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Build Better Salads

Timeless Nutrition Tips...

With a tossed, green salad, you have such a variety to choose from plus a super healthy dish to eat, you simply cannot go wrong! Blend colors, textures and flavors to keep them new, inviting and interesting.

The type of dressing or vinaigrette you use will depend on what type of greens you have. Mild greens go well with rich, creamy dressings and more flavorful greens are best with lightly flavored dressings or a light vinaigrette. And don't over-do the dressing -- add just enough to lightly coat your greens. If you add too much, you can actually wilt the greens.


Composing a Salad

Begin building your bowl of greens with mild forms of lettuce such as iceberg, Boston, green leaf or romaine. Add and accent of flavor from the chicory family - endive for example. This will give your salad a pleasant bitter taste. If you enjoy a peppery taste, try arugula, ruby-red radicchio and/or watercress. Add as many fresh herbs as you wish, such as basil, chives, dill, parsley, etc., along with some vegetables and don't forget about nuts, cheese, dried fruits, seeds etc.!

Edible Flowers

  • Nasturtiums -- Bright orangish-yellow or red blossoms. Taste is peppery.
  • Pansies are available in many colors and sizes. Taste is slightly spicy.
  • Violets are small, deep purple, white or pink flowers. The taste of violets can very from sweet to tart.
  • Rose Petals are available in many colors and are slightly sweet and very fragrant.

Quick Salad Mix

Salad-in-a-bag Packaged, premixed, assorted salad greens are more expensive than starting from scratch but they sure do save time. You get variety without having to buy larger amounts of different kinds of greens, as well. Always look for mixes with a variety of fresh, young leaves. Avoid those that are mostly just chopped up lettuces as those will quickly rust and turn slimy. In addition, always rinse and dry before using.

Sweetening with Citrus

There is always a wealth of citrus available for your salads. Popular citrus includes tangerines, oranges, lemons and even Key limes. Take advantage of these fruits in your lunch and dinner menus and liven up winter-weary recipes with their pretty hues and flavors.

Citrus Suggestions:

Juicy lime half Substitute lime juice for vinegar in salad dressings. Lime juice and a fresh, tangy flavor that zips up seafood, chicken and vegetables. For bean dishes, add a dash of lime juice as well to make your beans taste meatier and less starchy.

Grapefruit is another great choice for variety. Alternate pieces of pink grapefruit and avocado wedges for a salad. Add strips of chicken breast or cooked shrimp to serve as an instant entree.

You can pair oranges with sliced beets or spinach leaves for a flavorful, healthy salad. Add orange segments to rice or pasta salads. Prior to serving, garnish chicken, pork or seafood casseroles with orange slices for added zip.

A Healthy Salad

A salad is bowl is like a blank canvas. Add the right ingredients and you can have a healthful, satisfying masterpiece. Following are some suggestions for making one healthy salad!

  • Add pomegranate. Ditch raisins for 1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds to save 18g sugar.
  • Add eggs. The yolks fat helps you absorb up to 9 times more carotenoid antioxidants.
  • Mix red and green. A blend of red and green lettuce may protect best against free radicals.
  • Go nuts. Fiber, fat and protein give your salad more staying power.
  • DIY Dressing. Mixing olive oil and vinegar is the easiest way to avoid sugar and chemical emulsifiers.

Brown Lettuce Leaves?

If lettuce starts turning a little brown (but not slimy) it may not be suitable for salads, but it is for sauteing. Sauteed salad greens like lettuce, radicchio, and endive make an unusual but tasty side dish. Saute lettuces just as you would spinach. Cook them quickly in a little olive oil, minced garlic, and salt. They taste great, and you cant tell that the greens were once a little brown.

Note: When making more than one salad, use the average of about two cups of mixed greens per person and use a salad bowl that is at least twice the size of the cumulative amount of ingredients.

Chef's Tip

For dressings:  Use mango, apricot, roasted red bell pepper or roasted garlic purees to add to salad dressings. This allows you to reduce some of the oil.

Following are two recipes for you that use citrus for flavor enhancement.

Black Bean Salad with Shrimp

1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 jalapeno chile, cored, seeded and minced
1/4 cup cilantro
1 chop chopped celery
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 small or 1/2-large avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1/2 pound diced cooked shrimp

In salad bowl, combine beans, onion, chile, cilantro and celery. Toss well.

In cup, stir together lime juice, oil, salt and pepper. Pour over bean mixture and toss again. Add avocado and shrimp and mix gently. Recipe makes two servings.

Orange Dessert Salad

2 navel oranges, peeled, sliced and cut across into 1/4-inch thick slices
1/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger

Arrange orange slices on serving plate. Sprinkle with coconut and almonds.

In microwave-safe bowl, combine orange juice, honey and ginger. Heat on medium power just until warm, about 30 seconds. Pour over orange slices and set aside for five minutes for flavors to blend. Recipe makes two servings.

Print just the Salad Recipes (A new window will open).

Prep, Cook and Dress-Up Greens

Salad Greens

Going beyond salads, you can chop raw, fresh herbs and tender leaves like arugula, spinach, and watercress and add them to soups, salads, and grains, or you can use them lightly steamed. More mature greens such as bok choy, kale, dandelion greens, and collards will taste bitter if you serve them raw.

The texture gets tough for easy chewing, as well. Steaming the greens actually intensifies the bitterness. You need to cook them in liquid so the bitter flavor can disperse.

The first step is to prepare the greens. Remove large stems and/or break off any small ones. Fill a sink with cold water and submerge the leaves. For herbs, leave the stems and hold on to them as you give the leaves a dunk. If you have sediment in your water, drain the sink and repeat. If you plan to put the greens in a salad, spin them dry. Leaves destined for cooking can have excess water shaken off and be placed on a towel or chopping board.

To cook the greens so they lose as little nutritional value as possible while shedding their bitter flavors, you can try three cooking techniques. Those are quick-boiling, simmering and sauteing. Following are some tips on each technique.

Quick Boil

To quick-boil greens, bring two quarts of water to a boil. Do not chop the leaves, but submerge them whole into the boiling water. Use a wooden spoon to move them from top to bottom. The leaves will begin to wilt slightly, but the bright green color should still be present. At this point, bring a leaf up with your spoon, tear off a piece, and chew it. If the flavor is bitter, let them cook more. The greens are just right when chewing a piece releases sweet juices. You will know you cooked them too long if the flavor is lost and the color is gone. The amount of time depends on the maturity of the green and the amount of leaves you're cooking.

For something like tender mustard greens, a 30 to 60 second dip should suffice. Mature collard greens can take about five minutes. Once you test the green and get a sweet flavor, pour the contents of the pot into a colander. Save the water - the name for this is pot-likker. Many cooks enjoy drinking this nutritious broth. Alternatively, you can use it to water your plants. Next, run cool water over the greens gently to halt the cooking process. Once they are cool enough to touch gather them into a ball and gently squeeze out the excess water. Chop on the cutting board and they are ready to dress and serve.

Simmering Greens

To simmer greens, bring about one inch liquid of choice to simmer in a large skillet. Chop the washed greens into strips. Place the strips in the simmering liquid and keep them moving with a wooden spoon. You are looking for the same results as described above -- a bright green color and a sweet flavor. The difference here is you chopped the greens; therefore, cooking time will be shorter.

Sauteing Greens

When sauteing greens, work with just-washed greens. The water will aid in wilting and releasing the bitterness of the greens. Heat one or two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Add a minced clove of garlic if desired. The garlic will tell you if you have the heat right. If it becomes too hot, the garlic will burn and if it becomes too cool, the garlic will not do anything. If there is too much water on the greens or the oil is too hot, the oil will sputter, so be careful as it is very hot. Chop the greens you are using into bite-sized pieces. To make uniform cuts, stack the washed leaves. Place the cut leaves into the skillet and keep them moving. Stay with the process and test every minute or so for doneness. When the leaves are still full of color and the taste is sweet, not bitter, the greens are ready.

Dress-up Your Greens

Once you have cooked your greens to your satisfaction, you have a limitless amount of possibilities as to what to do with them. If you prefer to keep things simple, give them a dash of vinegar and sprinkle them with a little tamari, a squeeze of lemon or orange juice with garlic and a touch of chipotle sauce. Toss the mixture and eat. You can add your cooked greens to soup, grain dishes, and salads to add color, flavor, and nutrients.

Make Soggy Lettuce Crisp

Don't toss that soggy lettuce into the garbage. With the help of a little lemon juice you can toss it in a salad instead. Add the juice of half a lemon to a bowl of cold water. Then put the soggy lettuce in it and refrigerate for 1 hour. Make sure to dry the leaves completely before putting them into salads or sandwiches.

For serving greens to company, you could try adding slices of polenta. Use your imagination and have fun experimenting with different flavors and ways to incorporate your greens into your healthy vegetarian diet.

A "New" Green?

BroccoLeaf is an organic variety of greens from Foxy Brands. It is the broccoli plant's nutrient-dense leaf, which farmers traditionally toss aside. These subtly sweet greens are high in vitamins A and C and are a great source of calcium. Just two leaves contain 30 percent of your Daily Value (twice as much as kale).


A quick crash course on Greens For Your Salads (PDF).