Spring is just around the corner, which means warmer temperatures, daffodils, and ditching the heavy, winter comfort food in favor of lighter springtime fare.
Nothing celebrates spring to me like a fresh, tasty salad, but your typical salad can be….well….typical. Iceburg or romaine lettuce, tomato, maybe a bit of onion and ranch dressing or vinaigrette. Bo-RING! Instead of tossing together the same old mix of greens and dressing, here are some of my favorite salad ideas to make salad the star of the meal!
1. Mix up those greens! Instead of the standard lettuce options, choose greens with a little bit of zing! Try arugula, endive, microgreens, or shredded purple cabbage to make your salad snappy.
2. Combine textures. For me, salad is all about texture. Delicate lettuce, crunchy nuts, creamy avocado, tender pieces of fruit. Every bite is a little bit different, and that’s part of the goodness.
3. Make it a rainbow. When you picture salad, you probably imagine a big bowl of green. That’s no fun! Choose produce from across the color spectrum, like beets, berries, orange or yellow pepper, artichoke hearts, and olives. Not only will all those colors make a beautiful salad, they also mean lots of nutrients on your plate!
4. Get creative with your dressings. Ranch or a balsamic vinaigrette is all well and good, but an interesting dressing can take your salad to the next level. Try making your vinaigrette with interesting oils and vinegars (walnut oil with sage-infused vinegar, anyone?) or mix up a creamy peanut- or tahini-based dressing for your next salad. Yum!
5. Combine hot and cold ingredients. A salad doesn’t have to be a totally cold dish. Top your crispy cold greens with sauteed tofu or tempeh, for example. Caramelized onions make a great salad topping, too!
Bonus salad idea: Salad is all about the presentation. It doesn’t have to be a bunch of veggies tossed into a bowl! Next time you prep a salad, try arranging the ingredients or artfully layering them, rather than tossing everything together. You can also invest in special tools, like miniature cookie cutters to slice your veggies into fun shapes!
6. Add a little sweetness. Fresh or dried fruit makes for a lovely salad topping. Some of my faves: dried cranberries, sliced sections of orange or tangerine, or sliced strawberries.
7. Don’t forget the protein. Adding some beans or tofu can turn a salad into a full on, rib-sticking meal.
8. Add something tangy. A squeeze of lemon juice or some chopped green onion adds a dimension of flavor that really rounds out a salad.
9. Don’t fear the fat. You don’t have to douse those greens in oil, but adding a little bit of healthy fat, like nuts or avocado, to your salad makes it more filling and more delicious.
10. Try fresh herbs. A little bit of minced basil, sage, thyme, or your favorite fresh herb is a burst of flavor in your mouth. You can add it straight to your salad or whisk it into the dressing.
What’s your favorite way to add a little oomph to the humble salad? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!