We’ve made a little pledge this year to eat salads as our meal at the very least once a week, but now that spring is here, we eat them about twice a week. We have three lettuce patches in our yard that are really coming alive now and I’m sure if pressed, we could eat salad for every meal. I love tossed salad as much as anyone, but when you have it week after week as your main course inspiration for changing it up is necessary! I’ve realized over the years, being married to Scott, that there is a real art to salad making. I notice especially when it is my turn to make salads, they just never come out as beautiful or as tasty as he can make them. I’m sure it was his years as a restaurant cook that gave him the knowledge needed to make a beautiful salad. It’s more than just cutting everything up and tossing it all together with a store bought dressing, so I thought I’d share with you a little of what we do to make our salads more interesting.
Think Color: What’s the old saying? You eat with your eyes first? It’s true. Just looking at Scott’s salads make me full because they are so beautiful. This year we grew edible flowers just for putting in salads. Nasturtiums are pretty common edible flowers (they are the bright orange ones), but this year we also grew edible chrysanthemums (the yellow-white petals). If you have left over nasturtium blossoms, try Erin’s nasturtium preserves.
We had to pull all of our beets the other week to make room for the peppers. So with all of those beets on our counter we made up our favorite beet thing to do: pickled beets. We toss those into our salads frequently, but we also remembered something my mom had given us a few years back, pickled eggs. For this salad Scott hard boiled a few of our chicken eggs, peeled them, and placed them in the pickled beet jar for an hour or so to give them a bright fuchsia outside with a hint of pickling. We left a few in there for a salad a few days later that were fuchsia almost all the way through! A very fun way to have hard boiled eggs. The boys got really excited about their purple eggs.
Think Texture: While you want a good mix of soft and crunchy, biting into a great big carrot chunk really isn’t all that pleasant of a salad eating experience. When we do add carrots to salads we typically use our ceramic Mandoline Slicer (we have this one and love it!), however before we had that, we’d make long strips of them with our vegetable peeler. Most other crunchy vegetables get a thin julienne slice or if it’s a Chop Salad everything goes into a small dice. Cheese is a good addition to softness, but bacon bits (shown above) add great crunchy texture. So do a few sunflower seeds or toasted or carmalized nuts.
Think Properly Dressed: We tend to use a simple homemade vinaigrette for daily salads, but sometimes Scott gets a little fancy and makes up a batch of Green Goddess dressing, which is oh so good. When he and I were talking about what to write for this blog post, he mentioned how important it is for the salad to be properly dressed, yet how hard that is to describe. Typically you read that you want every leaf of salad coated with dressing, which rings true for vinaigrettes, but maybe you don’t want that much dressing if you use a creamy dressing. I guess you want enough dressing, evenly distributed so that you taste it in every bite, but your salad isn’t drowning in it.
Lastly he typically tosses the salad with the dressing in a seperate bowl than what he serves it in. Seems fussy for a family meal, I know, but it makes that presentation so much more fantastic, even if it is just the humble four of us.
I hope this gives a little inspiration to your salad making. Tell me, what tips do you have for making beautiful salads?