The Anatomy of a Perfect Salad – How to Make a Great Salad Every Single Time
Want to start eating healthier but don’t know where to start? Perhaps you’ve checked out the salad bar at the college or work canteen and the salads just look like an unappealing bunch of raw vegetables that taste extremely bland?
Today I want to teach you how to make a salad that is healthy, satisfying and incredibly delicious! And that is why, instead of bringing you just a single recipe like I usually do, I would like to break down the steps needed to produce a great salad EVERY TIME!
I love these loaded salads because they are quite easy to put together, need just a little preparation ahead and leave me feeling full, happy and energetic after lunch. After you start eating these salads instead of your usual sandwiches, you will start noticing how long you feel full without actually feeling tired or sleepy. This is because the salad is filled with healthy resistant starch, fibre, greens, a good dose of healthy fat and protein. All these components are crucial for making you feel satisfied for longer. I usually prepare all my ingredients the night before, ready to assemble into my lunch box before I leave the house in the morning.
1. Start off with a base of tender leafy greens
The best kind of base for these salads is tender leafy greens. Use the following greens alone or a mixture of them:
– Baby spinach
– Lamb’s lettuce
– Butterhead lettuce
– Iceberg lettuce
– Rocket salad (which also goes by the name of ruccola)
– Romaine lettuce
– Little Gem lettuce
2. Add some roasted vegetables
Roast a bunch of vegetables the night before and store them in the fridge to add to your salads throughout the week. You can use any vegetables you like! The two basic veg I love to roast for my salads are potatoes and carrots (I always make sure to have these in my fridge so I always have them on hand when I need them). I always cut them up into cubes, toss them with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and bake in the oven with the air-fan on at 220 degrees Celcius. It usually takes about 15-20 minutes for the vegetables to be done. The following vegetables taste great in a salad when roasted:
– sweet potatoes
– aubergine (here I describe how to perfectly roast cubed aubergine for a salad)
– green beans
3. Some freshness and crunch…
A great salad tastes amazing when there is a mixture of cooked and fresh vegetables that add juiciness and crunch to it. I usually go for the following:
– young zucchini
– bell pepper
– red onion (or spring onion)
Sometimes, when I don’t have any fresh vegetables I use stone fruit (which add a really lovely subtle sweetness) such as:
Or citrus fruit such as:
4. Don’t forget to add some funky/ zesty/ aromatic flavours too…
Homemade sauerkraut adds just the perfect amount of funkiness as well as crunch to salads. Raw fermented sauerkraut is incredible for gut health because it is a rich source of probiotic cultures. I also like adding microgreens to my salads. I love garden cress or mustard greens in particular, for their peppery taste. Fresh aromatic herbs can completely transform the taste of a salad. Lemon or orange zest is another favourite addition of mine. Seaweed tastes delicious when making Asian-inspired salads or when mimicking the taste of fish in vegan salads (as well as being an amazing source of iodine and other minerals!). A red onion and pomegranate relish lends the perfect sweet and sour taste to salads with either green lentils, beans or some heavier meats.
So, a round up of my favourites:
– red onion and pomegranate relish (recipe here)
– seaweed (such as chopped nori sheets, kombu or wakame)
– microgreens (sprouted seeds of cress, mustard, broccoli…)
– aromatic herbs (coriander/cilantro, dill, parsley, basil, chives, nasturtium leaves and flowers, spring onions, spring garlic, garlic chives…)
– zest of a lemon, orange or lime
5. Add a good amount of healthy protein
You really can add any protein you like. I usually roast up a whole chicken on Sunday and use the meat in my salads throughout the week. Sometimes I’ll throw a chicken breast or some fish on a griddle the night before to have some grilled meat ready for my salad the next day. Other days I’ll go for boiled eggs for their simplicity. Or when I’m really in a hurry and don’t have time to prepare any protein beforehand, I’ll just add a can of tuna to my salad. When I don’t feel like eating animal-derived protein I’ll go for either firm smoked tofu or pan-fried tofu with seasonings or gluten-free tempeh. Sometimes, I’ll use some cooked legumes such as green lentils, chickpeas or beans as my main protein source.
Here’s what protein I use the most:
– grilled or roasted chicken
– grilled or roasted fish
– boiled eggs
– canned tuna
– cooked green lentils, chickpeas or beans
– firm tofu (either smoked or pan-fried tofu)
– tempeh (raw, which has been marinated and roasted/fried or the ready-made smoked variety)
6. Improve the texture of the salad even more with some seeds or nuts
I really love adding seeds and nuts to salads. They are full of good fats which help stabilise your blood sugar and insulin levels and make you feel really satiated for a long time. Sometimes I’ll roast the nuts or seeds beforehand, but usually, I go for raw:
– sunflower seeds
– pumpkin seeds
– sesame seeds
7. …and finally, join all the flavours together with a kickass dressing!
I have to confess – when I don’t have a good dressing I just don’t enjoy my salad half as much! So truly, the salad dressing is really what makes a difference between “Oh-my-God-this-is-the-best-food-in-the-world!” and a mediocre “okay-ish” salad. On top of that, it’s also good to note that a salad dressing can be a source of good healthy fats which will make you feel fuller for longer and provide you with a vast array of health benefits.
My absolute favourite salad dressings are:
– tahini and garlic dressing (you can find the recipe here)
– avocado dressing
– olive oil, honey and mustard dressing
– pumpkin seed oil and apple cider vinegar dressing
So this is it – now you know all my secrets to making salads that taste amazing every time you make them! Do you love salads as much as I do? What are your favourite ingredients to add to your salads? Let me know in the comments below!
Lots of love,