Build a Super Salad
One of the highlights of spring is the profusion of color that explodes almost instantaneously around this time of year. But it’s not just the buds and blossoms bringing color into our lives about now; it’s the abundance of vibrantly hued fruits and veggies that are on offer at farmers’ markets as well. And there’s no better way to use seasonal produce than in a fresh salad!
Sure, the old “iceberg-tomato-cucumber” combo meets the definition of “salad,” but with so many seasonal ingredients making an appearance locally these days, your salad bowl can be so much more than that.
Here are some tips to help you build a Super Salad. To ensure a variety of nutrients, flavors and textures, try including ingredients from each of the following categories:
The base of most fresh salads is some kind of leafy green vegetable, such as lettuce (romaine, Boston or mesclun mix) or hearty greens like spinach, chopped kale, collards or chard (yes, raw!); or bitter greens like arugula or dandelion. And don’t forget that herbs are often included in this category, providing loads of vitamins and minerals along with great flavor (chopped cilantro and/or parsley work wonderfully).
Crisp Veggies (or Fruit)
A good crunch complements the softness of leafys perfectly. How about celery, carrot, broccoli, parsnip, fennel, radish, apple, cabbage, cauliflower or beets?
Juicy Veggies (or Fruit)
Adding juicy vegetables or fruits provides additional textural contrast along with more flavor to meld with your dressing. Try tomato, celery, sweet bell peppers, pear, pineapple, fresh berries.
Creamy (fats and oils)
Most salads use oil or a creamy base for their dressings. I love adding avocado to my salads, either blended in dressing or cut into cubes; a sprinkling of nuts or seeds provides polyunsaturated fats along with a hit of protein; or use blended silken tofu in a Caesar-like dressing.
Depending on whether your salad is a side dish or main course, you can add proteins (chickpeas, lentils, black beans, peas, tempeh, tofu) or other toppers such as sprouts or croutons. And don’t forget that salads can include cooked ingredients, too, such as cubed sweet or white potato, corn or grains (rice, quinoa and millet work particularly well).
It’s often said that dressing makes the salad, so don’t forget to choose a good one! Even a simple olive oil-lemon mix can elevate plain veggies to something delectable. Or try the same veggie mix with different dressings on different days. You may be surprised how delicious and satisfying your colorful mix of fresh veggies can be!
Recipes to Get You Started:
- Marinated Kale Salad
- Dilly Coleslaw with Raisins and Walnuts
- Jicama Collard Slaw with Creamy Sunflower Seed Dressing
- Olive-Quinoa Salad with Black Olive Shortbreads
- Asparagus, Artichoke and Wild Rice Salad
- Bittersweet Salad with Apple and Dandelion Greens
- Mango, Kale and Avocado Salad
- Minted Peach and Corn Salad
What’s the essential ingredient in YOUR favorite salad?
Ricki Heller is the author of Sweet Freedom: Desserts You’ll Love without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar (one of only three cookbooks endorsed by Ellen DeGeneres on her website) as well as three e-cookbooks. She writes the popular food blog Diet, Dessert and Dogs, where, for the past three years, she has chronicled her journey with candida and posted almost 600 sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan, whole-foods recipes.