Salad Recipes – Part 2 The Base Ingredients

salad leavesAnd now for more salad recipes and inspiration! There is more information about dressings and additions to improve taste in part 1 –adding flavor to your salads, but here we’ll concentrate more on the basic core ingredients of any great tasting salad.

Whilst a simple green salad might be a taste sensation for some (myself included), I do get it that many folks are less than enchanted with a big pile of leaves on their plate. But as we all know, salads are great for you, and built right they can be a fab way to fill you up a little, which is particularly useful when trying to lose weight.

So, if your idea of a salad is some limp lettuce wilting at the side of the plate, its time to rethink fresh greens. Here are a few pointers to creating the very tastiest salad recipes yourself:

Salad Leaves

Okay, before you reach for yet another Crisp-head or Iceberg lettuce, have you thought about why you aren’t already a fan of salads? Probably because much of the leaves we traditionally use are far from exciting, often tasteless, and simply too mundane to contemplate eating every day. Now if you grow your own, granted any old lettuce will taste new and exciting. But, if you’re hitting the grocery store try and mix it up a little, with some different leaves and lettuces.

Now these crispy lettuces that keep well, and are sold relatively cheap can make a good salad base. But only if accompanied by something a little more interesting and/or if you are using a really tasty dressing such as a mustard vinaigrette.

  • Use at least 30% “interesting” salad leaves – be it chicory, spinach, Romaine lettuce or something red and frilly. A different texture and taste will liven up even the simplest green salad I promise.
  • Don’t just think it has to be lettuce that makes your salad leafy. Mixed fresh green herbs such as basil and arugula can make a huge difference. Baby spinach leaves, beet leaves, Swiss chard, and crispy cabbage all work well as the base ingredient in any new salad creation.

Vary the additional ingredients and dressings depending on what type of leaves you are using. That way you end up with enough salad variations to keep you healthy every day. And don’t forget that the more limp the leaves the less well the salad will cope with either too much oil, or hanging around in its dressing. Here are a few of my favorite combinations:

  1. Shredded cabbage, finely sliced cucumber, zucchini and onion doused with a spicy, salty chilli infused red wine vinegar.
  2. Arugula, basil and scallions with just a smattering of good olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and plenty of toasted almonds or pine-nuts.
  3. A mixture of red leaf lettuces and plenty of fresh coriander, with finely sliced preserved lemons, flaky sea salt and the very best olive oil.

I read once that a green salad should be all green and nothing else. And, whilst I would suggest no such thing since I rather enjoy a sweet tomato or two in any plain lettuce based salad, I do think it is worth keeping in mind. Not every salad needs to include every salad ingredient in your fridge. Add too many ingredients and you will quickly find that the salads you eat are simply too boring; too familiar. Pick your ingredients with a little more thought and each day can taste a little bit special!

Those multi-colored salads with their leaves, pickles, sweet-corn, tomatoes and grated carrots might be a feast for the eyes but cor blimey do they generally taste “average” and they leave no real room for eating differently each day, or creating memorable salads yourself.

  • If you can, stick to 3 or 4 main ingredients and let them speak for themselves.

The Leafless Salad

And what if you don’t want a green salad at all? Well I won’t be talking about potatoes, rice or pasta in this post as we’re still eating fewer carbs than ever before. But there are still plenty of good alternatives to a green salad.

Any salad not based on green leaves is likely to be more filling, and perhaps better as a small serving side dish (or as part of a salad selection table). I’m still talking about vegetable based salads though, so these are starters or sides rather than the main event:

  1. Beetroot (boiled, skinned and doused with red wine vinegar) mixed with fennel seeds, sliced onion and a sprinkling of feta cheese.
  2. Tomato and avocado salsa – both diced and mixed with a few chopped scallions, crushed garlic and a few finely sliced chillies and lime juice.
  3. Warm chick pea salad is a lumpy kind of hummus. Warm some olive oil and add a few crushed garlic cloves and a pinch of dried chili flakes. Mix in a drained can of chickpeas and some lemon juice and warm through.
  4. Eggplant and zucchini slices fried till crispy in olive oil (or better still roasted), then mixed with red wine vinegar, capers, olives and some chopped tomatoes is great served for lunch at room temperature.
  5. Raw baby zucchini sliced thinly and mixed with grated Parmesan, olive oil and lemon juice is a nice and bright side salad (particularly useful if like my better half, you aren’t a fan of squishy over-cooked zucchini.
  6. Sweetcorn, diced green pepper, diced onion and diced green chili plus a glug of olive oil and plenty of black pepper is a pretty instant salad solution.
  7. Beans from a can, rinsed and drained make for a substantial salad filler upper. Add a few herbs and spices, plus onion and diced pepper (or roasted peppers from a jar). Throw in a little grated cheese and you have a substantial lunch-time salad topped with tuna or chicken.
Just taking a little more time to create a salad that is unique each day is a simple way to start really enjoying salad again!


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