ORIGINAL RECIPE: Not needed
TIMING: 15 minutes, max
DIFFICULTY: As long as you can chop veggies…
TOOLS: Just a bowl to toss your salad in, a paring knife and cutting board, and tongs. You may also need a veggie peeler and a bigger knife
COOK TYPE: Probably no cooking
HEALTH: This is the quintessential add-health-to-the-meal move. And it’s a great move. A bowl full of veggies–yes, with a healthy fat dressing–is oh so very good for you. And likely, you’re not getting enough veggies in your average day. So in just minutes, you can whip this side up to go with almost any meal and from whatever you have in your crisper, as long as you have some sort of leafy vegetable. I can’t begin to tell you all the health benefits of eating a tossed salad. Just don’t drown the stuff in Hidden Valley, alright?
EXPERIENCE: I was supposed to be making a three-course Japanese dinner for my husband’s birthday, but I had just finished the Lane Cake when I looked up at the clock and settled two flour-covered hands on my cheeks. What?!? So I made an emergency call to my mom and step-dad and asked them to please pick up the WholeFoods pizzas that I would order for dinner and I would take care of everything else. With just a couple bottles of 365 soda, some homemade garlic bread, and a giant salad, the meal’s specialness was preserved while also maintaining my sanity.
Tossed salad is like that. You can still manage to get a veggie on the table and live your life, if only you have some lettuce.
NOTES: Now, I say that all you actually need for a tossed salad is a leafy green (that you can eat raw), but the real key to a great salad is all the other stuff that you include. I grew up with salads which were always iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bottled ranch dressing (with Italian for my dad). No wonder I was astounded when I went to my first Southern potluck and my hippie-ish friend waltzed in with a pottery bowl brimming with about twenty-nine different veggies, fruits, nuts, and seeds and a bottle of self-shaken dressing. Hold the phone, Batman! What is that going to taste like?!? Fabulous, it turns out.
Now, you might be scared at first, but for the most part, the more things you throw in there, the tastier and fancier it is going to seem. Here is a list of some of your options:
- Greens: spinach, butter lettuce, romaine, arugula, green leaf, red leaf, even iceberg, spring mix, baby kale, watercress, micro greens, etc.
- Raw Veggies: sliced cabbage, endive, grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, tomato wedges, sliced avocado, sliced cucumber, sliced summer squash or zucchini, Grated carrot, slivered red or white onion, sliced radish, sliced bell pepper, sliced mushrooms, grated beets, chopped cauliflower or broccoli, sprouts, julienned jicama, etc.
- Cooked Veggies: Caramelized onion, roasted root veggies or squashes, eggplant, roasted garlic, sliced mushrooms, peas, asparagus, etc.
- Pickled Veggies: Cucumbers, carrots, lemons, turnips, radish, bamboo, water chestnut, chilies, beets, cauliflower, etc.
- Fruit: Sliced plums, peaches, apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, figs, grapes, pomegranate seeds, etc.
- Dried Fruit: Raisins, Craisins, freeze-dried berries, blueberries, cherries, diced dates, figs, prunes, apricots, sun-dred tomatoes, etc.
- Nuts and Seeds: Peanuts, walnuts, pecans, slivered almonds, cashews, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, etc.
- Legumes: Cooked chickpeas, black beans, white beans, kidney beans, lentils, edamame, etc.
- Meats: Bacon pieces, cubed ham, chunked chicken, shredded turkey, canned tuna, lox, sliced steak, etc.
- Cheeses: Cubed cheddar, cubed Swiss, shaved Parmesan, pepperoncini, cottage cheese, etc.
- Others: croutons, seaweed, quinoa, tofu, hard boiled eggs, tempeh, etc.
Obviously, if you opt for meats and cheese, you are wandering from the tossed salad territory into a salad meal. Except for bacon pieces and parmesan, just cuz.
As for dressing, you can make your own (the recipes are endless) or stock some sort of healthful dressing (without poor-quality oils, corn syrup, MSG, and additives). Try Newman’s Own, Annie’s, Drew’s, Brianna’s, or 365, for a start. My all-time favorite dressing–I could eat it on a shoe–is Annie’s Woodstock. Or, in a pinch, just drizzle extra virgin olive oil over your salad with a sprinkle of salt and fresh-ground pepper. You can also splash with a nice vinegar, like balsamic, raspberry, walnut, almond, or cider or squeeze some citrus over top, like lemon, lime, or orange.
Also, let me mention that I am very conscious that tossed salad does not last. Therefore, my favorite way to make a tossed salad for dinner is individually, right in the bowls we are going to eat out of. I just make one little salad for each person and put my ingredients back where I got them. For a crowd, never dress your salad before serving.
- Wash and completely dry your greens. Hand-tear them into bite-sized pieces.
- Prepare any veggies, fruits, meats, or cheeses that you will be adding. Arrange all of your additional items on top of the greens. Be generous.
- Add dressing and toss salad.
Serve with almost any meal, or eat for a light lunch. Or even a snack.