I don’t know about you, but in the Summer, I crave salads. Rising temperatures call for lighter, cooling foods and fewer meals offer the refreshment that salads. Whenever my husband and I make dinner together, he delegates me to the salad – he says it’s what I’m best at. With lots of salad-making practice under my belt, these are my 10 tips for tantalizing salads.
One // Create texture. Include a variety of textures and a balance of flavors. Crunchy nuts and seeds, creamy avocado, salty olives and bitter greens are a few examples, but there’s no limit to what you can add to a salad. Also, try a combination of cooked and raw foods.
Two // Add hearty whole grains. Speaking of cooked foods, whole grains bring nutrition and yes, texture to a bowl of salad greens. They’re a great source of energy, lend a nutty flavor to your meal and make your salad more satiating.
Three // Make it a meal with protein. My clients know that no meal is complete without fiber fat and protein so why not add some animal or plant-based protein to your salad. Legumes like chickpeas or lentils, eggs, canned sardines and leftover chicken or salmon are all hearty sources of protein that will make your salad more filling.
Four // Go green. Try different types of greens like bitter and dense dandelion greens, arugula and radicchio to sweeter, lighter lettuces like romaine and butter lettuce. Combine two or more in one salad.
Five // Amp up flavor with herbs. Fresh herbs are the perfect way to add flavor to a salad. Basil, cilantro, mint and tarragon impart fragrance and flavor to plain salad greens and make a regular salad that much more special.
Six // Keep it local and seasonal. Use produce that’s in season or explore your local Farmer’s Market for the best quality and freshest flavors.
Seven // Create your own salad dressing. Skip store-bought dressings and use real food to create your own. Make a basic vinaigrette with one part vinegar to three parts olive oil. If I’m in a hurry, I go with that, but if I have more time, I jazz it up with fresh lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Season with sea salt and pepper, of course!
Eight // Add healthy fats. If you’re making a meal out of your salad, don’t skimp on the healthy fats – nuts, seeds, avocado, goat’s cheese, olive oil, olives – all of these ingredients count as healthy fats. Choose one or two at a time.
Nine // Consider fruit and flowers. Fruit and edible flowers add vibrant color and lots of vitamins and nutrients to any salad. I love blueberries, raspberries, apples, peaches or plums. Experiments a little. Use your intuition and what’s in season to find the best flavor profiles.
Ten // Sprinkle a few sprouts. Though they may look like nothing more than a few blades of grass – or even weeds – sprouts are little nutritional powerhouses that add interest, flavor and nutrition to a salad. You’re probably familiar with alfalfa sprouts but there are hundreds of varieties of sprouts from garlic sprouts, to lentil sprouts and amaranth sprouts – there’s no end. All sprouts have a slightly different flavor from mild to spicy. I like to experiment with what I find at the Farmer’s Market. They can be pricey, but you don’t need a lot.
What are you waiting for? Get into the kitchen and start making a salad! The more you play around with textures and flavors, the better you’ll get at creating your own signature salad whether it’s for your dinner table or your next summer picnic.