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Water Cooler: Tips for a better green salad

To make an appetizing salad that’s fun to eat, use a variety of greens, bite-size ingredients and dress it at the last minute.  (Pixabay)

Green salads are an easy way to get some fresh vegetables into your day, and it doesn’t have to be bland. Here are a few tips for creating a simple and tasty green salad.

Use variety of greens

The central ingredient of a green salad is lettuce, but sticking to one type is one reason why your salad may be underwhelming. Mix two or three types together to introduce a variety of flavor and texture to your salad. Try mixing a crunchy lettuce like romaine or iceberg with something soft and leafy such as green leaf or red leaf lettuce.

You can also include leafy greens with distinct flavors such as arugula, spinach or frisée. For a more convenient option, you can opt for bagged salad greens that offer a variety of greens and toss those in with your main lettuce.

Your grocery store may also carry a variety of microgreens that can add a fun flavor profile to your salad as well as some different texture. Microgreens are vegetable greens that are harvested at a very early age. This gives them a concentrated level of nutrients and aroma. Depending on the type you choose, they can add herbal, nutty, peppery or sweet flavors to the salad.

Chop everything to right size

Make sure to chop your salad greens to bite-sized pieces. Pieces that are too large or two small can be a chore to eat.

Cut the vegetables and other ingredients into bite-sized strips or shreds so they don’t fall to the bottom of the salad when you toss it. If they are chopped too small they tend to settle to the bottom.

Properly clean lettuce

Leafy greens are hard to clean. They can often trap small traces of sediment and sand, as well as small insects. Break the lettuce down and wash it in an ice water bath. Submerge the lettuce completely and agitate the water well. Let it sit for a few minutes so any sediment will sink to the bottom. The cold water will also help crisp the greens.

Thoroughly dry lettuce

Nothing ruins a salad like wet lettuce. Oil-based dressings will slide right off the leaves and settle on the bottom, leaving you with a watery and bland salad. The easiest way to dry salad greens is to use a salad spinner. There will likely still be a bit of water on the greens afterward, but it does the job quickly.

To get the leaves completely dry, place a clean dish towel or paper towels on a baking sheet (or right on the countertop) and spread the leaves across it. If there is a lot of moisture, blot them with a towel. Then let everything sit to air dry for 30 minutes to an hour.

Keep ingredients simple

Just like when you’re at a salad bar, it is tempting to add tons of tasty ingredients only to end up with a mish-mash of flavors and textures. With too many ingredients, nothing stands out.

Try to limit yourself to no more than five or so ingredients or so and choose them with intent. A mixture of contrasting and complementing flavors, texture and colors will create a salad with visual interest and satiating flavor.

Toss the dressing last

Add the dressing too early and the salad will become soggy. Before plating the salad, toss the ingredients and dressing together. Using your hands to toss will allow you to gently distribute the dressing without bruising or crushing the salad greens. If that grosses you out, you can use tongs but use them gently.

Rachel Baker can be reached at (509) 459-5583 or