Salad Recipes For Dummies
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When crafting that perfect salad, you need to know how to select the best green for the bowl and whisk up a simple and delicious salad dressing. If you’re in a hurry, you need tips for pulling together a quick and easy salad, too. Get your salad bowls ready — here are some tips to get started!

How to pick the best greens and best lettuce for salad

Many people were raised on iceberg or romaine lettuces, but you have a wide variety of leafy greens to choose from. Here are some bold, spicy, and colorful veggies you may not have considered for the salad bowl:

  • Arugula: Also referred to as aruculu, rocket, and rucola, arugula can be on the spicier side of bold greens. It holds up beautifully to a little heat, whether from your favorite pizza to soups, and it pairs well with warm salad dressings.
  • Cress: Cress is similar to watercress, but it’s grown in soil. It’s a fast-growing green, and it adds zing to a salad mix.
  • Dandelion greens: These are one of my favorite wild greens, and they’re probably lurking in your or your neighbor’s yard. This popular weed is packed with nutrition and spice. If it’s too strong, soak the greens in salted water for 10 minutes to pull off extra bitters. Then chop and add to your favorite salad mix.
  • Endive: This can be red or green or almost all white. It has a softer mouthfeel and is often served as individual leaves topped with fruit and cheeses.
  • Frisée: This curly vegetable is bold yellow or light green in color. The flavor is slightly bitter, particularly near the stem. The visual appeal can’t be beat with this fun green.
  • Mizuna: This adds visual interest in a salad with its serrated leaves.
  • Mustard greens: Although they’re often cooked down, when thinly sliced, mustard greens can pair well in a salad mix.
  • Radicchio: This is a peppery chicory vegetable that looks like little, red cabbages. It holds up to a little heat.
  • Swiss chard: Swiss chard is a milder dark green. It pairs well with citrus or light vinaigrette dressings. (Bold flavors can mask the greens’ mild flavor.)
  • Tatsoi: This is a hardy green that withstands cold temps, often growing well into the winter months.
  • Watercress: An aquatic green that is slightly peppery in flavor, watercress is loaded with nutrients. It hails from the cruciferous family of plants, like cabbage and Brussels sprouts. If you’re looking for the most nutrition per bite, watercress is the winner!

Use a variety of salad greens, from bold, spicy, and colorful to boost the nutrition of each bite.

How to make salad dressing

A solid salad dressing can elevate the most mundane greens into something spectacular. A store-bought dressing may seem like a great solution, but they often have unwanted ingredients and can underdeliver on flavor.

Instead, follow these simple pro tips for whisking up a quick and easy salad dressing right at home:

  • Mix up your acids. Most often, dressings call for just one variety of acid, but a chef’s secret is to balance the acid blend with a vinegar and citrus. Adding a little lemon or lime to a vinaigrette can help balance the acid profile.
  • Master emulsification. Oil and vinegar don’t want to mix. Even if you shake as hard as you can and as long as you can, they’ll inevitably separate when you stop. Adding a little Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, herbs, spices, or miso will help the oil and vinegar stay blended.
  • Use herbs and spices. A dressing doesn’t require fresh herbs, but it can enhance the flavor over the dried variety. If using dried, rub the herbs in your hands before adding to the dressing to release some of the oils from the herbs. Spices can be heated in the oil to release more of their flavors as well.
  • Don’t skimp on quality oils. High-quality oils that are packed with flavor can go rancid quickly. Be sure to store oils (like walnut oil, sesame oil, and extra-virgin olive oil) in your refrigerator unless you can go through it in a month. Taste the oils before using, they should be fruity without bitter notes.Cold-pressed oils are less refined oils and are perfect for salads. Combine a little cold-pressed peanut oil with sesame oil and safflower oil for an Asian-inspired dressing or use a cold-pressed walnut oil with an extra-virgin olive oil on your favorite Mediterranean salad. A small amount of a high-quality, cold-pressed oil can add a lot of flavor to a dressing.
  • Keep in mind the oil-to-vinegar ratio. The rule of thumb for a vinaigrette is either a 4:1 or 3:1 ratio (oil to vinegar). It’s easier to start with ¼ cup oil to 1 tablespoon of vinegar and go from there when taste-testing a vinaigrette.If you’re working with flavorful oils, you may start with 3 tablespoons of a light oil, 1 tablespoon of a cold-pressed oil, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and 2 to 4 teaspoons of white wine vinegar. Start here and play with your seasonings to make a simple vinaigrette.
  • Ramp up the umami. Umami refers to the fifth sense of taste, often described as meaty or savory. Adding a small amount of fish sauce, miso, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, or Parmesan cheese can really give your dressing that mouthfeel and flavor profile that pairs well with a juicy steak or stir-fry.
  • Balance it out with a little sweetness. It doesn’t require much sugar or honey, but adding in a touch of sweetness can balance the bold flavors in vinegar and round out the overall flavor profile.
  • Taste with greens. You may be tempted to stick your finger in the dressing and give it a taste, but it won’t match the actual flavor profile of your salad. Instead, dip a piece of lettuce in and sample the dressing on the salad.
  • Season the dressing well. Salt and pepper need to go into your dressing. Season your dressing, not your salad.
  • Dress your salad first, and then plate. Although it’s tempting to put your salad in a serving bowl and then drizzle over the dressing, most chefs will whisk the dressing in a mixing bowl, toss the greens with the dressing, plate the salad, and finish with the remaining dressing or keep it lightly dressed. It’s an extra step, but well worth it.

What is a simple salad recipe?

A simple recipe to get you started is 4 tablespoons sunflower or safflower oil, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar, 1 clove garlic (minced), ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.

5 tips for a delicious salad

It’s a Wednesday night, and you don’t know what vegetable to serve. Grab a salad bowl and follow these tips to building a simple and delicious salad:

Keep your greens cleaned and ready for the call. If you’re craving a salad or looking for a perfect side dish, having washed lettuce on hand will make this easier. Wash, spin, and dry your greens before storing in the refrigerator in a resealable bag, wrapped in a towel.

  • Add in crunch. Carrots, celery, cabbage, cucumbers, and bell peppers are easy-to-grab vegetables that will add crunch to the lettuce greens.
  • Use different knife cuts. Grab your best chef’s knife and cutting board and work on those knife skills. Using julienne, brunoise (a fine diced cut), or dice cuts in your salad, will boost curiosity and visual appeal.Make the salad fun to encourage even the pickiest of eaters. Adding the simplest change in texture can make the boring seem fun. Even using a box grater or spiralizer can be a simple way to give your salad personality!
  • Whisk up your own salad dressing. Store-bought dressings have their place, but homemade is easier and cheaper and can be made with your favorite salad in mind. Keep a variety of oils and vinegars on hand to build a flavorful dressing.
  • Have fun with toppings. Fresh herbs, croutons, fried noodles, nuts, seeds, and cheeses can add visual appeal and crunch to a salad. Plus, many of these are pantry stars, making them easy to grab on short notice.

What is an easy salad recipe?

A simple salad recipe to get you started is 2 cups butter lettuce, grated carrots, diced cucumbers, finely julienned red bell pepper, 1 tablespoon homemade vinaigrette, feta cheese, walnuts, and fresh parsley.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Wendy Jo Peterson is a registered dietitian with more than 20 years of professional experience. She is the author of Meal Prep Cookbook For Dummies and Bread Making For Dummies, and coauthor of Air Fryer Cookbook For Dummies, Instant Pot Cookbook For Dummies, and Mediterranean Diet Cookbook For Dummies.

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