Any night of the week is a good one in our home when we can sit down to a nice, hearty salad that’s just bursting with different flavors and textures. There’s no hard and fast rule to how you should assemble your salad. Heck, I switch up my combos up all the time. But I do strongly believe that a good salad needs to hit on each of the below elements to be truly satisfying and crave-worthy. Let’s call them guidelines instead of rules, alright? Okay! Let’s go!
Ever since I started topping my salads with crunchy goodies, I’ve never ONCE looked back. That crunch factor is an absolute must. Go a little nuts (yes, yes. pun intended) here with ideas, because why not?! Think chopped toasted* pecans, walnuts, cashews, almonds. A mix of the above? Yes please.
Quick tip: Toasting your nuts before throwing them into your salad only takes a few minutes and is SO.WORTH.IT. It brings out their wonderfully nutty flavor and, just, BAM.
We love that sweet and savory combo in so many dishes, and a salad should be no different. I’m talking dried fruits* like golden raisins, cranberries, cherries, coconut etc.
Quick tip: Soften up your dried fruits before you add them to your salad by covering and soaking in warm water for 5-10 minutes. This makes them extra juicy and flavorful! (I’ve found this works best with golden raisins, cranberries and cherries.)
The salty counterpart to the sweet element, of course! My faves are Kalamata olives (or any olive.. if I’m being honest here), capers, pickled veggies, pickled ANYTHING, pickled jalapeños! This element in the salad is not just to satisfy my seemingly neverending craving for pickles or olives or the like, it really does work so well when it’s all mixed in there.
Meaty to me means more than a hunk of sliced grilled chicken breast or salmon on the top of your salad. Try substituting hearty roasted vegetables (like in this salad!), pan-seared tofu, grilled mushrooms, roasted red peppers, garlicky sauteed beans or a pan-fried egg. SO MANY POSSIBILITIES!
Yes, I need to always have something creamy in my salad. It’s true! Lately we’ve been putting a dollop of goat cheese atop our one-bowl-meal-sized-salads. It’s especially lovely when the roasted veggies, still warm from the oven, soften up the goat cheese just a touch to make it even creamier. I also love freshly grated parm. If I’m taking a break from cheese for a bit, you can absolutely bet I will be using a creamy dressing made with coconut milk instead!!
That savory element to your salad is SO important. To me, it means making sure each salad ingredient is seasoned properly. So make sure to sprinkle some salt and fresh cracked pepper on your fresh greens before tossing them with the rest of the ingredients. It makes a big difference!
Quick tip: Roasted garlic is my #1 go-to for adding a wonderful savory flavor to any type of dish, especially in salads! Plus, if you’re already roasting a big batch of veggies for a salad like this one, don’t forget to throw in a few whole (peeled & crushed) cloves while you’re at it. And leave ’em whole when you toss everything together, too. Don’t be afraid of too much garlic: roasting removes that potent raw-garlic taste, leaving behind a creamy, slightly nutty, packed-with-flavor bite.
Brighten any salad up with a fresh squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Or, better yet, make that your dressing! Whisk together fresh lemon juice, olive oil, honey, dijon mustard and you’ve got yourself a super easy, not from a bottle dressing that you made at home. So easy.
Our Most Recent Favorite Meal-Sized-Salad:
- Herb-roasted root veggies (specifically rainbow carrots, onions & garlic)*
- Baby kale
- Kalamata olives
- Chopped pistachios
- Golden raisins
- Goat Cheese
- Orecchiette pasta (the ones shaped like little ears, because, CUTE!)
- Simple lemon olive oil vinaigrette
*Recipe for root veggies below
And lastly, don’t think you need to serve your salad cold from the fridge. Serve it room temp! Serve it as soon as you pull those roasted veggies out of the oven and toss it all together. The heat of the veggies will make the rest of the salad ingredients meld together so perfectly and nicely.
Hungry yet? What’s your favorite winter salad combo?
Until next time. Happy cooking and happy eating!