So you’ve decided to cook for yourself. Good for you. Studies show that regardless of the food you actually eat, it being homemade is the greatest indicator of “better dietary quality” and “lower adiposity” (i.e., less fat storage). And now you’ve decided to make salad. Even better, the health benefits of a plant-centered diet and leafy greens are also well documented.
But if you’re going to make salad, don’t make shitty salad. I consulted with my aunt Rachel, whose home cooking expertise was first brought to Collegetown Kitchen in this recipe, to come up with this list of guidelines for delicious salads that won’t taste like a compromise. Aunt Rachel makes salads that leave you dreaming about them the whole next week.
- When buying lettuce, choose packages with the least amount of condensation; it’ll go bad slower.
- Season every ingredient as you would if you were eating it plain. If I’m snacking on some baby cucumbers or bell pepper, I don’t mind eating them without salt. But I find unseasoned tomatoes and avocado almost unpalatable. I make sure to season ingredients individually to make sure every aspect of the salad tastes good on its own.
- Buy ready-to-eat or wash lettuce in cold water. This may seem obvious to more experienced cooks, but you don’t want to accidentally wilt your lettuce in warm water. Especially because I don’t have a salad spinner, I find the containers of organic triple-washed greens very helpful.
- For interesting salads, remember 3-2-1, meaning at least 3 mix ins, 2 kinds of lettuce, and 1 crunch in each salad. Salads are much more exciting if you introduce a little variety. My only exception to this rule is if you’re making a salad where the type of lettuce IS the salad (e.g. arugula salad, frisée salad). More flavorful lettuces such as arugula can be delicious on their own with just a simple vinaigrette and a sprinkle of parmigiano reggiano. Some mix-in ideas are avocado, grape tomatoes, bell pepper, baby cucumber. Some lettuce ideas: butter lettuce, spring mix, arugula, romaine, escarole, baby spinach, baby kale, endive… Some crunch ideas: homemade croutons, crushed tortilla chips, candied walnuts, sunflower seeds.
- Make your dressing from scratch. Homemade dressing is incredibly easy to make and the bottled stuff has nothing on it. Instead of dousing your healthy greens in high-fructose corn syrup and chemical stabilizers, a simple vinaigrette is a much better choice. Mix 1/4 cup vinegar (I love balsamic), 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, and a large tablespoon of dijon mustard, and some salt and pepper for the easiest dressing. Great additions to this basic dressing are a teaspoon of honey, a squeeze of lemon, or some chopped herbs. You can make it in an old jam jar, shake it up, and leave it in the fridge all week!
- Easily make your salad a meal (if you want) by adding some protein. Use leftover poached chicken from this recipe or a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Even some crushed bacon bits or a hard boiled egg can make a salad feel much heartier.
Jeremy Scheck spent high school perfecting his signature cupcakes, making quiches and coffee cake by the dozen at a local bakery, and teaching cooking demonstrations at Williams-Sonoma. As a 10th grader in 2016, he began documenting his favorite recipes on a blog called The After School Bakery. In college, Jeremy learned to make 50 gallons of ice cream in the food science lab, how to prune grape vines in the teaching vineyard, the best way to milk a cow in Northern Italy, and why film photography is an art worth saving. As a sophomore in 2020, he traded blog photos for video and became a TikTok culinary sensation. Jeremy has been featured on the Today show, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, BBC Radio, People, and Access Hollywood, among others. Jeremy is a graduate of Cornell University with a double major in Spanish and Italian, and significant coursework in food science. He lives in Brooklyn, NY. Learn more about Jeremy.