Long gone are the days of a salad consisting solely of lettuce and tomatoes.
Today the perfect salad, whether a main or a side dish, is all-embracing, often containing essential proteins and fats including nuts, olives, grapes, cheese, beans, avocado, chickpeas, tofu, and even slices of fish or steak. Many of these ingredients (not to mention leafy greens) are considered an important part of a healthful diet because they can be year-round sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, and other nutrients.
Whether enjoyed as a main, a side or a light lunch, salads are a healthy, appetizing and nutritional staple to incorporate into your diet.
Legend has it that Italian-American restaurateur Caesar Cardini invented the salad in 1924 in Tijuana, Mexico.
Build the perfect salad at home
When faced with so many options to put into your salad, how can you create a balanced salad that is nutrient rich, delicious and satisfies your appetite? Follow these seven steps from Amy Mastrofini, Fresh Prep’s Recipe Developmer Manager, to build the perfect salad – every time.
- Pick seasonality – Capitalize on those veggies and fruits that are in season. Not only will this ensure that you get the most flavour and nutrients, but it’s also more cost effective. Farmers’ markets are a great place to get inspiration. For example, in summer add in fresh berries, ripe tomatoes and avocados. In autumn, consider adding pomegranate seeds or sweet potatoes.
- Balance textures – A great salad needs to have a balance of textures to make every bite a little bit different. If you have creamy elements, like avocado, goat cheese, hummus, or a creamy dressing, try adding nuts, roasted chickpeas, baked tortilla strips, or homemade croutons. When developing our salad recipes, we always consider the balance of all the textures in the perfect bite.
- Build a better base – Think beyond iceberg… There are so many different leafy greens available that you can get very creative. Delicate greens like a spring mix tend to do better with lighter vinaigrettes that won’t weigh the leaves down, whereas heartier greens like cabbage, romaine, iceberg or kale can hold up against creamier or heavier dressings.
- Dress it up – A dressing can really teleport a plain ol’ bed of greens to a new dimension. It can either be the star of the show or the background dancer. Just remember to not over-dress your salad! Add dressing in increments so you don’t overdo it. It’s always easier to add more, but if you add too much and your salad is soggy, it’s hard to go back. Timing is also key. Dressing can sometimes act as a marinade for heartier greens (like cabbage or kale), which are best dressed earlier, whereas delicate greens (like spinach or spring greens) are best dressed right before serving.
- Incorporate a protein – If a salad is going to be the star of the meal, it’s great to incorporate a protein to make the salad more satiating. You can even get creative and think beyond the traditional chicken or beans as a salad topper; roasted chickpeas, grated hard boiled egg, warm quinoa, fried halloumi or paneer cheese, or baked falafel are great options.
- Don’t shy away from fat – Fats are another integral component in a salad. Not only will they help make it filling, but fats can actually facilitate absorption of nutrients and fat-soluble vitamins, such as lycopene, vitamin A and K, and beta-carotene found in vegetables and fruits. Even just a bit of olive oil, avocado, cheese, nuts or hummus is a great way to get more from your salad – literally.
- Experiment with temperatures – Combining warm and cold ingredients can really elevate a salad, such as that little as that touch of warmth you get from fresh baked croutons in a Caesar salad, or something a bit more dramatic like grilled peaches over top of a bed of arugula.
The Fresh Prep menu is always bursting with delicious and healthy salads for you to enjoy.
Salads as a main
Looking to include more salads in your dinner routine? We’ve got you covered. These salads are perfect for main meals as they’re high in protein to ensure your stomach won’t grumble an hour later.
Lentil & Gemelli Salad with Goddess Dressing, Tomatoes & Arugula
Goddess dressing is a creamy savoury sauce speckled with bright herbs that originated in San Francisco in the 1920s known for being equal parts herbaceous, creamy and delicious. This plant-powered pasta salad recipe uses Gemelli pasta, protein-rich lentils, gem tomatoes, sliced avocado and arugula, all tossed in a cashew goddess dressing with fresh dill and basil.
California Steak Salad with Avocado, Feta & Tomato Vinaigrette
A light yet supremely satiating salad starring perfectly seared AAA top sirloin steaks and tender red leaf lettuce. This light and fresh recipe is scattered with tomatoes, creamy avocado and lightly pickled shallots in a tangy tomato vinaigrette featuring Salt Spring Kitchen Co. Savoury Tomato Preserves.
Southwest Salad with Adobo Ranch & Crispy Tortillas
Tex-Mex and far from complex, this loaded taco salad recipe is a breeze to prepare. With a smoky adobo chipotle ranch, aged cheddar, crispy-fried tortilla strips, spiced black beans and corn tossed with crisp romaine lettuce, this hearty vegetarian salad is the perfect balance of healthy and satisfying.
Sides as light meals/lunches
Need to add more veggies to your meals? Quickly throw an easy side salad together to serve with whatever else you’ve got planned. Side salads go well with almost anything – a mixed grill platter, a rich lasagne or a bowl of soup. Add a splash of colour to dinner with our Add-on side salads, sure to showcase the many ways a side of greens can go:
- Crunchy Caesar Salad
- West Coast Kale Salad
- Thai Peanut Crunch Salad
- Sautéed Asiago Kale & Chickpea Salad
Becky’s Cooking Corner
Fresh Prep Co-Founder Becky Brauer was the company’s first ‘chef,’ bringing her self-taught kitchen skills and passion to the start-up back in 2015.
Becky’s top salad tip: “I always try to add something crisp and crunchy like a nut or seed, something creamy like a cheese or dressing, and something unexpected like a cooked grain or something pickled.”
Becky’s favourite salad: “Can it be a Fresh Prep one? Because it really is. My favourite salad is the Citrus-Miso Sesame Slaw salad from our Add-ons menu. The dressing is superb and the Thai basil gives it the perfect punch of fresh flavour. And the perfectly crunchy honey roasted sesame sticks… omg.”