The Basic Formula for Green Salads

The Basic Formula for Green Salads

The Basic Formula for Green Salads

A perfect green salad strikes just the right balance of textures, flavors, and colors. If you’re the kind of cook who finds formulas reassuring, this basic salad formula takes all the guesswork out of making a perfect salad.

Use Two (or at Most, Three) Types of Lettuce
Variety of salad greens

The main ingredient in a green salad is the lettuce. But just as lettuce by itself is not enough for a salad, using only one kind of lettuce in a salad can be dull. Consider a dull salad a missed opportunity.

A salad generally comes at the beginning of a meal, so it should wake up your taste buds and stimulate your appetite. Make it vibrant and enervating. One way of achieving that is to use different varieties of lettuce to highlight contrasting flavors, textures, and colors.

The most common types of lettuce for salads include iceberg, green leaf, red leaf, and romaine. A good rule of thumb for a salad is to feature any two of these. Try one leafy variety and another that’s a bit more crunchy.

Romaine is especially versatile since it’s leafy at one end and crunchy at the other. Bibb (sometimes also called butter or Boston), arugula, frisée, and even fresh spinach are excellent choices for second (or third) lettuces.

You can certainly add a handful of bagged salad greens for contrast. Even though most prepackaged salad greens are prewashed, it’s still a good idea to check for bugs.

Cut the Lettuce Into Bite-Sized Pieces
Chopped lettuce on cutting board
Another part of the lettuce equation is how to prepare the greens. Your lettuce should be cut into bite-sized pieces. (The same goes for the other ingredients in a salad) There is no reason not to use a knife and cut the greens. The clean edges of chopped lettuce look nice and it’s much easier to get uniform sized pieces using a knife rather than tearing.
Consider Tomatoes
Sliced tomatoes on cutting board
Consider the season and type of tomatoes. Classic hothouse tomatoes are a fine choice, but they’re heavy and watery and can weigh a salad down with extra liquid. Cherry tomatoes are much better; slice them in half before adding them. Trying to get a fork into a whole cherry tomato is just aggravating. A serrated knife happens to be the perfect tool for slicing tomatoes.

Balance the Ingredients
Salad bar

Don’t fall victim to “salad bar syndrome,” where you load it up with too many ingredients. A good salad strikes the perfect balance of textures, flavors, and colors. But it’s tough to balance something with 17 separate ingredients in it.

To keep it manageable, in addition to the lettuce and tomatoes, a green salad should include one or maybe two additional vegetables. Sliced red onion is a great choice since it contributes to color, crunch, and pungency. A second one could be sliced bell peppers, shredded cabbage, shredded carrot, or sliced cucumbers. Also, strive for a blend of colors as well as flavors and textures. Instead of green bell peppers, try orange or yellow ones.

Finally, instead of chopping your salad veggies into little pieces, slice them into bite-sized strips or shred them. Diced veggies invariably settle to the bottom of the bowl when you toss the salad, but strips and shreds are more likely to remain distributed throughout.