Don't Make Shitty Salad...Instead, Follow These 6 Rules
Updated: Jul 21, 2019
So you've decided to cook for yourself. Good for you. Studies show that regardless of the food you actually eat, it being homemade is the greatest indicator of "better dietary quality" and "lower adiposity" (i.e., less fat storage). And now you've decided to make salad. Even better, the health benefits of a plant-centered diet and leafy greens are also well documented.
But if you're going to make salad, don't make shitty salad. I consulted with my aunt Rachel, whose home cooking expertise was first brought to Collegetown Kitchen in this recipe, to come up with this list of guidelines for delicious salads that won't taste like a compromise. Aunt Rachel makes salads that leave you dreaming about them the whole next week.
When buying lettuce, choose packages with the least amount of condensation; it'll go bad slower.
Season every ingredient as you would if you were eating it plain. If I'm snacking on some baby cucumbers or bell pepper, I don't mind eating them without salt. But I find unseasoned tomatoes and avocado almost unpalatable. I make sure to season ingredients individually to make sure every aspect of the salad tastes good on its own.
Buy ready-to-eat or wash lettuce in cold water. This may seem obvious to more experienced cooks, but you don't want to accidentally wilt your lettuce in warm water. Especially because I don't have a salad spinner, I find the containers of organic triple-washed greens very helpful.
For interesting salads, remember 3-2-1, meaning at least 3 mix ins, 2 kinds of lettuce, and 1 crunch in each salad. Salads are much more exciting if you introduce a little variety. My only exception to this rule is if you're making a salad where the type of lettuce IS the salad (e.g. arugula salad, frisée salad). More flavorful lettuces such as arugula can be delicious on their own with just a simple vinaigrette and a sprinkle of parmigiano reggiano. Some mix-in ideas are avocado, grape tomatoes, bell pepper, baby cucumber. Some lettuce ideas: butter lettuce, spring mix, arugula, romaine, escarole, baby spinach, baby kale, endive... Some crunch ideas: homemade croutons, crushed tortilla chips, candied walnuts, sunflower seeds.
Make your dressing from scratch. Homemade dressing is incredibly easy to make and the bottled stuff has nothing on it. Instead of dousing your healthy greens in high-fructose corn syrup and chemical stabilizers, a simple vinaigrette is a much better choice. Mix 1/4 cup vinegar (I love balsamic), 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, and a large tablespoon of dijon mustard, and some salt and pepper for the easiest dressing. Great additions to this basic dressing are a teaspoon of honey, a squeeze of lemon, or some chopped herbs. You can make it in an old jam jar, shake it up, and leave it in the fridge all week!
Easily make your salad a meal (if you want) by adding some protein. Use leftover poached chicken from this recipe or a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Even some crushed bacon bits or a hard boiled egg can make a salad feel much heartier.
Jeremy Scheck is the founder and editor-in-chief of Collegetown Kitchen and After School Bakery. He is a student at Cornell University in the class of 2022 studying Spanish, Italian, and nutrition. Aproveche, buon appetito and bon appétit!