Craveable Salad Essentials

May 31, 2012

Salads are a great warm weather meal. There are many ways to jazz up a salad, read on for your salad essentials

Warm weather is here, and that means time to jazz up the menu with greats salads that please the palate and the eyes. There are three things that make a salad craveable and irresistible:

COLOR – switch it up with different colored vegetables, fruit and legumes. Each different color contains unique health promoting antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, so bring on the vibrant colors.

TEXTURES – a variety of textures add interest to a salad. Think chewy grains like farro or barley, tender grilled chicken, creamy goat cheese, smooth white beans, crunchy snap peas, pistachios, or dried edamame.

FLAVOR – little explanation needed here! Sweetness (fresh or dried fruit), salty (lightly salted nuts, beans or cheeses) and bitter (endive, arugula, olives), sour (lemon, lime), savory or umami (mushrooms, cheese, soy sauce) flavor combinations make for a bold and exciting salad. Also, herbs go a long way to add flavor, freshness, and nutrition to your salads.

To get you started on some amazing flavorful and craveable combinations – read on. And remember that adding protein to your salad gives it staying power and makes it a filling meal.

Elegant Asparagus, Red Peppers and White Beans with Parmesan:
Toss roasted asparagus and red peppers with white beans and shaved parmesan.

Roasted beets, Arugula, Goat cheese and Pistachios:
Wash beets, trim the top and bottom and cut into bite-sized chunks. Toss with extra virgin olive oil and roast at 425F for 30 minutes or until beets are tender. If you have a cast-iron skillet, try using it to roast beets. Remove the cast iron skillet from oven and top beets with goat cheese (break apart with your fingers and spread among beets). Let cool. Top arugula with the beets and goat cheese. Add pistachios and drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.

Farro, Tomato and Pine Nut Salad:
Combine cooked and cooled farro, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped fresh parsley and chopped red onion. Squeeze half a lemon overtop and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Top with toasted pine nuts. Serve with lemon slices.

Grilled Asian Salmon Salad:
Combine 4 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon honey, 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger and 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic. Toss shredded cabbage, sliced scallions, fresh mint and mandarin orange slices with the vinaigrette. Let marinate at least 4 hours. Top with chopped peanuts and grilled salmon.

Strawberries Fields Forever:
Combine 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon of sugar and a dash of salt and pepper. Whisk well. Toss with spinach, sliced strawberries and walnuts. Top with grilled chicken, if desired.

Simple or complex, you can indulge in salads all year long. Get creative, and use ingredients you might not think belong in a salad – there are no rules! Well one rule is not to use too much creamy dressing and to always read ingredients in salad dressings – some contain a lot more sugar than you can imagine! Make your own dressing, with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and maybe a touch of apple cider vinegar. This is one healthy meal you can truly enjoy.

This article originally appeared in Food Nutrition & Science.