Here’s what every salad needs:
+ Dressing [Vinaigrette/Creamy]
+ Crunchies [Seeds/Nuts/Croutons/Granola]
+ Optional Protein [Meat/Cheese/More Cheese]
+ Optional Extras [Herbs/Fruit/Grains/Etc.]
Is Summer Squash Slaw a salad? You bet it is. Photo: Christina Holmes
Look, it’s a salad. You’re going to need to put some veggies in there.
Choose at least one, or as many as you want:
Greens: Raw greens are what most people think when they hear the word “salad.” And with good reason: Most greens are better eaten fresh. Choose tender lettuce leaves and greens, like spinach, Bibb or Little Gem, for more delicate salads; spicy or bitter greens, like arugula, dandelion greens, or chicory, for bossy vinaigrettes; or sturdy greens, like thinly sliced kale, for marinated and massaged salads.
Raw: Lettuce and greens aren’t the only ones who can go raw. Try using a vegetable peeler to make fibrous veggies more palatable (looking at you, asparagus). For crunchy vegetables, like kohlrabi, just chop them into bite-size pieces and throw them in. For usually-cooked vegetables, like beetsand squash, either slice them very thinly or grate them to make them easier to digest.
Grilled: Grilling vegetables like alliums, squash, eggplant, and more, adds smokiness and, depending on how aggressive you get, a nice char. If you can dream it, you can grill it (yep, even greens)—so provided your Weber is at the ready, feel free to toss those veggies on the barbie.
Roasted: And, as the saying goes: If you can grill it, you can roast it. At least, it’s a saying now. Go easy on the oil, so your vegetables aren’t weighted down with grease.
Pickled: Pickled vegetables add a funky, fermented note, and bump up the flavor in a big way. Combine them with raw vegetables or greens for a one-two punch; they’re a bit too intense to make up an entire salad.
Grilled veg, a bracing vinaigrette, crunchy nuts, and fresh herbs? Yep, it’s a salad. Photo: Ryan Liebe
Without a dressing, your salad is just a sad bowl of vegetables.
Vinaigrette: A classic vinaigrette is made with fat and acid; traditionally, olive oil and either vinegar or lemon juice. But these days, you can get crazy with your vinaigrettes. Feel free to add warm bacon fat (it will solidify at room temperature), or experiment with a variety of vinegars and citrus juices.
Thick and Creamy: Hearty salads with big flavors can stand up to creamy, rich dressings like ranch or buttermilk. Not sure what dressing your salad can handle? This guide breaks it down.
Spicy seed brittle takes this collard greens salad to the next level. Photo: Nicole Franzen
Having something to really sink your teeth into makes any salad feel more satisfying.
Choose at lease one, or as many as you want:
Seeds: Some of our favorite options: Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds (go easy on ’em; too many can taste fishy), sunflower seeds, and hemp seeds.
Nuts: Toast them first to bring out their flavor, and chop them for easier bites.
Croutons: We like homemade. Use any old loaf you have on hand. Or, pita bread!
Savory Granola: We always keep a batch of this close-by. Cayenne and fennel makes it savory.
Chicken! Bulgur! Pistachios! This salad has a little bit of everything—and not too much of anything. Photo: Peden + Munk
You could certainly stop there. But why not make it a meal?
Choose as many as you want.
Fresh herbs: Add big handfuls of tender and soft herbs, like mint, parsley, cilantro, and basil. These work better with lighter vinaigrettes than thick dressings.
Fruit: Think beyond the berry. If it’s ripe and ready, why not? Choose fruits that are complementary in flavor to the rest of your ingredients. Yes, avocado counts. Equally tasty: dried fruit, like raisins, dried cranberries, or dehydrated apple.
Protein: Cold leftover roasted chicken, hot and crispy ground lamb, poached eggs, basically any cheese ever… a little protein goes a long way when it comes to rounding out a salad. But let the vegetables be the star; there’s a time and a place for an ax-handle steak, and it’s not on your kale.
Grains & Carbs: The easiest way to bulk up a salad is with a small addition of cooked grains, like quinoa, bulgur, couscous, barley, farro, wheat berries…you get the picture. Be mindful that the grains will soak up more dressing than the veg, so adjust accordingly.
Originally written by Rochelle Billow, published at Bon Appetit: http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/how-to/article/how-to-make-a-perfect-salad