own dressing at home and bring it to work in a bottle, and keep it there. If you use just oil, vinegar and spices then you won’t even need to store it in a refrigerator. You can make this dressing in any empty bottle that has a proper lid or buy a salad dressing shaker bottle or smaller dressing bottles. Just give your bottle a shake before adding the dressing to your salad.
#14 Is your salad dressing too tangy for your taste?
Answer: Round the flavor by adding a bit of sweetness to it.
Add some honey or maple syrup to your vinegar based salad dressing, if you find the taste too tart.
#14 “I’m on a diet – what do I need to consider?”
When you’re on a diet you’re probably thinking about the salad calories. You can choose pretty much anything for your salad base, no need to worry about that. Put your focus on the protein and extras – and leave out the bread.
I actually think of salads as a great way to add good fats to a diet so I would very happily pair a lean chicken breast with full fat feta cheese and a good amount of olive oil.
Here’s an example of a calorie count of such chicken salad:
Salad base (no fruit) 50 kcal
Chicken breast (cooked weight 100 grams, without skin) 150 kcal
Full fat feta (50 grams) 150 kcal
Olives (10 olives) 60 kcal
Salad dressing that has 10 grams of olive oil 90 kcal
Total: 500 kcal
Just adjust the salad according to your personal calorie limits.
Make a salad – it’s a healthy balanced lunch or dinner. The choices of ingredients are endless and you really know what you’re eating. A salad is a perfect choice for you regardless of your diet: whether you’re counting calories or Weight Watcher points or following paleo lifestyle.
All too often making and eating salads is considered a bit boring, but it isn’t and it shouldn’t be! Follow the advise above to make a salad fun, easy and delicious.
Now tell me, what’s your favorite salad combination?