For years, eating salads felt like chewing on leaves. Whenever I had one paired with a meal, I would always try to hurry up and get through it first so I could move on to the rest of my food. I abided by a strict “save the best for last” policy when it came to greens vs. “real food.”
As you get older, your taste buds become less sensitive than they were when you’re a kid. Maybe that’s why I started liking salads. Or maybe there was just a moment when everything clicked and I realized salads didn’t have to be gross and boring. That the salad “rules” I was following weren’t mandatory at all! It took a bit of experimenting, but after a while I found myself not only enjoying my salads, but *gasp* craving them.
If salads bore you like they did me, consider giving these tips a try. You’ll be making killer salads in no time!
HOW TO MAKE A KILLER SALAD
tip #1: ADD THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF CRUNCH
This was something a friend of mine said when I asked how it was that she was always able to make such amazing salads. The secret, she said, is you have to add the right amount of crunch. I started experimenting with adding different kinds of nuts to my salad, an it made all the difference! Right now, my favorite nuts are honey roasted pecans, but even plain slivered almonds (or better yet, toasted almonds) are divine! Bite sized carrot chunks, seeds (like sunflower seeds! Yum!), radishes, fennel, parmesan crisps, pita/bagel/wonton chips, or even toasted quinoa are other ways to get some creative crunch going on in your salads.
tip #2: VARY YOUR TEXTURES
Along those same lines, while you’re busy adding more crunch to your salad don’t forget to add in other textures. Creamy avocado, hard cheeses, chewy dried cranberries, juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumber–you name it. Give your salad character by mixing up your textures, pairing crunchy with creamy and everything in between.
tip #3: DON’T MAKE THE SAME SALAD EVERY TIME
Iceberg lettuce, a little carrot, some tomato, maybe some cucumber or chopped bell pepper, all smothered in ranch and croutons so you can choke it down. That was the only way I made salads for years. So when I thought of adding a salad to my dinner, I was thinking “yuck” before I even pulled out a cutting board. Now I try to make my salad different every time. Sometimes I’ll make salads that are an interesting concoction of whatever salad-y things happen to be in the fridge or pantry. Spinach? Sure. Watermelon? Why not. Cashews? Throw ’em in there! Goat cheese? Always a yes. Don’t be afraid to add things to a salad that aren’t “traditional” (like pear slices vs. carrots, for example). Keep in mind, though, that you’re not obligated to toss in the kitchen sink every time you make a salad, either. Sometimes even simple salads are really good!
tip #4: GIMME SOME CHEESE, PLEASE
Skip this one if you don’t do dairy, but I LOVE cheese. If I ever develop a dairy allergy, I’m not sure what I’d do because (as my mom would say) a day without cheese is like a day without sunshine! (Actually, she says that about onions, but it’s the same idea). The only kind of cheese I ever put in my salads “back in the day” was cheddar. Or maybe mozzarella, if that’s what we had. My favorite cheese to add to my salad right now is goat cheese, but there are SO MANY different options with SO MANY different textures and flavors to experiment with! Parmesan (I cannot get enough), Feta, Asiago, Gouda, Fontina, Manchego, YUM! And if you’re worried about the fat, check out this article. Plus, you don’t have to add a ton of cheese to get great taste.
tip #5: MAKE YOUR OWN DRESSINGS
Throw away that bottle of ranch. My goodness, I think I’ll gag if I ever have another salad with that same ol’ Italian dressing. Make your own dressings–there are a million interesting recipes out there! After just a quick search of Pinterest I found Thai sweet chilli dressing, raspberry white balsamic vinaigrette, balsamic poppy seed dressing, a homemade creamy cilantro dressing–the options are endless. And to me, they all sound more interesting than thousand island.
tip #6: PLAY WITH HERBS AND SPICES
One of my favorite things to add to my salad is a dash of cinnamon and cayenne pepper. I started doing this when I ran out of these seasoned nuts I made for my salads but still wanted the added flavor they gave. Depending on my mood, sometimes I’ll also add a little bit of basil, parsley, mint, dill or cilantro to a salad to give it a little different flavor. You can also use herbs and spices to help with my next point:
tip #7: BALANCE YOUR FLAVORS
Salty, sweet, spicy, bitter, tangy. Balance these out with the ingredients you put in your salad. One of my favorite salad concoctions uses preserved lemons (which are a bit salty and…lemony, for lack of better word, because they’re not exactly sour) and dried cranberries with goat cheese (like I said, I love goat cheese) which gives a nice salty sweet combination. Often, the more flavors you can represent in your salad, the better! As long as they’re balanced, that is :)
tip #8: ADD PROTEIN AND GOOD FATS TO MAKE YOU FEEL FULL
Salads are often leafy and vegetable-y, and those foods (while super great for you) don’t leave you feeling full (unless perhaps you eat a giant amount in one sitting–which I sometimes do for that reason). Try dressing your salad with a simple EVOO drizzle if it already has a lot of flavor, or add some avacado slices, or cheese, or chicken, or tofu, or steak pieces, to get in some good fats and protein. Nuts are also full of good fat! Toasting nuts boosts their flavor AND their crunch factor, so if nuts are “blah” to you, you might give that a try.
HUNGRY FOR MORE TIPS?
I hope you enjoyed these tips! What is your favorite way to make a salad?