Salads are the meal you go to when you’re trying to eat right or lose weight. Sometimes boring, salads generally consist of a few bland vegetables and aren’t really satisfying after the few minutes when you’re crunching down in front of your computer at work. But there’s a world of possibilities beyond the sad desk salad. We’re here to show you that salads can be tasty, filling, and not boring at all.
"Salad" is difficult to define. A few ingredients, usually vegetables (but also grains, legumes, meat, or pasta), either raw or cooked, are either mixed together or laid out neatly, and served warm or cold with some type of dressing (oil, mayonnaise, and buttermilk are just a few bases).
Traditional French cuisine breaks salads down into a few different categories: simple salads (usually lettuce based), mixed salads (a combination of several ingredients), and composed salads (several ingredients laid out separately).
If you’re making a lettuce-based salad, it’s important to wash and thoroughly dry the lettuce first; this will eliminate grit in the salad and allow dressing to stick to the leaves instead of ending up in a puddle at the bottom of the salad bowl. Gently dunk individual leaves into a bowl of water, refreshing the water in the bowl until there is no grit left at the bottom. If the lettuce you’re using has begun to wilt, make this rinse an ice bath, which will perk up the leaves enough to serve them. To dry lettuce, gently press with paper towels or use a salad spinner.
Homemade dressings are pretty simple to make and are generally healthier than anything you can buy at the grocery store. The easiest dressing to make is a vinaigrette, which is made by combining oil with some type of acid — traditionally red wine vinegar, although you can use citrus juice or other varieties of vinegar, too. Nut oils have a tendency to go rancid quickly; store in the refrigerator and give a quick sniff before using.
Just because salads are generally healthy doesn’t mean that they have to be flavorless. Liven up homemade or store-bought dressings with things you probably already have lying around the house: mustard, fresh herbs, and definitely some salt and pepper.
Get out of your salad rut and enjoy it in its many forms with these sensational salad recipes.
The Cobb salad was invented in Hollywood, at the Brown Derby restaurant, and quickly became an iconic American dish. At the Derby, it was always presented with its colorful mix of ingredients neatly arranged in rows, then tossed at the table.
This composed salad is normally made with lettuce, tomatoes, haricot verts, anchovies, olives, hard-boiled eggs, and either fresh or canned tuna, topped with a simple vinaigrette.
Julie Ruggirello is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @TDMRecipeEditor.