We all know we are supposed to eat our vegetables, so most of us turn to salads to add an easy veggie side dish to our meals. While a lettuce salad is all fine and good, sometimes you want to mix it up. This is especially true during the winter and early spring, when really fresh, flavorful lettuces can be hard to come by. During these times, I am also craving veggies sides that are a little more hearty and filling, involving some roots and brassicas. While you could always go with a potato salad (anything plus mayo equals salad where I'm from), one that is more veggie-based is often what you are looking for instead. Here are 5 different kinds of salads you could make to elevate your salad game and mix it up, going beyond romaine and ranch.
1. Cabbage Slaw
Growing up in Missouri meant colelsaw was a staple side dish, and slaw is still one of my favorite kinds of salads to this day. Shredded cabbage combined with other fresh veggies and herbs is easy to throw together and it keeps really well, so you can make a big batch to eat throughout the week. Toss it with toasted sesame oil and rice vinegar for an Asian-Style Sesame Slaw, mix with cilantro, lime and sour cream for a version that goes great with tacos, or go classic with a mayonnaise-based dressing and plenty of shredded carrots.
2. Cucumber Salads
Cucumbers are my least favorite vegetable, but it seems that everyone else loves them so I will include it here. When you can get fresh cucumbers, an easy salad is not far away. Toss thinly sliced cucumbers and onions in an olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing, or mix in with a creamy yogurt sauce for a Greek-style side dish. In the summer when tomatoes are at their peak, you could mix wedges of fresh heirloom tomatoes with your cucumbers and plenty of feta and lemon juice, or add day-old sourdough chunks for a nice panzanella salad. Bon Appetit has recipes for great smashed cucumber salads on their website, which are not only beautiful, but add a whole new salad-making technique to your repitoire.
3. Shaved Radish and Root Salads
Thinly-sliced radishes and other roots are a trendy veggie side dish right now, and it seems obvious why: they are gorgeous. A mandolin makes this job easier, but be careful to watch your fingers. Shaved radishes, carrots, beets, turnips or any root you like can be tossed with some garlic, olive oil, white wine vinegar and herbs for a simple and delicious salad. Throw the mixture on a bed of radicchio and your side dish will steal the show.
4. Moroccan-Style Carrot Salad
A bit slaw-like in nature, a Moroccan-Style Carrot Salad is super easy and tastes best when carrots are at their peak sweetness. Toss shredded carrots with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and salt, then add in raisins and you are most of the way there. You could even jazz it up by adding some spices like cumin and cinnamon or Tahini-Yogurt Sauce if you want. Serve alongside some slow-roasted meats and homemade flatbreads, and dinner is complete.
5. Massaged Kale Salad
Kale salads do not need to be boring or indigestible. I usually opt to have my kale cooked, but when raw kale is massaged, it can make a fantastic salad. Rubbing olive oil and lemon juice, or other acid of your choice, in with finely-shredded kale leaves breaks down the kale a bit, making it more delicate in texture, along with bringing out more of its flavor. Add in some shredded parmesan, toasted nuts, raw garlic, or whatever else you like for a fiber-rich and tasty vegetable side that will silence kale haters. Joshua McFadden has a really nice recipe for a kale salad (called "The Kale Salad That Changed It All") in his book Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables that even uses toasted breadcrumbs, the smart man he is.
For more lettuce-free salad inspiration, check out more in Six Seasons from Joshua McFadden, Plenty and Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi, along with his recipes for winter salads on The Guardian website, and The Art of Simple Food (I and II) cookbooks by Alice Waters. These are all very smart people who know how to make great vegetables taste even better.
Brine & Broth
I am a gut health-focused nutritionist and online health coach based in Southwest Wisconsin. My recipes and philosophies center around traditional, nutrient-dense foods that support robust gut health.