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What Is Salad?
Salad is a broad term referring to any dish consisting of bite-sized pieces of ingredients mixed together, usually vegetables and greens, but also meat, pasta, and fish. They can be served as starter courses, side dishes, or the main event, when combined with a protein. In places like France, green salads are sometimes served as the final palate-cleansing course before dessert.
The Evolution of Salad in the US
It might feel like standard practice now, but gorgeous salads were not always easy to find in the US. For Chef Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse and this-is-how-you-eat-a-peach fame, an early trip to Provence showed her the salad light: she fell in love with mesclun, a Provençal word that describes a mix of salad greens and herbs. Alice brought seeds back from France and planted her entire backyard with lettuces in order to recreate the mesclun salads she couldn’t find at home.
By putting that homespun mesclun salad on Chez Panisse’s menu, and promoting the French tradition of a salad with every meal, Alice helped set the salad revolution in motion.
Is Salad Healthy?
Most salads are predominantly healthy, provided that the dressing is applied with a light hand. Dark leafy greens like kale or spinach add a nutritional boost, and accessorizing with nuts, seeds, grains, and raw vegetables add fiber and protein. Including whole grains, like rice and quinoa, can still leave you with a healthy salad that's gluten free.
Healthy Salad Dressings
Most of the premade salad dressings you’ll find at the grocery store have way more additives than necessary—the only things you really need to make a healthy salad dressing is good olive oil, an acid of your choice (think lemon juice or any type of vinegar: from balsamic vinegar to red wine vinegar), salt, black pepper, and maybe a hit of dijon mustard or garlic paste for heat and flavor. (Learn how to make a vinaigrette from scratch here.) From there, you can experiment with adding Greek yogurt, fresh chopped herbs, spices, and textural pops like capers.
29 Simple Salad Ideas
- Caesar salad with anchovy dressing and fresh croutons
- Cobb salad with bacon and blue cheese
- Nicoise salad with potatoes, green beans, olives, and cured fish
- Radish, fennel, and Little Gem salad with ranch dressing
- Shredded carrot salad with lemon juice, cumin, and fried mustard seeds
- Herb salad with parsley, mint, and dill
- Greek salad with fresh tomatoes, red onion, kalamata olives, and feta cheese
- Kale salad with Parmesan cheese and toasted pepitas
- Roasted beet salad with goat cheese
- Chef Thomas Keller’s German potato salad with whole grain mustard vinaigrette
- Tuna salad with celery, capers, and mayonnaise
- Fennel salad with green apple and lemon
- Citrus salad with burrata and white wine vinegar-pickled onions
- Quinoa salad with baby spinach and roasted vegetables
- Fruit salad with seasonal berries and mint
- Pasta salad with sun-dried tomatoes and olives
- Green bean salad with mustard dressing and fried garlic
- Mexican salad with black beans, crispy tortilla strips, and cumin-lime dressing
- Mesclun salad with a champagne vinaigrette
- Grilled chicken salad with currants and pine nuts
- Italian iceberg salad with pepperoncinis, red bell peppers, olives, cherry tomatoes, and basic vinaigrette
- Spinach salad with dried cranberries and slivered almonds
- Green salad with cucumber, shallots, and cherry tomatoes
- Mediterranean tomato and cucumber salad dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, lemon, parsley, and sumac
- Asian-inspired cabbage salad with green onions, celery, and a sesame dressing
- Tabbouleh salad with couscous, cucumber, tomato, parsley, and lemon
- Watercress salad with sliced radishes and farro
- Southwest salad with roasted corn, black beans, cilantro, and cotija cheese
- Watermelon salad with red pepper, mint, and red onion
Learn more home cooking techniques from Alice Waters.