A very easy way to impress the heck out of your guests and make your meal look elegant is by throwing together a beautiful side salad. Long gone are the days of iceberg lettuce, a tomato wedge and if you’re lucky, some shredded cabbage. It’s easy to look like a rockstar and hear “wow, how beautiful” when you serve up these side salads. Creativity for a salad becomes much less stressful when you realize that anything goes.
Start with the lettuce (not that you have to have lettuce to make a salad); there are so many different varieties and many packaged lettuces are a blend of several different lettuces so you can have different colors, shapes and textures in one bag. Getting to know your lettuce flavors and textures helps in building an interesting salad. Butter or bibb lettuce has a mild, buttery flavor, romaine is hearty and crunchy, arugula is light in texture with an earthy bite to the flavor while radicchio and red leaf add nice color. I still enjoy baby spinach for it’s visual appeal and nice mild flavor.
I like to add some unexpected ingredients and lots of color. I like having a fruit (dried or fresh), crumbled cheese and some crunch from a seed or nut.
Some ingredients that I really like to include are:
roasted red peppers
gold, heirloom or traditional red tomatoes
crumbled feta or blue cheese
mandarin orange slices (from a can)
slivered almonds, sunflower seeds, honey roasted peanuts
English cucumber (the ones that are longer, wrapped in a clear plastic wrap and have fewer seeds)
dried cherries or cranberries
I also like to play around with the arranging of the ingredients on top of the lettuce. Sometimes I line them up in stripes across the salad or group them into bundles. Of course, the ever popular tossed method of dispersing them evenly through the salad is nice as well.
So, whatever ingredients you choose one thing is for sure; these are not your ordinary salads. Restaurants beware!