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The Salad Theory
You're probably doing it wrong
Ok, let's talk about the elephant in the room. I don't know how to plate a salad.
They always look gross. Always. Doesn't matter how I set it up. I try layering everything. I try tossing it. Nothing works. It's like a defense mechanism. Like my brain is saying “Dude. You don't want this. You want a bucket of onion rings and a baker’s dozen of pizza puffs.”
It’s right, of course. I do want that. But I want the salad too. Sometimes.
Here’s the thing, if you do it right, salad is delicious.
Ok, hang on. Before you go into defensive mode, hear me out. I'm not trying to sell you on the “I'm eating a bowl of kale because I'm a health nut with no joy in my life” kind of salad. You deserve better than that.
But here’s the dilemma: Sharing a salad “recipe" is…well, it's weak. Right? Hey, everybody, here's a list of random crap I threw into a bowl and just sort of swirled around or whatever. You're welcome.
I don’t have a vegetable garden, I don’t make my own cheese. There's no gimmick or secret here. It’s like a dump cake minus the effort of not burning anything. Anyone can make a salad.
But how do you make a good salad without feeling like a rabbit?
I’m not a culinary expert. I know. Shocking. I’m just a guy who likes to eat, and salads are a quick way to bring a lot of variety with pretty minimal effort. It's like pizza or tacos. Switch up a few toppings, and it's almost like a completely different meal. At the very least, it's different enough that you won't get bored.
When I’m in the mood for a salad, there are a few rules that I follow to make them something enjoyable, and before I share any specific bits of chaos, I wanted to give you the building blocks for a not depressing bowl of “Look at me, I'm (almost) healthy!”
Step One: The Greens
Say it with me: “Kale is overrated.”
Good. Now say it again.
You know what, let's take that one step further. If you shop at Whole Foods, you’re in the wrong neighborhood. I like to keep it simple, and by simple, I mean pre-bagged spring mix from Aldi. You get a nice range of colors and textures, and it’s a lot better than just dumping a bunch of iceberg lettuce into a bowl.
Look at that. It’s a thing of beauty, and all I had to do was open a bag!
Secondary “Pro” Tip: Any time someone tells you to put kale in something, use spinach instead. It tastes better, and it doesn’t feel like you’re gnawing on shaved tree bark. You can thank me later.
Step Two: The Veggies
I love vegetables, ok? I’m not afraid to admit it. They’re crunchy, colorful, and they’re (usually) kind of good for you (though that last part is more of a happy accident than a reason). The best salads don’t skimp on the veggies. If you stop at lettuce, you’re doing it wrong.
For starters, I have never met a salad that was not immediately improved by adding tomatoes. Whether that’s whole cherry tomatoes, wedges, slices, diced, doesn't matter. Do. Not. Skip. The. Tomatoes.
Other solid veggie choices include:
Ok, see, this is what I was talking about earlier. I’m basically taking you on a guided tour of the produce section like it’s some groundbreaking experience for you. You know what’s out there. Go nuts.
No. Not the edible kind. That step comes later.
Step Three: The Cheese
Yes. Cheese gets its own heading. Please hold all judgement until the end of the post. This is essential. If it doesn’t have cheese, it’s not a salad, its just a messy veggie platter, and that’s no fun for anyone, so get your dairy on and cheese that thing up.
I’m a big fan of a sharp cheddar. It’s easy to find, and it works well in just about every flavor profile I can think of. Sometimes you can go with an asiago, or a parmesan, but cheddar is your safety net.
BEWARE: Cottage cheese does not count. Don't even think about it. Even if we're willing to overlook the fact that you're basically talking about curdled milk, it's going to make everything soggy, and that is a cardinal sin of salad structure.
Friends don't let friends eat cottage cheese!
Step Four: The Meat
Look, I’m going to level with you. Ron Swanson is my spirit animal. Minus the wood working. And the outdoors.
Ok, fine. I respect his love of meat, and that’s pretty much where it stops. That…did not come out quite the way I hoped.
Honestly, when I dedicated a section to cheese, you had to know this was coming. Salads have veggies. Good salads have meat. Period. Chicken, steak, tuna, whatever tickles your fancy here. If I have to tell you to put bacon on it, then there is literally no hope for you. You might as well pack it up and go home. No training montage, no redemption story. You’re done.
At the end of the day, as long as the protein in your bowl had a heart beat at some point, you’re going to be fine.
Ok, yes. That last bit took a darker turn than I anticipated. Let’s not get too crazy with our salads, yeah?. We’re not serial killers.
Step Five: The Crunch
Salads need a crunchy element. You need something with a little substance that needs to be shattered by your mandibles. Croutons are the obvious choice here, and it's a solid option, but it's ok to be a little adventurous.
You could kill two birds with one stone and get your crunch on with cucumbers, or you could shake up the crouton staple and go with crumbled tortilla chips.
If you're feeling extra fancy, toss some nuts in there. Almonds, crushed peanuts, pine nuts. Hell, smash a pack of uncooked ramen with a rolling pin, and toss that in. Without the seasoning packet, you maniac! Jeez.
Step Six: The Dressing
We’re in the home stretch, people. This is the, uh, icing on the cake? Bad analogy. At the end of the day, this is kind of like the cheese scenario. If you don’t put dressing on your salad, then it’s just a messy veggie platter.
Honestly, you’ve come too far to give up now, so don’t lie to yourself. You need the dressing. A word of advice though, get creative with it. Anyone can open a bottle of Newman’s Own, and frankly, it’s a safe play (And they donate a ton of money to charity, so stock up).
A little olive oil with some salt and pepper, a drizzle of freshly squeezed juice mixed with a little bit of honey or agave. Yeah, I know. I’m inching into hipster territory now. But you’re reading a food blog, so pot meet kettle.
4 Gud Measure is just one part of this multi-faceted disaster. There’s plenty to see, and plenty more still to come. If you want to follow this chaotic rollercoaster, then subscribe now!