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8 Smart Tips for Spunkier, More Exciting Salads

July 28, 2016

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:

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.

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

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

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

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

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).

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

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.

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

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • PRST
  • creamtea
  • judy
  • PHIL
  • Cristina Sciarra
    Cristina Sciarra
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


PRST August 21, 2016
Ahhhhh creamtea! I was just going to post the same about preserved lemons. I also preserve kumquats with added spices. They are extraordinary in a salad.
creamtea July 29, 2016
Preserved Lemon brine! (or minced preserved lemons). Oil from Ortiz or other canned tuna. Sometimes the addition of time! Let lettuce-free chunky chopped salads marinate together after adding salt and/or dressing ingredients so their free-flowing juices create an additional layer of flavor. Pepper substitutes: any of the hot, dried and ground red peppers. Crumbled feta plus harrissa.
judy July 29, 2016
I always have a variety of foods in my salads. With the hot weather, roasting a chicken in my pressure cooker, letting it cool and pulling the meat off the bones, I store it in a vacuum container and add to salads all week. I like seeds like caraway or celery or fennel. I make dressings using yogurt and milk and mustard and mixd herb blends like bouquet garni or curry powder. Throw in raisins, or other dried fruit bits, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. And a few roasted veggies. A couple of slices of homemmade craker bread broiled with a bit of cheese, and there is a meal in the heat. WE are able to purchase this awesome cabbage-broccoli-kale-spnach salad blend that is out of this world. I jsut add whatever else is currently in season-fruit or veggie-to the salad and we have a great easy meal. Broiled fish or steak is great as well.....Love these salad ideas. Thanks.
PHIL July 28, 2016
9. I add fruit to my salad, clementines or Asian pear for example. Sorry, took the liberty of adding to the list.
Also, replace the "vinegar" with fresh orange or lemon juice mixed with instantly picked oregano or basil.
Cristina S. June 7, 2016
"Spunky" is the perfect descriptor for the best salads. Also, croutons are always a good idea.