The Essential Elements to a Satisfying Salad

Hey!

Have you ever stopped to consider what makes a great salad? I am talking about salads you would eat as a meal and feel satisfied afterwards. I have been thinking of this lately as the “Fall into Greens” CSA is starting this week and we will soon have a lot more greens in our life (yay!). Let’s evaluate the Mango & Curried Chickpea Salad you see in the picture above in hopes you can make your own delicious salads without a recipe.

This salad is from one of my all time favorite cookbooks – Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi. It contains curry spiced chickpeas, blanched cauliflower, sauteed onion, fresh mangoes, hot green chile, cilantro, lime juice, and fresh baby spinach. Here is what I think makes this salad sound so amazing:

  • Both raw (spinach, mango) and cooked (cauliflower) textures
  • Hits on most of the 5 basic flavors – bitter (curry spices), sweet (mango), sour (lime juice), salty, umami
  • Ample amount of protein (chickpeas)
  • Cohesive dressing (here he just uses lime juice as there was enough oil used to prepare the other ingredients)

You can take this example and apply it to almost any salad you wish to prepare. Below I have listed different items you can use to achieve these fundamental elements.

  1. Raw Texture
    • Salad greens
      • Don’t limit salad greens to spinach/spring mix – add other raw greens such as kale, mustard, Swiss chard, arugula, radicchio
      • Toss fresh herbs in your green mix for another layer of flavor
    • Vegetables
      • I believe the vegetables listed below are great when added raw to a salad given they are thinly sliced or chopped into bite-sized pieces.
        •  Carrots
        • Radishes
        • Cabbage
        • Bell peppers
        • Cucumbers
        • Tomatoes
        • Fennel
        • Scallions
    •  Fruit
      • Same goes with fruit – just make sure they are cut into bite sized pieces.
        • Apples
        • Pears
        • Citrus – oranges, grapefruit
        • Melon – cantaloupe, watermelon
        • Stone fruit – peaches, plums, cherries, apricots
        • Mango
        • Pineapple
        • Figs
        • Grapes
        • Berries – strawberries, blackberries, blueberries
  2. Cooked Texture
    1. Vegetables – think of different ways to incorporate flavor into cooked vegetables – roasting, grilling, broiling, etc.
      • Potatoes
      • Sweet potatoes
      • Summer squash
      • Winter squash
      • Eggplant
      • Roasted red peppers
      • Broccoli
      • Cauliflower
      • Brussels sprouts
      • Beets
      • Asparagus
      • Artichokes
      • Green beans
      • Celery root
      • Corn
    2. Grains – cooked grains are a great way to add texture and extra nutrition – just make sure to use techniques that yield separate grains. Don’t forgot the taste and texture you can add with croutons and chips.
      • Quinoa
      • Barley
      • Rice
      • Hominy
      • Amaranth
      • Buckwheat
      • Teff
      • Wheat berries
      • Bread – croutons
      • Corn products – tortilla chips
    3. Protein (see section below)
  3. Savory Flavor (NOTE: I am combining umami, bitter and sour flavors in this section as there is a lot of crossover)
    • Vegetables
    • Meat / meat substitute
    • Mushrooms
    • Cheese
    • Olives
    • Capers
    • Sun-dried tomatoes
    • Miso
    • Tamarind
    • Wine
    • Citrus
  4. Sweet Flavor
    • Fruit – fresh, dried
    • Shredded coconut
    • Glazed nuts
    • Sweeteners added to your vinaigrette
      • Sugar – granulated, brown, coconut
      • Honey
      • Maple syrup
      • Sorghum
      • Jams and jelly
      • Sweet spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice
  5. Protein
    • I don’t know about you but I need protein in a salad to make it a meal. Of course you can use different types of meat or fish but there are plenty of vegetarian options too:
      • Beans – chickpeas, black beans, pinto
      • Lentils – French lentils hold their shape really well and are a great source of protein
      • Quinoa
      • Tofu – I am partial to fried tofu when used in a salad
      • Tempeh
      • Seitan
      • Edamame
      • Nuts – peanuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios
      • Seeds – sesame, sunflower, poppy, hemp
      • Cheese – goat, cheddar, feta
      • Eggs – hardboiled
  6. Cohesive Dressing
    •  Think of the dressing last as you can usually integrate flavors you may be missing elsewhere. For example, if you don’t have anything sweet in your salad, use a sweetened dressing. If you have a lot of cooked flavors, brighten up the salad with a more acidic dressing.
    • The ratio of 3 PARTS OIL to 1 PART ACID will give you a wonderful homemade dressing
      • Types of oil: olive oil, vegetable oil, hazelnut oil, walnut oil, sesame oil
      • Types of acid: white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, rice vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice
      • Add mustard, yogurt, pureed avocado, fruit juice, jelly, honey, herbs, etc to add body / interest
    • Here are some of my favorite dressings:
      • Mustard-balsamic vinaigrette
        • Add mustard, minced shallot and thyme to a basic oil/vinegar mixture
        • Can add a savory element when needed
      • Herb vinaigrette
        • Add minced fresh herbs of choice to a basic oil/vinegar mixture
        • Can add freshness when needed
      • Citrus vinaigrette
        • Add citrus juice and/or grated zest in place of vinegar
        • Can add freshness and/or acidity when needed
      • Blue cheese dressing
        • Add creme fraiche and blue cheese crumbles
        • Can add richness to an otherwise lean salad

How do you make your salads satisfying? We would love to hear from you!

11 thoughts on “The Essential Elements to a Satisfying Salad

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