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Don’t Make Shitty Salad…Instead, Follow These 6 Rules

July 18, 2019 | By Jeremy Scheck | 3 Comments

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.

  1. When buying lettuce, choose packages with the least amount of condensation; it’ll go bad slower.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
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  1. The best way to make suer that every piece of salad is coated in dressing, and therefore flavor, is to put the dressing in the salad bowl FIRST. I make it directly in the bowl and leave it sit while I chop/cut up my ingredients. Starting with the coarsest greens first. If I put in my Finley chopped kale and toss that in the dressing, it has a chance to soften a bit while I chop/cut the rest of the ingredients. Toss those in on top. When all the veggies are ready, then I toss the dressing drenched kale with the rest of the salad. Voila! All ingredients are evenly coated and seasoned. Works every time. A trick for salad dressing ingredients. If I am roasting veggies that night, such as zucchini, or eggplant or Brussel sprouts, or carrots. I put the coating ingredients in my salad bowl, such as balsamic vinegar, granulated garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, S&P and herbs (no mayo) ind mix in the bowl. then toss in the veggies I want to coat for roasting. I toss my roasting veggies until coated, remove and put on sheet pan in oven. Two results from this: 1) roasting veggies are fully coated with sauce and 2) I can use the remains left in the bowl as a basis for my salad dressing. Then the dressing on the salad complements the seating on the veggies. Generally, mot recipes call for putting plain cut up veggies on sheet pan and pouring oil and spices over them. But I find that gives me big blobs of oil and seasoning in some areas and nothing in others. So uneven. By doing it the opposite way, dressing ro veggie sauce/seasoning first in the bowl, then everything else gets coated nicely. Well flavored and delicious. This is a GREAT blog. Lots of great ideas. And in keeping with Mr Scheck’s desire to give credit where credit is due, I first learned about putting dressing in the salad bowl first from watching Bobby Flay on one of his Throwdown episodes years ago., with the same rationale I have espoused here. But, interestingly enough, most of the time sine, when watching him make a salad, he does not follow or demonstrate that early advice. He tosses his salads, then pours on his dressing…..but I still adhere to his first advice, as I find it is just about perfect, for both salads AND tasted veggies!

  2. I made your moms kale salad and I was shocked how good it was! I don’t normally even like salads, but all of the flavors went so well together and after the dressing sat on the kale for a couple hours it was the perfect texture. Makes a perfect healthy side???????? Thanks!

  3. Great recipe for salad dressing! It is simple and easy. I just wanted to say that the link to the chicken is not working 🙂

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