Salad mistakes go way beyond drowning veggies in processed salad dressings. A salad seems like such a simple dish right? Yet these mistakes are so common, salads often get a bad rap.
Here’s how you fix them.
Mistake #1: Not Branching Out
Green food is beautiful! Beyond the usual romaine and butter leaf, there is a whole world of scrumptious greens waiting to diversify your palate. Not only do many of these tender leaves taste amazing, most offer so much nutrient density it may surprise you. Watercress, mache, arugula, and red leaf varieties especially are unique in texture and flavor. Try combining more robust flavored greens (like arugula) with more mild varieties (like spinach) to make transition easier when introducing yourself and family members to new flavors.
-Don’t forget about herbs! Fresh herbs like basil, mint, parsley, and cilantro carry potent amounts of medicinal value. Yet they can be almost too bold on their own. Consider tearing in small amounts of these fragrant greens into larger salads to bring bursts of flavor to your otherwise monotone iceberg.
Mistake #2: Over Washing
Rethink Clean. Greens from the farmers’ market are probably pretty dirty (and may even be hiding a few critters too), so a quick rinse is just fine. But if your greens are truly organic and visibly clean, resist drenching your tender leaves in water. The reason? Over sterilization of our homes and bodies to avoid germs, can simultaneously annihilate the friendly soil born bacteria that can be the best defense for a compromised immune system. Soil born cultures come from the best organic soil and can serve as nature’s best probiotic! This especially if your greens are local.
-Plus, soaking more tender varieties of greens take them to the point of the no return even if they are spun dry. They disintegrate and are more susceptible to mold. Save yourself an extra step at the sink by either growing your own organic greens (so easy), or spending a bit more on buying organic varieties at the store. You’ll save a lot of money on probiotic supplements too. Soil born cultures actually stay in the gut, unlike the transient ones commonly found in supplements.
Mistake #3: Doing the Same Old Thing
Everyone should have a great go-to dressing that can be quickly made at home. Mine is EVO, lemon juice, and mustard. However, when you have a bit more time, or just want to change it up, it takes little effort to swap and spike your basic recipe/ratio. When shopping at specialty grocers, treat yourself every now and then to a new cold-pressed oil or infused vinegar you have never tried. It may surprise you how these two ingredients alone can really transform the same-old thing.
Unlike 90% of store bought salad dressings, there are plenty of condiments free of chemicals and refined oils. Keeping around a handful of your favorites can do wonders to the standard salad. Flavor bomb your basic oil and vinegar dressing with anchovy paste, fancy mustard, or chopped capers. If you’re looking for something creamy, using avocado, or a dollop of plain yogurt is trans-formative.
Mistake #4: The Way You Dress
What’s worse, an overdressed, soggy mess of wilted greens, or a dry, flavorless pile of leaves? Your style of greens should dictate your style of dressing. A great rule of thumb for a no-fail salad is easy to remember. Sturdy greens (think iceberg and kale) can stand up to heavier dressings, while lighter dressings such as a simple vinegar and oil are best suited for lighter, tender varieties (think arugula and mache).
Never overdress. Drizzle no more than a tablespoon at a time in the salad mixing bowl (not on top of your salad), and fold to lightly coat. Smothering your leafy greens with a blanket of dressing is the quickest way to a sloppy salad. Take the minimalist approach. Dress sparingly just before serving, and add more to taste at the table. This especially is important when serving others. Bring the bulk of the dressing to the table or serve on the side in ramekins and let anyone dining with you decide how much dressing they need. Everyone is different, but almost no one cares for an overdressed salad.
Mistake #5: Your Toss
The main event in most salads is what will get mixed in with the greens such as seasonal tomatoes or toasted nuts. Tossing them all together with the dressing might seem like the easiest way to execute a salad, but in fact this method can cause a variety of undesirable outcomes. The biggest one being that the good stuff will likely sink to the bottom of the bowl and disappear. Avoid this by tossing greens alone with a small amount of dressing, plating and then arranging with beautiful toppings. You can do this when serving a salad family-style too. Toss half of your additional ingredients in after tossing leaves with dressing and then arrange remaining ingredients on top. Always refrain from adding additional dressing until just before eating to spare your greens from wilting.
Tips for fabulous dressings
1) Add a pinch of salt to your oil-When whisking oil and vinegar together, adding a pinch of salt to the oil in the beginning will “lighten” up your dressing and make a better emulsion. This helps the dressing cling to the leaves rather than creating an oily coating that can weigh lighter greens down.
2) Boost any dressing recipe-Fresh citrus juice like lemon, lime, and grapefruit; and raw vinegars like Braggs apple cider vinegar are all multi-taskers. Citrus provides vitamin C, while raw vinegars provide enzymes and live probiotic cultures. Both improve digestion and can increase absorption of nutrients.
3) For a healthier salad, you don’t have to skip the cheese entirely-Try upgrading instead. Goat’s and sheep’s milk cheeses are easier to digest. You can also add small amounts of Parmesan or goat cheese to just about any salad dressing instead of the salad itself. Doing this really turns up the flavor volume of dressing while allowing you to use a lot less cheese overall. You won’t even miss it.
Recipes for next level dressings and salads can be found at