Salt 101

The Salad Formula: How To Give Your Greens a Glow Up

Salads, much like the classic rom com "quirky best friend" trope, are an often overlooked and sometimes begrudged character at the dinner table. However, with a little love, a makeover from Princess Diaries' Paulo, a few accessories, and a touch of extra screen time, they have the potential to steal the show. With the right formula, you can turn your bowl of "Yes, mom. I promise I'll eat something green" lettuce into a true culinary masterpiece.

Dressing: The Costume

Picture this: your salad is the girl next door; bland and unassuming in torn jeans and a baggy tee. The dressing is the sparkling prom gown that turns her into a swan in the eyes of "hunky, yet wildly misunderstood" quarterback.

Dressings fall into two categories: Vinaigrette and Creamy.

A traditional vinaigrette needs only two things—a fat and an acid. The classic is, of course, olive oil and balsamic. But why stop there? Let your dressing shine with different vinegars, citrusy twists, and even a dash of rendered bacon or duck fat. Throw in some herbs, mustards, honey, or miso, and voilà, you've got a "jaw drops as she descends the stairwell" level dressing.

Creamy dressings, on the other hand, are like the high maintenance divas at the high school. Think blue cheese, Caesar, or ranch. They bring the drama to the salad stage and pair well with only specific greens.

Like Goldilocks and her bed and Cinderella and her slipper, a dressing and its greens need to fit "juuuuust right." Check out our How To guide on salad greens for a handy flavor pairing cheat sheet.

Greens: The Cast

When you think salad, you The leaves are the stars of the show. The most common salad lettuces are:

Iceberg, romaine, bibb, kale, spinach, radicchio, escarole, spring mix, endive, butter, arugula, frisée, and mesclun.

Each one has a unique personality and group of friends that it gets along with best. Arugula's peppery charm pairs perfectly with something sweet, while tender lettuces, like romaine, prefer a light, citrusy dressing. Endives, on the other hand, can't hold on to a light dressing, so go best with something creamier like a blue cheese and frisée lives somewhere in between, enjoying a massage of a fat-laden dressing or a fancy egg yolk emulsion.

Grains: The Supporting Characters

Farro, bulgur, couscous, rice, and quinoa are the supporting characters that add a bit of depth to the plot. The friends that are met along the way to keep audiences engaged and help the stars grow. If you want to shake things up, toss in some squash or potatoes for a plot twist relationship that nobody saw coming!

Protein: The Genie, Mr. Miyagi, and Mary Poppins

Every movie needs that one guiding light character that helps the rookie realize their full potential. Similarly, every salad needs a reliable protein to balance out all of the veg and keep you energized and full. Meat, fish, cheese, and eggs are here to save the day. And for your vegetarian friends, tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, and nuts are the under-appreciated indie talents that do the job too.

Toppings: The Extras

Toppings are like the funny lines that you quote years later and the zingers in the script that make you gasp. Fresh herbs like mint and basil are witty, flavor-filled one-liners, spiralized vegetables are sneaky cameos, pickles are curious, unresolved sub-plots, and roasted vegetables like eggplant and peppers are niche references that you only understand after watching them 52 times.

Beyond the Usual Suspects

In the salad world, it's easy to get typecast with the usual suspects: lettuce, corn, tomatoes. But there's a whole world of raw options out there. Break free from convention with the non-union crew: asparagus, kohlrabi, beets, and more. They add that unexpected raw crunch and a burst of color, but aren't as predictable as their counterparts. You could also go big and grill your veggies for some smoky allure.

Conclusion: The Salad Showstopper

In the world of culinary cinema, your salad is the leading lady, and this Salad Formula is the script that turns her into a star. Make sure to experiment with dressings, choose your greens wisely, add grains for depth, let your proteins shine, and not to shy away from the unexpected. The critics (erm...dinner guests) will be raving, and you'll be sure to take home the award for Best Chef in a Salad Production.