Don’t let winter wipe vegetables off the menu. If you’ve made a commitment to get more veggies into your routine this year, that’s a good thing. But to make that a sustainable goal, you need to rely on more than iceberg lettuce and boring vinaigrettes. Here are seven ways to bump up your salads, elevating them from ho-hum to yee-haw!
1. Add a protein: The key to making a salad into a meal is to add a protein. If you’re a vegetarian the option of an egg is a good one. Nuts also are a great source of protein. For meat eaters, balance flavour with nutrition. Bacon is amazing on salad, but its fat content is very high — so it should be used sparingly. Leaner meats and fish are ideal choices to make your salads more satisfying, but keep nutrition in mind. Here’s an example: Curtis Stone’s grilled chicken with arugula and zucchini.
2. Make your own vinaigrette: Nothing will turn you off of salads faster than store-bought salad dressing. A fresh, homemade vinaigrette stands alone when compared to grocery store brands. If you need some vinaigrette inspirations, hit the Chatelaine recipe section. Here are a few to get you started: Lemon Dijon vinaigrette, avocado lime dressing, brown derby vinaigrette, five easy vinaigrettes.
3. Add roasted vegetables: Roasting vegetables brings out the intensity of their flavour and ups their umami factor (see below). Roasted vegetables also make a salad more substantial. Don’t be afraid to serve hot roasted vegetables on a cold salad; the contrast of the warmth brings a big comfort factor to the meal.
4. Put an egg on it: Eggs will never be old news on a salad. Hard-boiled eggs are a classic addition to a salad, but I highly recommend serving a warm poached or fried egg on a vegetable salad. The contrast of creamy to crispy texture is amazing. That being said . . .
5. Consider texture: I always like to think of my salads in thirds, making sure that I have at least three distinct textures. Some examples would be: Roasted beets (soft), goat cheese (creamy) and kale (crunchy) — or — Spinach (crunchy/fresh), prosciutto (chewy) and apricots (tender) — or — iceberg lettuce (crunch), bacon (crisp) and blue cheese (creamy). Get the picture?
6. Mix up your greens: Have your favourites and buy them regularly, but don’t be afraid to mix things up. If you’re an iceberg or romaine loyalist, a nice new choice would be to try a green or red loose-leaf lettuce. If you want more of an adventure in both texture and flavour, try one of these: frisée, arugula, mizuna, escarole, bibb or mâche. Often these greens will be pricier, so add them to your existing salad to give them a try before fully committing.
7. Umami-fy: I find that when I have a salad and I wasn’t satisfied, it’s usually because it was missing the umami factor. (This translates roughly into “the fifth taste.”) Many meats have umami, such as beef and pork, but leaner alternatives include, tomatoes (particularly roasted ones), mushrooms, potatoes and carrots. Shrimp and tuna are lean umami choices, and adding a touch of parmesan or soy to your vinaigrette will also do the trick.
What is your favourite winter salad to make? Tell us in the comments section below.