Ah, salads… they are the butt of so many internet jokes (check out the Women Laughing Alone with Salad tumblr, it’s an old favorite). And there are so many bad ones out there – like with veggies that should never be raw (hey mushrooms and cauliflower!); enough cheese, fruit and sugar to qualify as a dessert or simply swamped in a greasy dressing that has a scary-long shelf life. It is completely understandable why they get a bad reputation.
Especially the kind that’s meant as a side dish. Sometimes, they completely go by the wayside.
Well, I am here today to change your mind about them. The reason everybody hates them is pretty simple: they aren’t often done well.
But the good news is, that’s easily fixed. It is totally possible to make a green salad that is tangy, rich and crunchy – something you enjoy! The whole idea should be that they are a nuanced, acidic contrast to whatever you’re eating as your main dish (which could be a savory piece of quiche, a rich steak, etc. – the key is the contrast).
So how do you get there?
- Well first of all, start with great greens. If you are starting with a sorry-looking bag of very old, dry lettuce, well, odds are you aren’t going to get a great result no matter what you put on it. There are some great quality packaged salad greens out there, or of course you can buy by the bunch. I recommend making sure you have some crunch to your salad by buffering softer greens like spinach with sturdier greens like kale, chard, or crispy romaine hearts.
- Wash them and then dry them. If you don’t already own a salad spinner, get one today. I use mine so often it barely ever gets put away.
- Store them properly! After being dried, salad greens should be in a sealed container or a zip top bag along with a dry paper towel to absorb moisture. They will stay crisp and crunchy and keep much longer this way.
- No matter what else is going on the salad, start with a good base seasoning and dressing on the leaves. I am not talking about a bottle of ranch, though you may choose to use some later in your salad-building. Here’s what I do every time: after washing and drying my greens, I will generously drizzle with the best olive oil in my house, and add 1-2 tsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice. On top of that, a generous pinch of salt, liberal pepper, a few tablespoons of Parmesan and the zest of 1/2 to a full lemon.Then toss to combine.
This makes a salad so tasty, I often eat it alone just like this as part of a larger meal. However, it is the standard base of those “power salads” I put all over my Instagram. The acid, fat and salt combined with the bitterness of the greens is the perfect canvas for just about any salad.
So there you have it. Make salads great again! (Great tagline, do you like it? I think I’ll put it on a hat).