How To Build a Salad
We’re deep into lettuce season here at Abma’s and what better way to utilize our homegrown lettuce than in a delicious salad!
Use our salad tips and tricks as a guide to help you make the most out of salad season.
Building a great salad can be the easiest task in the world or it can feel daunting. Salads are no longer just simple dishes made with a handful of ingredients. As show stopping appetizers at dinner parties or colorful and flavorful side dishes at BBQs, salads cover a large spectrum in the culinary world. Salads even stand in as entrée options at many 5 star restaurants.
Just because salads are more versatile than ever before doesn’t mean that preparation should feel intimidating. With a few simple steps and by engaging your own preferences and creativity, you can transform your salad-making experience from stressful to stress free.
Before you start building a salad, consider a few options.
-What purpose is your salad going to serve?
-Are you looking for a hearty salad or something more refreshing?
-Are you serving it the same day, or will you need to prepare it ahead of time?
Some salads are better as an appetizer or an accompaniment to an entrée, and some work best as a whole meal. Simple salads are great to pair with an entrée, while salads containing greens, grains, and proteins knock it out of the park for a nutritious dinner.
Some salads are elevated with a 24-hr. resting period in the fridge as it gives the flavors extra time to soak in, while others do well prepared right on the spot. Others might require more ingredients if they’re being served as meal replacements or heavier sides.
Once you have answers to the key questions, start by assembling the base of your salad.
Greens make a good foundation and are the perfect place to start. Mix lettuces and crucifers (arugula, kale, bok choy, collards, assorted leafy greens) with sweet vinaigrettes so that bold, bitter, and peppery flavors from the greens can balance out the sweetness of the dressing. Escarole, frisee, and arugula make beautiful additions to salads because their contrasting textures create visual interest.
Incorporate seasonal fruit for a bit of flair. Spinach and endive serve as a great base for this because their milder flavor profile pairs well with strawberry, sliced apples, peach, blueberry, watermelon, and even mandarin oranges.
Grains are hardy and stand up well to cooking, perfect for make ahead options. Consider quinoa and black beans, trending as popular favorites. To layer in flavor, roast grains in olive oil ahead of the cooking process to bring out the nuttiness. Swap vegetable or bone broth for the cooking liquid for additional depth of flavor. Don’t forget to salt at this step! For a more exotic feel, opt for farro, wheat berry, or even barley. Grains offer the perfect compliments for salty ingredients like cheese.
Speaking of cheese, some cheeses work better for certain types of salads. Use shavings of parmesan or manchego with green leafy salads to preserve the shape and integrity of the leaves. Softer cheeses like feta or goat cheese work well with grains because they blend in easily and make the salad feel creamier.
If you’re looking to build a salad as a meal replacement, include all macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat. Grains add the complex carbohydrates while veggies and fruit bring in the nutrients and fiber. To complete your meal, there are a myriad of protein options to pick from. Tofu, nuts, and beans are popular protein choices with vegans, while eggs are a great option for vegetarians. For meat eaters, chicken is great, but don’t stop there! Experiment with fish options like salmon, tuna, or even anchovies – which have an interesting “umami” flavor to add to a dressing.
While most healthy proteins also incorporate good fats, essential for our health, another fool-proof way of introducing Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids is by picking a quality oil to dress your salad. Olive oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, and walnut oil are great options for a dressing.
Finish off your salad prep with a sweet surprise such as sweet potatoes, figs, apricots, and raisins. Add nuts or seeds for a little salt and to make your salad feel texturally rich.
Salad preparation can be a creative process, which can also make it time consuming. But it doesn’t always have to have such variety.
For lazy summer days when you don’t have the inclination to cook or you want to keep things simple, consider grilling your vegetables. Methods like roasting, grilling or simply slicing veggies can create a salad that takes minutes and tastes great! When grilling vegetables, remember to keep your vinegars simple; just a few splashes of lemon, apple cider vinegar and olive oil with some freshly cut herbs like basil and dill will do the trick.
Our head chef, Tee, has some cool tricks that she inherited from her Italian mother and Grandmother. Tee is a strong advocate of eating fresh and says to take advantage of summer by buying local, fresh produce, brimming with nutrients that make them taste great and are so good for you. Our resident farmer Jimmy helps Tee feel close to her roots by growing a special variety of Italian tomatoes. When she is not at the farm kitchen, you will find Tee spending her time in the garden taking advantage of summer’s bounty. One of Tee’s best kept secrets is her beefsteak tomato salad. You can enjoy this delicate salad on your own or impress your friends at your next backyard BBQ. Simply core and slice the best large tomatoes from our Market, drizzle on balsamic vinegar, and finish with a sprinkle of salt and torn basil (slices of fresh mozzarella optional but strongly encouraged).
Many health supporting oils and grains such as quinoa can be found at our farm market right next to the fresh produce. Or if you want to load up for the week ahead and plan out your lunches, our Chicken Salad, Egg Salad and other salads are Tee’s specialties and longtime customer favorites. Our homegrown lettuces make some of the best green salads and our Chicken Salad is famous in the community. For other options, look at our Farm Market Deli selections or stop by the produce section for some inspiration on your next salad!
Here’s List of Salad Options for Inspiration…
Greens *richly colored
Baked Tortilla Chips
Nuts: Walnut, Pecan, Pistachio, Pine nut, Cashew, Peanut, Almond, Sunflower, Pumpkin, Chia
Seeds: Sunflower, Pumpkin, Sesame
Soft Cheeses: Blue, Goat, Feta, Mozzarella
Hard Cheeses: Parmesan, Manchego, Cheddar
Dressing (DIY: 1 tbsp lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar + 1 tbsp oil or tahini)
When you think of fresh, nutritious, and tasty produce, we hope you think of us!
With love and gratitude,