Salads can get boring. There – I said it. Don’t get me wrong, I love vegetables waaay more than most people, but I still think of salad as a chore some days. But it’s not salad’s fault! It’s the fault of the salad creator. Wait! Please don’t go – I don’t mean this as a slight. I’m as guilty as the next person.
We often put a lot of TLC into preparing comfort food dishes, but when it comes to making salad we throw some lettuce in a bowl, maybe add some chopped carrot or cucumber, dump on a bottled dressing and wonder why we don’t particularly relish the idea of eating our creation.
The beauty of salad is the wide variety of colours, textures, and flavours you can play with if you take a few extra minutes to put some love into your creation. Let’s take for example the dish above – it’s a bit of a feast for the eyes. So lets re-create it at the same time develop a plan to avoid salad boredom for life.
The Main Event. Step one is choosing a few different coloured vegetables (varied colours equal varied nutrients, but also look quite fetching when paired together), and cutting them into bite sized or smaller pieces. Smaller can be better because you’ll get a wider variety of flavours and textures in each bite. Like so:
I’m pretty good with a chef knife, but a mandolin or food processor with a slicing/grating blade will make quick work of veggie prep if you aren’t yet (or don’t care to be) a pro at knife skills.
Dressing. While bottled dressings can be handy in a pinch, a home made dressing often has a much brighter flavour and can take only a few moments to prepare. I’m generally against bottled dressings, for the full explanation check out my previous post. For this particular salad I blended raw cashews with a bit of lemon juice, garlic, and cilantro to make a super fresh and creamy dressing. However, dressings don’t have to be complicated. A simple oil and vinegar dressing with a touch of sweetener like maple syrup or honey, and some mustard or garlic can whisk up in less than a minute. I usually use two parts acid (vinegar or citrus) to one part oil. Start with a very small drizzle of sweetener and then add the tip of a spoon of your favourite mustard. Sample it and make sweeter/bolder as your taste buds see fit. As Gena says at The Full Helping, use your kitchen intuition.
Toppings. It’s all about the toppings. Don’t believe me? Ask Pizza.
Using contrasting textures from the crisp, juicy vegetables can make salads more filling and more tempting to the palate. Try adding avocado, cheese/nut cheese, eggs, chopped meats, or nuts and seeds to perfectly top your salad creation.
Lastly – Garnish. Every good restaurant garnishes each plate before it leaves the kitchen, knowing that the visual presentation of a dish can dramatically affect the overall appreciation of the meal itself. Our taste buds can be quite shallow. Go for contrasting colours (think black salt against avocado, slivered red onion over egg, or goji berries on kale) or simply a whimsical cut of one of the ingredients you’re already using. Long lateral slices of green onion, shredded carrot or radish, or the top segment of a sprig of herb can add flair and magically appeal to your taste buds at the same time.
This may sound like a lot of steps, but after a few trial runs I bet you’ll be building Instagram-worthy salad beauties in no time. I’d love to hear about your creations – either in the comments section or tag @jessicaneilRHN on Instagram.