Read on to learn how to build your best salad yet!
Rule One: Go Crazy With Vegetables
The Raw and the Cooked
You'll Want Both: "Some nutrients are 'enhanced' by heat, and some are damaged by it," says Kristy Del Coro, senior culinary nutritionist at NYC's Rouge Tomate. Take carrots: Raw ones have more vitamin C, but cooked ones have more beta-carotene.
The Smart Strategy: Roasting, steaming or sautéing half the vegetables in your salad maximizes the benefits and introduces a whole new variety of flavors and textures to your plate, says Del Coro.
Summer Vegetable Salad (try it with Citrus-Shallot Dressing)
"I like to toss a mesclun mix with roasted cherry tomatoes, ripe avocado, thin-sliced radishes and quick-pickled red onions, plus a farmer's cheese on top." —Amanda Cohen, chef at Dirt Candy in NYC
Rule Two: Ditch the Bottled Dressing
Build a Better Dressing Stock Up on Asian Ingredients: "A little yuzu juice, sesame oil, sweet chili sauce or miso paste injects tons of deep flavor into any dressing," says chef Yotam Ottolenghi, of Ottolenghi in London.
Add Some Sweetness: Vinaigrette too tart? Ottolenghi likes to balance it out with a bit of maple syrup. Bonus: It's less refined than sugar and contains trace minerals that sugar doesn't, Del Coro says.
Don't Stop at One! Salads with roasted veg can take two dressings, Ottolenghi says: "Blend olive oil with fresh herbs for the lettuce, then mix a bit of Sriracha with Greek yogurt for the roasted vegetables."
Spinach Salad with Harissa-Spiced Chicken (try our recipe for Summer Herb and Yogurt Dressing)
"Marinating chicken in harissa brings color and kick to a spinach and thin-sliced fennel salad. Add crunch with toasted pumpkin seeds and toss with a creamy, herby dressing, too." —Yotam Ottolenghi, author of Ottolenghi: The Cookbook
Rule Three: Power Up on Protein
MAKE SALAD MORE SATISFYING
Your salad deserves more than store-bought chicken strips. Eggs are a great swap, plus these other easy protein ideas.
Sear peeled shrimp in olive oil and finish with lemon.
Crisp a couple diced slices of pancetta or bacon.
Pull roasted chicken off the bone and toss with hot sauce.
Mix a dollop of premade pesto into canned white beans.
Sauté ground chicken with a dash of soy sauce.
Toss oil-packed canned tuna with capers and chopped onion.
Bistro Salad with Eggs, Peas and Bacon (great with our Cider-Mustard Vinaigrette)
"I pair frisée with crispy bacon, a soft-boiled egg, homemade rye croutons, raw red onions, blanched peas and a little grated cheddar." —Gabriel Rucker, executive chef and co-owner of Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro, Portland, Oregon
Rule Four: Play With Your Greens
3 Fresh Leaves to Try:
Watercress: This crisp, peppery green is a great partner for chicken and beef. Plus, it's loaded with vitamin C, an antioxidant that boosts collagen production, Del Coro says.
Dandelion: Think of this robust green as new-school kale: It's nutrient-dense (tons of vitamin A), with a tangy taste that balances out rich ingredients like fried eggs, bacon or Caesar dressing.
Belgian Endive: The tart, lemony flavor and crunchy texture of endive work especially well with cheese, nuts and citrus. Plus, it's packed with folate for brain health.
Seared Steak and Peach Salad (pairs well with Citrus-Shallot Dressing)
"I love to make a summer steak salad and cut the richness with the sweet, bitter and spicy combination of sautéed peaches, watercress and Thai chiles." —Dan Kluger, executive chef at ABC Kitchen in New York City
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Don't settle for simple. We've got your guide to raising the (salad) bar this summer. Just follow these rules.
Check out the slideshow above to learn how to build a better salad.