This post talks about the various components of a good salad. This is the post you need to kickstart your journey of making awesome salads. So bookmark it now.
Whenever I think of learning something new or mastering something I have been doing for a while, I tend to break it down into smaller components. It really helps me understand and put together the larger picture and that is what this post attempts to do it for salads. After this post, you will not only understand the Components of a Good Salad but I am sure you won’t need the rest of the salad recipes I am posting. Haha, see what I did there 🙂
So green leafy vegetables is the probably the first thing that pops up in everyone’s mind when we talk about salads. The various forms of lettuce really are the salad the backbone of a good salad. That is not to say one can’t make a salad without greens but they definitely add the freshness and the crunch which is always a welcome thing according to me in salads. But what I really feel often is that we get very restricted in the types of greens we use in our salads.
While I love my lettuce of all kinds, while I cannot do without the slight bitterness of rocket of arugula. I also think some of the local Indian greens work very well in salads. Think of amaranth, young radish leaves (which almost tastes like rocket), beetroot leaves, bathua, khatta bhaaji, young and tender mustard leaves, cholia greens and even moringa. They add a lovely surprise and flavor to the salad. So next time you order bhaaji for making saag, save a few leaves and throw it in the salad and see it transform.
Vegetables & Fruits
A salad is all about eating raw stuff so one really can’t stop at the greens can we? I personally like to use a mix of vegetables and fruits in my salad. Very rarely do I make a salad which is all vegetables or all fruits. The reason being, I think a mix adds a beautiful balance of flavors. Fruits bring in a bit of tart and sweet flavors which vegetables sometimes lack. Some of my favorite vegetables to use in salads are –
- tomatoes of various kind
- colored bell peppers (especially roasted)
But really your mind is the limit here. I recently ate a salad somewhere where they had added tondli thinly sliced to the salad and I swear 90% of the guests couldn’t tell. I also like to keep most of my vegetables raw, if the real hard texture of some of them bothers you, then use a peeler, spiraliser or a mandolin to cut them really fine or in thin slices. The same hard texture turns into a delightful crunch this way.
When it comes to fruits I add in my salads, I mostly go by what is in the season. I might have a little bit of soft corner for pomegranate, plums, apples, and pear but almost every seasonal fruit makes it to my salad and almost all of them work. So don’t be afraid of experimenting there.
Protein is something which is not among the absolute must-have components of a good salad but in my opinion, it makes the salad more wholesome and fulfilling. When you add a protein to a salad, it is almost like have a complete meal and especially in summers that is what my body typically craves. Non-masala and lighter meals.
I like to use chicken, eggs, prawns, bacon, and sausages for quick and easy proteins for my salad. Sometimes, when I have guests and want to cook elaborate salads I make them with pork, lamb, and beef as well. I rarely make salads with fish, though I have eaten some excellent ones with poached fish. Oh barring salmon, if I am in an indulgent (financially) mood I buy myself some good smoked salmon and then there is nothing else one needs to worry about.
For vegetarian proteins, I use various kinds of cheeses (especially soft cheese like feta, goat cheese, fresh mozerella etc), paneer, tofu, lentils, and sprouts. It is funny that we completely forget about lentils when it comes to salads when it is the primary source of vegetarian protein in India otherwise.
Again carbs are not something which is among the absolute must-have components of a good salad. But if you are one of those who don’t feel that a meal is done without eating a carb, there are many ways to include some in your salad. Some of my favorites are
- Boiled Millets – jowar (sourghum), foxtail millet, little millet and many others can be used
- Black/Red/Brown Rice – I think these rice work very well in salads as carbs. We just need to get over our mental block that rice needs to be warm always
- Puffed grains – stuff like puffed jowar, murmura (puffed rice), they all work very well in salads. Just remember to add them right before serving so that they don’t get soggy
- Bread – whether toasted as croutons and added in the salad or buttered and served on the side, bread is the perfect accompaniment to wipe that dressing from the bottom of the salad bowl.
This is starting to seem like a list of food groups isn’t it 😉 But then to make salads a complete food, we need to cover them all. But another reason for the fats is that lovely creaminess it brings to the dressing (which we will talk about tomorrow). But apart from nuts like almonds, pista, walnuts. Seeds like flax, chia, sunflower and melon along with cheese are an excellent source of adding the fat to your salads.
Now, most of the above things we have spoken will add excellent texture to your salads. But the point is here to think about it consciously. Above everything else, think about the contrast of textures when you are planning what to add to a salad. The soft fruits to crisp apples and cucumbers. The crunch of a toast and the chewy meat or paneer. If you just give it a moment of thought, it is very easy to bring together a magic of texture medley in a salad. And oh the other things that I like to introduce an interesting texture and that sharp hit of flavour are the pickles – jalapenos, capers, olives but do go easy on them.
This is something I cannot emphasise enough, this is also something I know most people are hesitant about. But I think introducing the local touches works very well when thinking of Components of a Good Salad.
Imagine bits of papdi, dal moth, sev, chakli or fafda, khakhra, murmura , aam papad or muraba in your salad. The play of textures and flavors is mindblowing. It is also very comforting to bite into a familiar flavor in a salad. Now think of a bit of churan or podi in your salad dressing or chutney as a dressing.
The word is really your canvas here and your imagination your limit. The salads I make with local ingredients and touches are really my favorite. And every time, I serve salads like these they are really loved by one and all.
So don’t be scared, actually, that is my advice to you at the end of this post. Don’t hesitate to experiment when you want to. Hope this post helped and happy salad eating!