I have empathy for the lousy cook, because I’m one, too. I keep my meals quick and easy and I’ve learned to love simplicity. But even with my less-than-stellar cheffing skills, salads are something I’ve gotten good at throwing together. With next to no cooking involved, how can you go wrong? Salads are great because they meet many requirements: they are healthy, cheap, easy, and “green”. For those of you who are hopeless and hapless in the kitchen, here’s some friendly help.
Simple and delicious and healthy. Top sliced tomato and mozzarella with a leaf of fresh basil and a dash of olive oil. Looks fancy, but requires almost no skills.
Easy Waldorf Salad
For the dressing just whisk together ½ cup mayo (or non-dairy Vegenaise) with about 2 tbsp white vinegar. All you need for the salad is 1 chopped apple, 1 diced celery stalk and ½ cup each of raisins and pre-chopped walnuts. An instant classic. Note: if you don’t like raisins, toss in a cup of halved fresh grapes – just make sure they are organic.
Elitist Arugula Salad
Mix 6 cups of arugula with dried cranberries, walnuts or pecans and little scoops of soft goat cheese. Make the dressing from ¼ cup sherry wine vinegar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard and ½ cup fine olive oil (or use store-bought dressing). Sit in your bay window with a fine novella and enjoy! Goes great with loafers.
For the Cheese and Bacon Lover
I’m a vegetarian, but I know some of you gotta have your fix. Mix fresh spinach, crumbled feta and cooked, crumbled bacon. Top with your favorite dressing. Add in sliced fresh mushrooms if you want. (Note: for the planet, your health and the health of animals, please buy organic, free range animal products.)
Pasta Salad Redux
Cook up a pound of pasta (spinach and tomato rotini always looks nice for this). Mix in a cup of canned chopped black olives, a handful of chopped cherry tomatoes or sundried tomatoes, and if you want, any other veggies you like (such as onions or bell peppers). Marinate everything with a bottle of your favorite Italian dressing. Sprinkle generously with parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Pasta salad was big in the 80s, and with budgets shrinking, it may be time to bring it back.
Chop one head of Bok Choy (Napa Cabbage) and one bunch of green onions. Mix the veggies with a simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing with a few tbsp of soy sauce and a dash of sesame oil (a little goes a looong way). Take a pack of ramen noodles (get rid of the flavor packet) and brown the noodles in a skillet with a bit of oil. Sprinkle the noodles on top and serve right away. Cheap and tasty.
This is my personal favorite because it’s healthy and it only takes a minute. Toss some baby organic spring greens (prewashed) with 2 other grated or sliced vegetables, like jicama, bell peppers, beets or carrots (I do this ahead of time so I have toppings ready whenever I want). Add nuts or a few slices of avocado, if you want. Dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Marinated Cucumber Salad
This is way easier (and greener, and cheaper) than marinating a steak. Wash and slice one whole cucumber. Peel it if you want – sometimes cucumber skins can be bitter. Add a bit of dill and parsley (dried is fine). In another bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp white vinegar, 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp salt. Pour the sauce onto the cucumber and herbs and let sit in the refrigerator for a few hours. Voila!
Swiss Ham Salad
If you can’t imagine a meal without meat and cheese, here’s a salad for you. Mix 3 ounces of diced cooked ham with 2 ounces of cubed or grated Gruyere cheese. Add 1 tbsp creamy dressing of choice. Salt and pepper to taste and serve atop a bed of romaine lettuce or fresh spinach leaves. Note: to “green” your meat consumption, opt for organic and free range, and eat small portions. You can also mix in pasta for a low-cost way to boost fiber and stretch your salad ingredients.
Chop one head of romaine or dark leaf lettuce. Slice 1/2 a cucumber and a few radishes, cut a red or green pepper into strips, throw in a few tomato slices and toss in chunks of your favorite cheese or plain nuts (a more eco-friendly choice). Top with the dressing of your choice. If you like, you can add slices of grilled chicken breast or boiled eggs that you have on hand. Leftover grassfed steak pieces work great, too.
Carrot Ginger Salad
Grate or thinly slice 1 pound of carrots (use a food processor if you’re short on time). Mix the carrots in with a blend of lemon juice (2 tbsp), chopped ginger (1 tbsp – you can buy this ready-made) and 2 cloves of chopped garlic. Sprinkle with cumin powder to taste.
Luxuriously Dressed Up Fruit Salad
It’s not your Aunt Louise’s fruit salad. No Jello, no mystery fruit. Enjoy my recipe here.
And if you think these salads are still too complicated for you, check out our post on ridiculously simple 3-ingredient salads. Every chef has to start somewhere.
Top image: Salad A Day