Making Salad Magic

Making Salad Magic

The hunt for the healthiest possible me continues. And so far that quest is taking place at the salad bar. Because it’s farmer's market season, and salads are fresh. Salads are cheap. Salads are quick.

But I gotta say… eat enough of them and salads are boring. The usual lettuce-tomato-onion-carrot-cucumber routine wilts quick. And while I know it’s about the best thing I can feed my body, my other less helpful self is screaming for something—anything—to break up the monotony.

Forget dressings—that’s caloric fluff wrapped in a fat bomb. Croutons are carb cubes. And though I love those crispy little-fried onion bits, they don’t return the favor. So I’m looking for other ways to ramp up the taste quotient without ruining the health factor. Here are my best finds so far:

  • Fig balsamic vinegar. Death to dressings! I stick to olive oil and a fig balsamic that dips everything in heaven. It’s pricey but worth every flavor-boosting tablespoon in my salad-centric world.
  • Lemon juice. Fresh squeezed over a salad with a little salt and some olive oil, it makes the plate pop when I need a vinegar break.
  • Pumpkin seeds. Get the roasted salted variety, sprinkle liberally, and you’ll never look back.
  • Protein variety. Gotta have it. For me, it’s a hard-boiled egg, chickpeas, salmon (fresh or canned), black or any other kind of beans, leftover chicken, even cooked lentils or chopped nuts.
  • Greek olives. Two words: more, please.
  •  Quinoa. Four words: It rules. (Yes, really.)
  • Dried berries. A bite of dried cranberry or blueberry is my favorite new sweet salad surprise 
  • Canned artichoke hearts. Why not, right? Crack a can and my salad has something new to say.
  • Steamed stuff. Steam a little broccoli or asparagus, boil up a beet, roast some cauliflower, or bake a yam, and thank me later.

My last secret ingredient is simpler still: imagination. It’s the best salad ingredient of all. Think outside the bowl and don’t be afraid to add whatever inspires from cabbage and corn-from-the-cob to peas and parsnips. It’s the best way to beat the boring salad blues and keep things fresh.

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