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8 Smart Tips for Spunkier, More Exciting Salads

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Salads might be the ultimate in not-recipe foods—ideally, the happy result of a dig through the crisper drawer, chopping up whatever's still actually crisp, tossing it together. Ideally, it's playful, maybe the most playful space for food. But getting to a place where the salad feels lush and not like a pile of simultaneously competing and disinterested green things can also feel like a hurdle, and it's a hurdle where I sometimes get stuck, forgetting that I can play—with textures, with spiky dressings, with layers of seedy add-ins, with an ingredient list that begins, first and foremost, with croutons.

You, though, are holding it down with spunky salads over on our (Not)Recipes app. Here are 8 smart tips—and a couple of tools that help the salad-making process along—inspiring my salads to greatness:

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1. Use the same ingredient in a bunch of different ways. Here, a salad of raw sugar snap peas plus blanched green peas and pea shoots makes for a very green, many-textured salad.

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Dipped Tongs

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World Salt Tower

World Salt Tower

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2. Use salad greens as a topping for tarts (or pizza). A slick of ricotta beneath never hurt anybody, either.

Mini Griddle

Mini Griddle

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Staub Round Double Handle Pure Grill Pan, 10"

Staub Round Double Handle Pure Grill Pan, 10"

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3. Yogurt mixed with herbs is the easiest creamy salad dressing. (And herbs as salad greens are always a good idea.)

Super Benriner Mandoline

Super Benriner Mandoline

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Silicone Spatulas (Set of 2)

Silicone Spatulas (Set of 2)

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4. Look to other vinegars—like kimchi or pickle brine!—when making salad dressings (and marinades for shrimp or tofu).

Pacific Pickle Works Trio

Pacific Pickle Works Trio

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Vegan Kimchi Paste (2-Pack)

Vegan Kimchi Paste (2-Pack)

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5. Kimchi brine dressing strikes again! Boiled eggs and chopped kimchi play the supporting roles.

Kimchi (2-Pack)

Kimchi (2-Pack)

$24
Brass Egg Spoon

Brass Egg Spoon

$32

6. The simplest grilled vegetable salad gets punch and personality from a drizzle of salsa verde (a.k.a. whatever herbs you've got on hand plus oil plus capers and lemon and a little mustard).

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Vitrified Porcelain Mortar & Pestle

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7. Sauté your greens, why don't you! Even—especially—romaine.

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Mauviel M'steel Round Fry Pan

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8. Croutons are the Robin to any salad's Batman. (Or is it the other way around? Discuss.) These ones are tossed with an herbes de Provence-infused olive oil and sprinkled with Parmesan.

Offset Bread Knife

Offset Bread Knife

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Olive Oil Cruet

Olive Oil Cruet

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What are your best tips and tools for spunkier salads? Share them in the comments (and over on the app!)

Tags: salad tips, better salads, (not)recipes