ARE SALADS BORING?
Often vilified as ‘boring’, ‘rabbit food’, punishment to lose weight and mostly demoted to side dishes, salads live a pariah life on the fringe of culinary society.
I am here to tell you salads are the most underrated food in everyday life. Salads do not need to be boring and bland. On the contrary! Salads can be a delicious, diverse and satisfying meal year round and a quick and easy way of getting your greens into your daily diet without having to go hungry.
HERE ARE 7 TIPPS TO SPRUCE UP YOUR LETTUCE GAME
1. How to make salads a filling and satisfying meal
Can you eat salad without still feeling hungry afterward? Yes, you absolutely can! Salads are more than just leafy greens that leave you hungry and wanting more.
The 5 best ingredients to bulk up your salad
The 5 best ingredients to bulk up your salad and make it more satisfying and filling are:
- chicken breast (grilled, fried etc. or other meat)
- mushrooms (grilled or sautéed)
- boiled egg or grilled halloumi, feta or goat cheese
- legumes like lentils, pinto beans or peas
- starches: boiled potato, rice and pasta as well as grains such as quinoa or bulgur
2. How do you add extra texture to your salad?
In order for the salad not to be texturally boring, you want to incorporate different textures.
Ingredients that help adding texture to a salad:
- (toasted) nuts, such as peanuts, cashew, walnuts (crush after toasting, then add to the salad)
- seeds like sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- pomegranate seeds give that extra burst of fruity freshness as well as adding some extra bite
- dried fruit such as raisin and cranberries
Have you considered adding pickled onions to your salad? I find them way easier to digest than raw ones, plus they give you another layer of flavour, bringing in a sweet tanginess on top of an additional crunch.
You can even use some of the pickle juice in your vinaigrette. Click here for my super easy 'home made pickled onions in under 15 minutes' recipe!
3. How to make your salad actually tasty?
Granted, lettuce on its own doesn’t taste of much, nor do cucumbers.
The secret to a really tasty salad lies in the quality of ingredients (i.e. organic cherry tomatoes that ripened in the sun will always be more tasty than their watery tasting greenhouse cousins) and their combination.
Fresh herbs are the best way to infuse layer upon layer of extra taste.
Cilantro is my personal favourite when it comes to giving almost any salad a kick of freshness and flavour. You can also try fresh cress, dill, chives, rocket, sorrel or even dandelion.
4. Every salad's secret weapon: Vinaigrette for the win
How to make a good salad dressing:
Step one: Stop buying ready made salad sauces from the supermarket. They are full of sugars, artificial flavours and fat.
A good and tasty vinaigrette takes so little time and effort that you can easily make it at home.
The base ingredients for a vinaigrette are oil and acid, e.g. vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice etc. which are then emulsified by mixing or blending until they become a smooth, non separated liquid.
Once this is achieved, you can add in your aromatics, such as:
- salt and pepper (I prefer freshly ground peppercorns)
- finely diced onion
- a dash of cream, soy sauce or even fruit syrup (I like elderflower in some of my salads).
5. Adding fruit to your savoury salad
Can you add fruit in a savoury salad? You bet!
As is the case with other dishes, a good salad should strive to provide a balance of flavours, and those include sweet. Depending on your main ingredients, you could add mango (especially if pairing the salad with fish or poultry), apple, pomegranate or orange.
Some of the more popular salad-and-fruit combinations are:
Spinach salad with strawberries and pecan
Arugula salad with pears and gorgonzola cheese
Mixed greens salad with blueberries and feta cheese
Peach and prosciutto salad with arugula
Watermelon and feta salad with mint
7. Warm salads
Can you make a warm salad?
Warm salads are a thing, and a delicious one at that.
Some salads are actually meant to be served (hand)warm, for instance the German and Austrian potato salad dressed with vegetable stock and oil, or the Thai / Lao meat salad called ‘Laab’.
While commonly promoted as comfy winter food, I personally enjoy them year round and particularly like to mix temperatures, for instance combining cold lettuce, tomatoes and corn with still warm sautéed mushroom, roasted peppers and grilled halloumi. The combination is surprising for those who do not expect the salad to be warm but has thus far always been met with approval.
7. Spice it up! Hot vs. Bland
Spice it up! Don’t be afraid to add some heat to your salad. This can be achieved in several ways, like finely slicing your chilli peppers, using ground chilli powder or even making a spicy salsa for that extra kick of heat in your salad.
The leaves and other fresh ingredients of the salad will easily counter balance the spiciness and give you a good balance of flavour.
As you can see, there is plenty of choice for you to get creative and shed the salad-blues! Please share your secret salad hacks with me in the comment below.