Building Better Salads

Building Better Salads

A skill any CSA member, local food enthusiast, or farmers’ market customer needs to master is the art of the dinner salad. If you want to succeed at eating large amounts of produce throughout different seasons, being able to rock something simple like a salad is going to help you get there. And the formula is actually quite simple.

The formula

  • Seasonal greens: Lettuce, kale, Asian greens, cabbage, the list goes on and on. Tender herbs count too. Grab one or a few to get started.
  • Add some raw or cooked veg: Anything that looks good to you will work.
  • Grab a dressing you love: Bottled is absolutely fine. Yes, homemade vinaigrettes are tasty, but they’re only necessary if you have the energy.
  • Top it well: This is the fun part. Take your salad to the next level with seeds, nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, croutons, and cheeses. The more crunch, the better.
  • Protein: If you’re looking to turn this salad into an entree or meal, a protein is going to ensure it fills you up. Eggs, chicken, salmon, beans, and crumbled tofu are all great options.

What does this look like seasonally? We break down some key recipe components for spring, summer, and fall below. 

Recipe by: Once Upon a Chef

Building better spring salads

Spring salads are all about focusing in on those tender, abundant leafy greens. These salads are simple, fresh and the perfect addition to any meal. Or, add a protein for a complete meal.

Spring salad inspiration:

Photo by: Healthy Seasonal Recipes

Building better summer salads

The greens are still here (especially crisp summer lettuces and lots of hearty cabbages), but summer salads allow you to think a little more creatively about what you consider the base of your salad. Hint: it can be something other than fresh greens (think tomatoes, zucchini, or even a grilled romaine).

Summer salad inspiration:

Building better fall & winter salads

Once you get a knack for them, you’ll discover that there is no better cool season treat than a pile of seasonal greens topped with shredded root vegetables (or a salad built entirely out of them).

Fall & winter salad inspiration: 

For those who need a few recipes to start, here are some of our favorites

Photo by: The Leek & The Carrot

Summer Salmon Cobb Salad

Recipe by: The Leek & The Carrot

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 ears sweet corn, husked
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 4-ounce salmon filets
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 head (or 1/2 pound mixed) lettuce, roughly chopped
  • 1 cucumber, cut in half, seeds removed and thinly slices
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 bunch scallions, white and green parts, sliced
  • 2 avocados, cut in half and sliced

Tahini Ranch:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

PREPARATION:

  1. Place eggs in a large saucepan and cover with at least an inch of water. Heat the pot on high heat until it comes to a rolling boil. Turn off the heat, but leave the pan on the burner. Cover and let sit for 12 minutes. Once the timer goes off, drain and rinse under cold water.
  2. In another large pot, bring water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add sweet corn and cook for three minutes. Rinse under cold water until cool to the touch and then cut the kernels off the ear with a sharp knife. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, get your salmon cooking! Heat a large heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium low heat.
  4. Season the fish with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up to medium high and place the salmon, skin side up in the pan. Cook, without moving, for 4 minutes on one-side. Turn the fish over and cook until it feels firm to the touch and the skin is crisped as desired, about 3 minutes more. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
  5. Peel your hard-boiled eggs and gently slice.
  6. Divide salad ingredients (lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, scallions, avocado, corn and egg) between four bowls. Add one filet to each salad bowl. Serve with tahini ranch.
  7. Combine all dressing ingredients except salt and pepper in a small bowl (or blender) and whisk (or blend) until very smooth. Add a pinch or two of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

Photo by: The Leek & The Carrot

Beet & Kale Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

Recipe by The Leek & The Carrot

Yield: 2-4 servings
Time: 1 hour

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 3 large beets (a combination of colors is lovely if you have it), quartered and sliced (no need to peel)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 ounces crumbled feta or goat cheese

Sweet & Salty Pepitas, optional

1 cup pepitas (also called raw pumpkins seeds)

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/4 cup olive oil

1-1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 tablespoon maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Pinch black pepper

PREPARATION:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss beets with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes, removing from oven once or twice to toss and rotate beets for even cooking.
  3. If making sweet & salty pepitas, place them in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Toast over medium high heat until they start to pop and smell fragrant. Stir frequently to keep them from burning. Once about half the pepitas look puffed, remove to a parchment lined-baking sheet.
  4. Return your large skillet to the burner, but turn off the heat. Add in sugar and allow to melt without touching it. Shake the pan if you need to distribute sugar evenly. When it turns golden (this should take just a couple minutes), pour the pepitas in along with the salt. Stir quickly with a silicone spatula. When all pepitas are coated in melted sugar, pour them back onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Allow to cool and then break up the clumps with your hands.
  5. Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a half pint jar (or small bowl). Shake (or whisk) to combine.
  6. In a large bowl, combine kale, scallions and fennel. Toss with balsamic vinegar and let sit while the beets finish roasting.
  7. Once the beets are done, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes and then add to the salad along with feta or goat cheese and half the vinaigrette. Toss to combine.
  8. Serve salad with sweet & salty pepita clusters on top and additional dressing on the side, to taste.

Photo by: Dishing up the Dirt

Carrot Salad with Green Onions, Parsley & Hazelnuts

Recipe by Dishing up the Dirt

Yield: 4 servings (as a side)
Time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts (sprouted if possible but not necessary)
  • 1 pound carrots, coarsely grated or cut into thin matchsticks, (about 4 cups total)
  • 1 bunch green onions (aka scallions) white and pale green parts thinly sliced (about 1 cup total)
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons grainy mustard
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Fat pinch of salt

PREPARATION:

  1. In a small cast iron skillet over medium heat, toast the hazelnuts until deeply golden brown and fragrant. Remove from the heat and when cool enough to handle roughly chop.
  2. Combine the carrots, green onions and parsley in a large bowl and toss.
  3. In a small mason jar add the vinegar, mustard, honey, olive oil and a fat pinch of salt. Secure a lid on the jar and shake until smooth. Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed.
  4. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and sprinkle with the hazelnuts.

Photo by: The Modern Proper

Butter Lettuce Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Recipe by The Modern Proper

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 1 head butter lettuce, leaves removed from stem
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch chives, minced (1/4 cup)
  • 1/3 cup extra light tasting or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 lemon, juiced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 shallot, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

PREPARATION:

  1. In small bowl, whisk together ingredients for the dressing, set aside.
  2. Arrange butter lettuce leaves on a large platter, top with radishes, avocado and sprinkle with chives.
  3. Drizzle with dressing right before serving and enjoy!

Photo by: Food 52

The Genius Super-Salad

Recipe by Food 52

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 2 cups chopped, stemmed curly kale
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup peeled, cubed (about 1/2-inch) red beets (raw!)
  • 3/4 cup cooked or canned, rinsed chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup pickled red onions
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 1/4 cup toasted pepitas
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for dressing
  • Red wine vinegar, for dressing
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 avocado, peeled and cubed

Quick-pickled onions:

1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

PREPARATION:

  1. Pickle the red onion. Combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a bowl and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. You could heat the water and vinegar first, or not. Add the onions and toss. Let stand for at least 30 minutes, tossing now and again. If you’re not using them right away, store in the refrigerator.
  2. Combine the kale, cabbage, beets, chickpeas, pickled onions, cilantro, feta, and pepitas in a big bowl. Dress with oil, vinegar, and salt to taste. Top with avocado.

Other resources

Want to learn more about sheet pan meals and the tips and tricks of roasting veggies? Here’s a couple of our favorite resources.

Bon Appetit: 20 Rules For Making the Best Salads of Your Life

The Kitchn: 7 Tips for Making a Restaurant-Quality Salad at Home

Bon Appetit: Learn This Simple Formula and Never Make a Mediocre Salad Again

Food52 video: Sohla Is Over Small Salads (You Should Be Too)

Download this resource as a PDF

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