One staple meal for me is a salad. And I know that most people think that salads are boring and uninspiring. But salads are anything but! I find salads to be one of the most versatile dishes on the planet. I usually ‘build’ my salads in the same way, according to an easy to follow 4 step process. Read on to find out how to make salads that do not make you feel like you’re on a diet or eating “rabbit food”.
Tuna salad, spring salad, avocado salad
Step 1: Get your greens!
The first step for any good salad is to get some leafy greens and some other basic green veggies to start off the salad. I at least start with lettuce, or spinach, or both. And before you think lettuce is boring: check your local supermarket and see what variety is out there. And you can always combine two different kinds for additional flavor. My favorites are rocket (or arugola), oak loaf and frisee. My other staples for my base are cucumber slices and any type of sprouts. Sprouts are great for adding flavor and there are many different types. I do find that my organic supermarket stocks more different types of sprouts and it’s just a way of adding some variety.
Step 2: More fruit & veg = color = vitamins
Once you have your base, it’s time to have some fun! I like choosing another 2-3 veggies and maybe some fruit to add color and flavor to my salad. When it comes to vegetables, I simply go with any vegetable that I deem nice when eating it raw. My favorites are tomatoes (cherry, sundried or baby pomodori), carrots, celery sticks and any type of bell pepper. However, you can also quickly blanch or boil some beans (green beans are the best) or (green) asparagus to change up your routine. Other additives that fall into a vegetable category for me are avocado, olives, capers, gherkins, onions and pickles. Since the latter category are usually sold in jars (apart from the avocado of course) I try not to have those too often due to unnecessary additives that I’m trying to stay away from. Fruitwise, dried fruit such as raisins are a good salad staple if you want to sweeten up the deal and in winter time tangerines/ clementines can work lovely as well and add a bit of tartness.
Simple salad with smoked mackerel, blue cheese salad, Greek style salad
Step 3: Add protein!
You could stop there, but to me adding protein is a deal breaker for making a salad which is not only healthy but also serves as a complete meal. I usually add fish or cheese and sometimes opt for meat (chicken) to get protein and fats into my system. If you’re vegetarian you can work with tofu or tempeh which you could cook beforehand if need be, but in that case some beans or grains may be a good substitute as well. Doing this step will allow you to feel full for longer and again it will add a ton of flavor as you can always marinate your meat or fish and cheese come in so many flavors I don’t even know where to begin. My favorites: mackerel (smoked or from a can), tuna, grilled salmon, blue cheese, soft or hard goat’s cheese, feta cheese and mozzarella. I sometimes opt for regular Dutch Gouda cheese or some marinated chicken. But the options are endless.
Step 4: Time for crunch & extras
My last step is to add some crunch. I don’t do this all the time, but it makes for good variation. If you eat grains you could add croutons (just toast some bread crumbs yourself instead of buying a pack), but I like to go with seeds and nuts. Lately sunflower seeds and hemp seeds are becoming favorites, but I also like me some walnuts, pecans, cashews or pine nuts for that added texture. I’m not big on dressings (it makes everything so soggy, yuck!), but if you want to get some more fats into your system this is a way to do that. Cold pressed linseed oil, sesame oil or even some plain old olive oil with or without a splash of lemon juice or (balsamic) vinegar can be a deal breaker when you’re making a yummy salad. Just try different combinations and see what you like!
When it comes to making salads I find that all you need to do is try and combine and see what you like. You can always add pasta if that’s your thing, if you’re vegan you can try to get protein in a different way and if you don’t like a particular type of vegetable you simply don’t use it. I have just one rule which I stick to no matter what: try to get at least 5 types of vegetable into the salad, the rest is an added bonus. Since I always go for at least lettuce, sprouts and cucumber, I only need another two other ingredients to complete the meal. Sometimes though I opt to take some of my salad veggies with me as a snack. I then don’t put them in my salad but eat them as is later in the day. I still get my 5 veggies before dinner time be it in a different way.
What’s your perfect salad?