It doesn’t take much to make a salad: a chopped vegetable and dressing. What it takes to make a good salad is a little more complicated, though: color, texture and a balance of ingredients all matter, and of course freshness is key: lettuce and other vegetables begin to wilt as soon as dressing is applied.
Here are the basic elements:
Generally the darker the green, the more nutritious it will be. Iceberg lettuce has only a trace of vitamins. If you don’t like dark greens try chopped romaine, which is a good source of vitamins A, C and folate, or mix in just a few darker leaves of spinach, kale or Italian parsley. If you’re using really dark greens like kale or spinach, toss in vinaigrette and let sit for a few minutes to soften the leaves.
Diced celery, carrots, cabbage and onions are classics, and why not try roasted beets, broccoli, blanched or roasted green beans, steamed peas, edamame, sprouts, radishes, kimchi…
The best salads have a crunchy element. Instead of bacon bits or wonton strips, try some of our salad-topping suggestions, including roasted nuts, seeds or dried fruit.
Cheese is always good. If you’re worried about calories, firmer cheese like Parmesan or Romano is a better choice than cheddar– lower in fat and because the flavor is stronger you use less. A bit of tofu, grilled chicken or steak can make a salad a hearty meal.
Canned salmon is a good substitute for tuna, rich in omega-3 and -6 fatty acids and vitamin D, B12 and niacin.
Once you make salad dressing at home you may never buy a bottle at the store again. It’s simple, easy and quick to whip up a vinaigrette and the flavor is so much better. Use a nutritious oil and your dressing can make your salad even healthier!
For the best salad result, toss vegetables with dressing before you add toppings. And for extra fanciness, a few twists of fresh pepper on top.