Spice Up Your Lunchtime Salad
Throw In Fresh Herbs
Whole leaves of dill, tarragon, and parsley are a great addition to any salad for the burst of aroma, says chef Michael Hung of Viviane in Beverly Hills. If you're bringing your salad to work, wrap the herbs in some damp paper towel and tuck them away into your lunch bag, then sprinkle the herbs over the salad right before eating, he suggests. (If you have extra, try these Brilliant Ways to Use Leftover Herbs.)
Mix Up the Textures
"Interesting and satisfying salads are hinged on a variety of textures, flavors, and colors," explains Lee Gross, consulting chef at M Café. Protein is important to ensure that your salad is a meal and will carry you through your afternoon, but it will also add another texture in addition to your veggies. Using multiple greens in one salad, like a mix of peppery arugula, chopped endive, and romaine also adds texture. Top with a crunchy nut or seed, like roasted almonds, sunflower seeds, or cashews.
Skip the Tupperware
Something as simple as changing the container you pack your lunch in can make it new and exciting. "I'm a big fan of the mason jar salad," says chef Oliver Ridgeway of Grange Restaurant & Bar in Sacramento. Pour your dressing in the bottom, then layer your salad up with the ingredients you like, leaving the leafier stuff to the top so it doesn't get wilted. Chickpeas and grains, like barley or quinoa, are perfect for mason jar salads because they help mix the salad when you shake it. Bonus: It looks cool in the office fridge and you get to shake it like a crazy person to get it all mixed up!
Lose The Lettuce
Hate kale? Instead of using leafy greens, switch your base to spiralized cucumbers, suggests chef Oliver Ridgeway. "I like to do a healthy Asian-inspired salad, almost like pad thai. Having the crunchy peanuts and julienne vegetables gives the satisfaction of a real pad thai."
Make Your Own Dressing
Store bought dressings can get tiresome after a while and often contain tons of fat and sugar. Mix up your own dressings at home and they'll taste fresher and set your good salad apart from a great salad, says Amanda Michael of JANE in San Francisco. The key is to balance flavors in your dressing—use an acid like lemon or vinegar, something sweet like maple syrup, salt, and some kind of spice. Try to use as little oil in your dressings as possible so it doesn't weigh down your greens, Michael suggests. (We've got 10 Homemade Salad Dressings Way Tastier Than Store-Bought Drizzles.)
Add Your Favorite Fruit
"I love to brighten my salads with seasonal fruit," says Jeanine Donofrio, author of The Love & Lemons Cookbook, out in March. "Strawberries or blackberries are great in the summertime, and pomegranates or orange segments are perfect for winter." True to her namesake blog, Donofrio always adds a big squeeze of lemon for acidity.
Switch Up Your Crunch
Crunch makes salads more exciting, but croutons won't add any nutritional value to your salad. Instead, swap them out for some fried sweet plantain, recommends chef Giovanni Morales of Oovina in New York City. Plantains contain potassium and fiber and pair well with a citrus-based dressing.
Follow the Seasons
Change your salads with the seasons and you'll never get bored, says Patrick Kelly of Lure+Till in Palo Alto. Go with what's local and fresh in your area. The perfect winter salad might include roasted cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, shallots, chives, and parsley with a caper vinaigrette.
Diversify Your Greens
Spinach is good for you, yes, but if you start to dread that forkful of greens, trying a new type of lettuce could help. (These are The 10 Best Leafy Greens.) Many supermarkets are starting to carry greens outside of the regular spinach, kale, romaine, and iceberg varieties. Salad brand organicgirl now sells delicate Sweet Pea Shoots and a spicy, bitey blend called Pepper Greens. The different greens give your whole bowl a subtle new flavor.