Salad Toss Up

By Patrice Powers-Barker, OSU Extension, Lucas County

The Truth Contributor

While tossed salad might be a popular way to eat salad, a salad can be designed in so many ways that we could eat different combinations throughout the whole month of May – National Salad Month. Even the Merriam-Webster dictionary notes how vast the types of salad can be. Definition of salad: any of various usually cold dishes: such as (a): raw greens (such as lettuce) often combined with other vegetables and toppings and served especially with dressing or (b): small pieces of food (such as pasta, meat, fruit, or vegetables) usually mixed with a dressing.

While you can easily make a salad for one or two people, The UC Davis Department of Nutrition also shares ways for families to enjoy salads with these easy tips:

  • Welcome creativity from everyone. Let all individuals, including children, build their own salad with toppings of their choice.
  • Use all different types of greens. While lettuce is a common ingredient, there are many types of leafy greens such as spinach, kale, red lettuce, and arugula. Some greens taste bitter or sharp compared to others. Try a mixture of familiar lettuce with some new, leafy greens.
  • Add some crunch to your salad: Include toppings like sunflower seeds, almonds or walnuts for healthy protein.
  • Choose dressings with healthy oils or make your own vinaigrette.

It is easy to create your own vinaigrette dressing depending on your tastes and what ingredients you have on hand. The main “recipe” follows a ratio of 3:1 of oil to acid (vinegar or fruit juice) with some added flavors like herbs or onions. Whether you are making a small amount or a large amount, you will follow that 3:1 ratio of oil to acid. For example, for a small amount of vinaigrette dressing, use three tablespoons oil to one tablespoon of acid. Add a pinch of seasonings such as fresh or dried herbs, garlic or onion. For a larger batch, use one cup of oil to 1/3 cup acid and a teaspoon of each different herb and seasoning. What ingredients do you use most often? You can try, oils such as canola oil, olive oil, or vegetable oil. Acids are often vinegar (different flavors including apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar), and sometimes fruit juice (lemon, lime, orange). Add the ingredients to a jar with a tight lid and shake well to mix.

In addition to the 3:1 oil to acid, a variety of flavors can be created depending on what herbs or onions or garlic are added. To make it a creamy dressing add mayo, plain yogurt or avocado. If you have plenty of vinaigrette dressing for salads, it can also be used as a marinade for vegetables and meats.

The five MyPlate food groups can be an inspiration for a large, tasty salad. The following ideas are from Utah Extension’s Create A Meal resources: Create a delicious salad from simple foods. Just choose an item from each category. Each salad serves four adults.

Choose one base:

  • Lettuce or salad greens: Romaine, spring greens, arugula, etc. (four to six cups)
  • Whole wheat pasta or noodles (two to four cups cooked)
  • Brown rice (two to four cups, cooked)
  • Potatoes (2two to four cups, cooked)
  • Whole grain: Cooked quinoa, barley, etc., or dense bread torn in bite size pieces and toasted. (two to four cups)

Choose one protein:

  • 1 (15 oz.) can or two cups cooked dried beans (pinto, black, kidney, black-eyed pea)
  • ½ pound cooked ground beef
  • 1 ½ cups cooked and diced meat (chicken, turkey, ham, beef, fish, pork)
  • 2 cups chopped hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 -2 (6-8 oz) canned beef, chicken, tuna, salmon, or other fish
  • 1 (12-16 oz) package extra firm tofu, drained and marinated in soy sauce and fruit juice

Vegetables! Tomato, cucumber, broccoli, carrots, corn, green beans, peas, squash, etc. Choose any combination:

  • 2 cups fresh vegetables
  • 2 cups frozen vegetables, thawed and cooked
  • 1-2 (15 oz) cans of vegetables
  • 4 Fruit (optional)
  • Apple, orange, raisins, dried cranberries, etc.

Choose one or more flavors:

  • ½ – 1 cup diced onion, celery, green pepper
  • ¼ cup sliced olives
  • ½ cup salsa
  • 2-4 Tablespoons fresh herbs or 1-2 teaspoons dried herbs (oregano, basil, cumin, chili powder, thyme, rosemary, sage, etc)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Choose one dressing (optional)

Choose a topping (optional):

  • As mentioned earlier, try ¼ cup slivered almonds, chopped walnuts or sunflower seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese

Select a food from each category or use your own favorites. Combine all ingredients except dressing and toppings in a large salad bowl. Either dress salad before serving or allow family members to add dressing and toppings as desired. Whether you make a small side salad or a full meal, enjoy the different colors and tastes during National Salad Month.