Making the Perfect Salad
The two words 'salad' and 'boring' really shouldn't go together in my opinion. And if you think they do, then you are most definitely doing something wrong! Most people still tend to think as salad to be the typical garden salad of lettuce leaves with some cherry tomatoes and cucumber thrown in, but when there's over 80 000 edible plant species in the world, why limit yourself to just those three?
Personally, I couldn't think of a more versatile meal than salad. There are endless different combinations of vegetables, grains, dressings and flavours to try out, in order to make a meal that's not only delicious but also packed with a whole range of different nutrients. You can use what ever fresh ingredients you have in your kitchen, throw in some leftovers, spice it up a little and you have yourself a super easy, quick and satisfying power-bowl of plant based goodness!
Here is my go-to guide to building the perfect salad every time, that will be the envy of those around you.
STEP 1: Greens
Greens make a great base for any salad and also pack a big nutritional punch of fibre, vitamins and minerals such as calcium and iron. They are great for improving digestion and adding some freshness to any salad bowl!
Some of my favourites include: baby spinach, rocket, oak leaf lettuce, lamb's lettuce, mixed leaves and kale.
STEP 2: Starch
The starch is the part of your salad which makes it a meal. This will keep you energised and satisfied, thanks to low GI complex carbohydrates, to make the most of whatever the day throws at you! Starches are also packed with fibre, B vitamins and whole bunch of other nutrients to keep your body thriving.
My top picks are: brown rice, quinoa, black rice, buckwheat, millet, potato and sweet potato (steamed or roasted!).
STEP 3: Protein
Once again, these plant proteins are filled to the brim with nutritional goodness, as well as the all important protein to help and repair your muscles and other body tissues. My personal favourites are black beans, lentils, chickpeas (roasted chickpeas are especially delicious!), marinated tofu or tempeh, falafel and grilled mushrooms. Chopped nuts and seeds sprinkled on top also add a great crunch to salads!
STEP 4: Make it a Rainbow
This is the part where you go crazy. The more different colours you can fit into your salad, the better, to add an endless variety of different tastes, textures and nutrients (especially those disease-fighting antioxidants) into your bowl!
Some of my favourites include: carrot, tomato, purple cabbage, beetroot, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, pumpkin, corn, capsicum, snow peas.
Extra tip: slicing, chopping, grating or spiralizing your veggies into different shapes and textures adds even more versatility into your salad. I personally also love adding a mixture of raw and cooked veggies, especially roasting them (my current favourites are roasted broccoli and pumpkin) for some extra deliciousness!
STEP 5: Herbs
Adding fresh herbs adds big flavour kick to any salad! I love basil, coriander and parsley, also chives, dill or oregano. If you don't have fresh herbs, even dried ones are a great flavour booster.
STEP 6: Dress It Up
Everyone knows, the dressing makes the salad. But a killer dressing doesn't have to be complicated, in fact, simple is often so much more tasty and really brings together the different flavours. My favourite dressings are one or a combination of the following: fresh lime or lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, pesto, hummus, mashed avocado and tahini.
Remember a salad is as good as you make it. Experiment with different combinations of vegetables, grains, flavours and dressings that you like, and try things you haven't tried before. You might be surprised at all the delicious meals you can come up with!