How to make a kick-ass salad

May 25, 2018 | Cooking Tips, salads

Warmer weather is finally here, and with it comes fresh greens and vegetables. Because of this, it’s the most salad-full time of the year! Salads are a great way to load up on vitamins and nutrients, and they are delicious. It is easy, however, to get stuck in a repeating salad cycle. No one wants to eat the same salad over and over, night after night. So, what are some things that we all can do to jazz up our salads?

First of all, what is a salad? Most people think of salads like lettuce, with vegetables and dressing. Yes, this is one type of salad, but really, it’s not the only kind. A salad is a combination of fresh ingredients with a sauce. Bare that in mind when your thinking about what kind of salad to have with your next meal. Maybe, with the help of the tips below, you will come up with something cool.

Homemade Salad Dressings

First of all, make your own salad dressing. It is not complicated at all. And really, there only two base recipes you need to learn to make any dressing you want. One is vinaigrette, and the other is egg-based like mayonnaise.

Vinaigrette

To make a kick-ass vinaigrette, use a ratio of 4-1 oil to vinegar. Start with 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, mix in 1 tbsp dijon mustard and 1 tbsp honey. Season that with salt and pepper. Combine 1/2 cup of olive oil with 1/2 cup vegetable oil and slowly, while constantly whisking, incorporate the oil into the vinegar and honey mixture. You need to take your time and make sure the first addition of oil is fully incorporated before adding any more.

The above recipe is a basic vinaigrette. To it, you can add fresh herbs, berries, different kinds of vinegar, different sweeteners, and a multitude of other ingredients. For example, if you add a bit of lemon juice, a chopped clove of garlic, some parsley, basil and oregano, and a pinch of dried chillies you have Italian dressing. Use red wine vinegar instead of the white wine, a higher portion of olive oil and add a bit of garlic, lemon, oregano, olive, and feta, you have Greek Dressing. Sub the honey for maple and double the portion plus add a bit more mustard and you Maple Dijon. Get the idea?

Egg-based salad dressing

Egg-based dressings are made almost exactly the same way as a vinaigrette. The only difference is that in a vinaigrette, the mustard is acting as the binder between the oil and vinegar. Whereas in an egg-based dressing, the egg yolk is that binder. So to make an egg-based dressing start with the same base as the vinaigrette, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp honey, but one egg yolk instead of the mustard. Now make the dressing the same way.

To the make egg-based dressings, you can add garlic, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, anchovy, a bit of dijon mustard, parmesan, and black pepper, and you have Caesar dressing. To the basic recipe, you could also add a bit of chopped onion, garlic, dry mustard powder, chives, parsley, dill, black pepper, lemon, and a bit of buttermilk and you have ranch dressing. See how easy that was?

Now that we have the dressings down what else can we do to up our salad game?

Greens

Use different greens. We often get stuck in the trap of only ever using romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce, or spinach to make salads. Luckily there are loads more greens out there that make salads look and taste a thousand times better. Greens like bib lettuce, also known as butter lettuce or Boston Bib, is fantastic with a bit of homemade ranch, some bacon bits and a touch of cheese. Those colourful mixed greens you always walk by are excellent when dressed with a light vinaigrette or as the base of a more substantial salad.

There are also greens like arugula with its nutty, peppery flavour. Endive, radicchio, kale, and about a million other types that all make great salads.

Who said a salad needs lettuce anyway? Ditch the lettuce altogether. A salad of shaved fennel, oranges, sunflower seeds, fresh herbs, and a light vinaigrette is perfect for a summer lunch or dinner. Shaved asparagus with dried cranberries and slivered almonds served with an egg-based dressing makes a great side salad as well.

The point is, spring and summer are the best times of year to explore what can be made with a few fresh ingredients. Adding ingredients like fresh or dried fruit, seeds or nuts, even cooked grains like barley or quinoa, really make a salad more than just a salad. Start with a homemade dressing and the best ingredients you can, and you can’t go wrong. Enjoy!


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