Salads are typically a hit or miss for me. Sometimes I can't get enough of them and other times I'll only pick at them. So what does it take to make a good salad? Below are a few tips that I try to follow when throwing together a salad:

  1. Wash greens gently: Most greens grow in sandy soil which means that more often than not, there will be some dirt left behind. Greens can bruise, so gently swirling the greens in cool water will help dislodge any leftover residue.
  2. Dry greens completely: Air water left on the greens after washing will ultimately dilute your dressing and will get in the way of flavors. Your dressing will have a more difficult time clinging to wet greens. I prefer to give them a spin or two in a salad spinner and then pat dry any remaining moisture.
  3. Opt for seasonal greens: Just like other vegetables, greens have their seasons. Try kale or brussels in the fall and winter, while going for butter lettuce or romaine during the spring and summer. My favorite though is arugula which is great during the spring and early summer months.
  4. Use varying textures: Have fun with this - mix the crunch of nuts with a creamy cheese and the crisp snap of fresh carrots.
  5. Experiment with different oils and vinegar: Balsamic vinegar and olive oils are classic dressing ingredients. Instead mix it up with an apple cider vinegar, avocado oil, or sherry vinegar.
  6. Toast the nuts: I love including walnuts or pine nuts in salads but the key comes with the preparation. By toasting the nuts prior to tossing them in the salad, you enhance their nutty flavor and crunch texture. Don't forget to let them cool before mixing them into the salad.

beets

I grew up on beets and have understandably developed an affinity for them. Pickled beets. Beet juices. Roasted beets. You give them to me and I'll eat them! I've found that throwing roasted beets into a salad is an unexpected treat. They add a nice punch of color and flavor. In the recipe below, I tossed the beets with enough dressing to coat them, allowing for slight caramelization around the edges.

beet and goat cheese arugula salad

Do you have any tricks or tips for making the perfect salad? What ingredients do you find yourself constantly using for your salads?

Beet and Goat Cheese Arugula Salad Recipe from Giada de Laurentiis

Ingredients:

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 3 tablespoons shallots, thinly sliced 1 tablespoon honey 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil Salt and freshly ground black pepper 6 medium beets, cooked and quartered 6 cups fresh arugula 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted 1/4 cup dried cherries 1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed 3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled

Directions:

  1. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Whisk the vinegar, shallots, and honey in a medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in the oil.
  4. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with salt and pepper.
  5. Toss the beets in a small bowl with enough dressing to coat.
  6. Place the beets on the prepared baking sheet and roast until the beets are slightly caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Set aside and cool.
  7. Toss the arugula, pine nuts, and cranberries in a large bowl with enough vinaigrette to coat.
  8. Season the salad, to taste, with salt and pepper.
  9. Mound the salad atop 4 plates.
  10. Arrange the beets around the salad.
  11. Sprinkle with the avocado and goat cheese, and serve.