Salads are usually loved by “greenies” and hardcore meat lovers alike for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s one of those dishes that is not just healthy but incredibly satisfying and filling enough for a whole meal. Secondly, because they’re so versatile, they can hit the right spot with just about anyone and everyone. And thirdly, they require very little prep time, so you don’t have to spend hours over a hot stove – which is the last thing we want after a long day of work.
But somehow, the salads we make at home never seem to measure up to our favorites from restaurants. It can get quite frustrating to end up with something that looks like nothing more than a bowl of lettuce.
But the truth is, preparing a good salad goes way beyond tossing in some veggies and meat and finishing off with a drizzle of dressing. Here are 7 helpful salad-making tips to take your cue from.
1. Get Yourself A Salad-Spinner
Before we give you actual ingredient tips, let’s just get this out of the way first. And no, this isn’t one of those frivolous, unnecessary tools that make empty promises of supposedly making your life easier. A salad spinner really does make a difference. Let us explain why.
We all (hopefully) know that we have to wash our veggies thoroughly before we add them to our salads. We also go through the regular routine of laying them out on a paper towel to dry as we do with our other preparations. But what we don’t know is that for salads, in particular, it is especially important to have your vegetables as dry as possible before adding them to the bowl. This is because even a little amount of water is enough to dilute your dressings and consequently, the flavor they’re supposed to lend your ingredients. Again, not something you want.
A salad spinner (also known as a salad tosser) uses centrifugal force that helps separate even the tiniest of water droplets from your veggies, especially the cruciferous leafy greens that tend to trap water in their creases. This will help your dressings coat your veggies much better, which means each spoonful will have just the kind of luscious flavoring your taste buds are looking for.
2. Always Choose Fresh Ingredients
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is so important, we can’t help but give you a gentle reminder. The technique to perfecting a salad (or any dish for that matter) starts with choosing fresh ingredients. Using ingredients, especially vegetables, that have spent days lying in your refrigerator is only going to give you a dull, lifeless salad that you feel duty-bound to eat. Fresh ingredients, however, will not only make your salad look bright and appetizing, but will also pack in tonnes of flavor, which is exactly what you want.
3. Think Flavor, Not Just Base Ingredients
If you think it’s enough to throw in just about any vegetables and meat for your salad, you’re making a huge mistake. Don’t just mindlessly pick out ingredients from your grocery store; spend some time thinking about the kind of flavors you’re looking for. You want the perfect mix of sweet and tangy, possibly with a hint of spice. Keeping that in mind, proceed with choosing your ingredients, trying to imagine each one’s flavor marrying another’s.
4. Get Creative With Dressings And Spices
Buying store-bought dressings is the easiest way out, but it doesn’t really give you the freedom to play around with your flavors. So the first thing you want to keep in mind when it comes to dressings is that homemade always trumps storebought.
Of course, a mixture of olive oil and vinegar is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of homemade dressings since it’s fairly easy. But quite frankly, it can get a little “ho-hum” especially if you use this for every salad that you make. So you definitely want to have more options when it comes to your dressings. Try experimenting with different oils, flavored vinegars, spices, and herbs. For instance, a mix of cumin, curry powder, and honey added to a base of canola oil and balsamic vinegar pairs very well with greens and grains.You can also try adding some fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme – they are great flavor-enhancers and also bring an earthy feel to your salad. Spices like cracked pepper and garlic are also great additions.
If you prefer something that’s on the creamier side which won’t wreck up your waistline, mix in some fat-free Greek yogurt. It will give you some extra protein without adding too many calories!
Note: Do not overdo your dressing, thinking it will automatically boost the flavors of your salad. Overdressing can ruin your salad, drown all the flavors and crunch and make it a goopy mess which isn’t appetizing at all. If you’re not sure of the right amount to use, stick to the lighter or more medium side and save some of the dressing for later. That way, if you need extra, you can always add it in later.
5. Experiment With Textures
Texture is everything. And by this, we don’t mean going bonkers with the number of ingredients. You can stick to even three ingredients and still have an interesting, great-tasting salad as long as you know how to marry the textures right.
How do you do this?
By remembering to not pick ingredients or toppings that are too similar in the way they feel in your mouth. They may contribute well in terms of flavor, but they won’t really make you fully enjoy eating your salad.
Be bold and change things up a bit. If you have an ingredient that is soft and creamy like goat cheese or avocado, add in some crunch through a sprinkle of nuts, seeds, or croutons. If you’re looking for some juiciness, toss in some diced grapefruit. Similarly, if you know you’re going to be caramelizing your onions and making them soft, keep your beans crunchy. The contrast will make your salad a lot more delightful to eat.
6. Give Your Protein Some Attention
You can always get the job done with unseasoned baked chicken or shredded rotisserie turkey. But marinating your meat with flavors that compliment the rest of your salad ingredients can make a marked difference. Not sure of what kind of marinade to use? Just grill your meat or use some leftovers from your last barbecue cookout. That charred flavor pairs well just about any salad!
7. Add The Cheese Before You Dig In
Shredded cheese should never be allowed to sit on your salad for too long. Why? Because it will get dry and lose all its flavor by the time you’re ready to eat.
Top your salad with cheese right before serving. If you’re taking your salad to work, stash a block of cheese and a cheap vegetable peeler into your lunch box and store it in the refrigerator at your workplace until it’s time for lunch. That way you can easily “peel” thin slices of cheese onto your salad when you settle down to eat.