Growing up, I hated making salad and eating salad. The salad I knew as a kid was as lackluster as Justin Timberlake's Superbowl performance, it always consisted of pointless iceberg lettuce, dry carrots and runny tomatoes. Since those tragic salad days, I have learned that a good DIY salad can take you higher to the food Gods, but it took a whole lot of learning to get to the salad Holy Land.
One of my very best friends (actually soulmate tbh), Autumn, is a vegan goddess. I vividly remember meeting Autumn as study abroad students in Brussels, Belgium. It was my second day there and as womanhood would have it, I received the wonderful gift of my period. I had no idea where to find tampons, so we went on an adventure to purchase the only brand I ever use, o.b. (yes, I know it's weird, but idc). The intimate experience of bonding over tampons and periods secured our friendship for life.
This past fall, I visited Autumn in her now city of residence, Portland, OR. As I mentioned, she's a vegan goddess creating vegan wonders in the kitchen, everything from Belgian waffles to flavorful salads. Autumn showed me that DIY salads don't need to be miserable bowls of greens that you try to avoid like the worst hangover of your life. Instead, making your own salad should be flavorful, fun and easy. Once you've incorporated my tips and recipes below, you won't need anyone else to toss your salad!
Build a Base
The foundation of your salad should never, ever be boring! Throw away the gross iceberg lettuce and try kale (my all-time favorite), arugula, Swiss chard or spinach. Perhaps spread the green around and mix a few together?!
Like a good outfit, mix in some fun textures! For example, try shredded sweet potato (instead of chopping), nuts, dried fruits (instead of fresh fruit chopped) or make a veggie hash to mix in. My favorite veggie hash is onion, black beans, chopped potato and shredded sweet potato. Sautee together and there ya go, veggie hash!
Warm it Up
My friend Autumn's theory to a good salad is that the meal needs a warm element. This can mean a literal hot ingredient or a warm flavor. After some experimentation, my salad guru is totally correct. I love adding roasted Brussels sprouts, baked Salmon or sauteed chickpeas to the mix. You can also try roasting cauliflower with turmeric for a warm flavor.
Dress to Impress
Pairing your salad with a dressing you love is crucial. What is Prince Harry without Meghan Markle? Blake without Ryan? Drake without RiRi (so not really a thing, but I will always want them to be a thing)? It took me a while to find The One, but Brianna's Creamy Cilantro Lime dressing has stolen my stomach. Brianna's dressings are a little pricey, but it's so worth it if it's going to help you eat more veggies. Just a little drop goes a long way too!
Some of my favorite salads happened by accident. For example, the veggie hash I mentioned above was the recipe I had for veggie tacos. I decided to make it into a salad with kale and pickled red onion. I used to not like fruit in my salad, but have found that apples and grapes are great additions. I have even added leftover chili to a salad with shredded cheddar cheese for a Southwestish vibe.
Now that you're empowered to toss your own salad, may you never need to rely on a mediocre salad ever again!