In pre-coronavirus times, I refused to dine at my favorite Indian restaurant, Rahi, unless I was going with a large group, because I knew the experience wouldn’t be as magnificent as it could be if I wasn’t ordering at least three quarters of the menu. Similarly, I never made salads at home because I knew the experience wouldn’t be as magnificent as it could have been if I’d had the full range of dozens of pre-prepared toppings and dressings. Needless to say, a lot has changed in the last month. I would give almost anything to dine at Rahi right now, regardless of party size. I’m also making my own salads at home a few times a week, and much to my surprise, I’ve figured out some easy techniques to make them taste just as delicious as something I might purchase at Sweetgreen. Scroll down for a run-through (and be forewarned these tips are intended for my fellow DIY salad noobs only. They might be fairly obvious to anyone with more experience salad-ing at home, but to me they were revelatory!)
Technique #1: At the beginning of the week, make a quadruple batch of dressing–one that only uses common pantry/fridge staples and can be concocted in a single container.
Whether you’re at home or eating out, or working with lots of toppings or just a few, a good dressing is the key to transforming leaves from something gross into something amazing. I made up a dressing recipe at the beginning of quarantine based on the ingredients I had on-hand and my personal preference for dressing consistency: CREAMY. It’s so good and so easy that I’ve been making a bulk batch of it at the beginning of every week to save me time when I’m putting together lunch every day. Here’s the recipe, which you can tweak based on what you have on hand: mix one container of plain Greek yogurt, half a lemon’s worth of juice, a couple spoonfuls of either parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast, a small spoonful of miso, a heaping spoonful of dijon mustard, a few hefty glugs of olive oil, and some salt and pepper in a Tupperware bowl (ideally one with a lid so you can store the leftovers all week). Stir it all up until it’s nice and creamy, then taste it and add more of any ingredient that suits your fancy. This can also totally be made without the miso as I know that’s not a super common ingredient to have on hand–I just happened to have a big tub of it it.
Technique #2: Include at least two vehicles for crunch, one salty and one sweet.
The difference between some homemade salads and guacamole, in my humble opinion, is crunch. There’s nothing sadder than consuming a mound of soft, wet vegetation without an accompanying element that lets your molars prove their purpose, you know? After some experimentation, I have discovered that my best salad outcomes include two types of crunchy elements–a sweet one (like apple or pear slices, or coconut chips) and a salty one (like nuts or seeds or crumbled tortilla chips). My go-to combo is half a chopped-up apple and a couple spoonfuls of roasted almonds. All I add other than that is some kind of protein–usually tofu that I sear for a few minutes in a pan, or a scoop of chicken salad. You could definitely go ham and add in tons of other stuff (vegetables, cheese, quinoa, etc.) but I’ve found that the two crunchy toppings + one protein combo is enough to make salads feel substantial and tasty without tons of prep or cleanup. I tend to use kale as my base, but use whatever lettuce you prefer or have on hand.
Technique #3: Make your salads in a giant mixing bowl.
A salad that isn’t properly tossed is a salad that isn’t sufficiently tasty. Give yourself room to do the job by preparing your creation in a gigantic bowl so you can really get in there and coat everything nicely (this is especially critical for a thicker dressing like the one I use). I also highly recommend eating your salad straight out of the mixing bowl when you’re done. Not only does it save you from having to wash one more dish, but it’s also just enjoyable to eat out of a cavernous vessel.
What techniques do you rely on to make a DIY salad sparkle? I’m all ears down below.