Jazz up your garden variety greens
Green salads are quick, easy and good for you, so here’s our guide to a mainstay of spring-time dining. Remember that the better your ingredients, the better your salad. Home-grown or very fresh organic produce will make your salad the star of the table, rather than the support act!
Scroll down for some of our favourite combinations, or check out our ‘Gorgeous green salads’ Pinterest board for inspiration.
Think colour, texture and taste: a combination of leaves works wonders.
From butter leaf and cos to red oak and radicchio lettuce is the backbone of most green salads. Use fresh, crisp heads, separated, washed and gently dried, and keep in mind that mesclun mixes give great variety when you’re short on time. Try presenting the leaves in various ways, whether slivered, torn or left whole- it’s a minor variation that can make quite a difference! Icebergs can even be trimmed, quartered and drizzled with dressing for a show-stopping (and very easy) salad- here’s some inspiration.
Coriander, parsley, mint, rocket, dill, chives, sorrel, dandelion- any soft-leafed herb can be used in addition to lettuce, or you can make a salad entirely out of herbs for big flavour: here’s a great example from the inimitable Ottolenghi. The trick is to co-ordinate the herbs with the meal: coriander and chives go well with iceberg lettuce if you’re serving Chinese marinaded drumsticks, for example, while almost anything goes with Middle Eastern cuisine.
Delicate baby spinach, crisp kale (cut into bite size pieces and massaged with dressing) and spindly sprouts (from alfalfa to radish) are all great alternatives or additions. Shaved cabbage is another delicious ‘green’ (or red!) and makes a coleslaw-like base that’s crisp and pleasantly sweet: this version, with peas, mint, chilli and parmesan, looks amazing.
Make your own dressing- it’s guaranteed to be fresher and tastier. Keep a jar in the fridge to make life easy and you’ll never go back to the branded stuff.
The rule with dressings is a ratio of 1 part acid to 3 parts oil plus seasoning to taste: everything else is optional.
Fresh lemon juice or vinegar (red wine, apple cider and balsamic) are the staples, and your choice will determine the character of your salad- balsamic vinaigrettes are great with Italian foods, for example.
A really good quality extra virgin olive oil will make all the difference to your dressing, and the flavour is very versatile. For a more neutral tasting oil, we choose healthy macadamia oil; steer away from distinct flavours like toasted sesame as they’ll overwhelm your greens.
A clove of garlic, a sprig of thyme or rosemary and a little lemon peel can all be added to give your dressing fragrance: you can either mince the ingredients and stir them in, or bruise and allow to infuse for a more delicate flavour. A spoonful of mustard (Dijon or wholegrain) adds punch, or try adding a little honey for sweetness.
These are optional, but they can take your salad to the next level! Don’t go overboard with the embellishments, and aim for contrast by pairing crunchy with creamy and salty with sweet.
Thinly sliced or roughly chopped carrots, celery, cucumber, radish, snow peas and capsicum are all delicious and nutritious additions: this yummy butter leaf lettuce salad includes carrot ribbons.
For creaminess and taste, we think avocado is a must: here’s proof! Thin wafers of apple or just under-ripe pear and segmented citrus also add a pleasant sweetness.
Nuts and seeds
Toast, chop, cool and sprinkle! Team cashews with Asian salads, and pine nuts with Italian etc; walnuts are essential in a traditional Waldorf, as you can see here.
Hard cheese, like Parmesan, add a piquant saltiness while softer cheeses add a lovely, creamy element: fetta is paired with peas in this example. Cheese is best in European-style salads, and it’s a great way to add a bit of extra protein if you’re vegetarian.
Garlicky croutons and frizzled bacon bits are delicious sprinkled over the top, and edible flowers (like nasturtiums) look lovely.
Five combinations we love
Rocket + parsley + dill + mint + lemon-Dijon dressing + avocado + radish quarters (pictured above)
Perfect with: barbecued eye fillet or tofu steak
Iceberg lettuce, quartered + garlic-lemon dressing + bacon bits + snipped chives
Perfect with: a poached egg
Butter leaf lettuce + snow pea sprouts + carrot ribbons + apple cider vinegar & honey dressing
Perfect with: grilled white fish
Baby spinach + balsamic dressing + pear slices + pecans
Perfect with: roast chicken
Mixed lettuce leaves + red wine vinaigrette + walnuts + fetta
Perfect with: felafels