Simplicity and The Salad Principles

A very happy very belated New Year to you all!

I’ve been offline for a few weeks and while I’d like to say I ventured on some great trip, it was nothing that glamorous. I spent nearly every waking moment moving. Well, I didn’t move but three family members are moving this month and it’s an all-hands-on deck situation. That said I’ve been to Target almost daily, know every latest item at West Elm, CB2, and Room & Board, and have mastered the art of simultaneously maneuvering multiple hand trucks at Ikea. I mean, I have yet to do push-ups  in 2013 because carting 80-pound-plus boxes up multiple flights of stairs has me feeling like I’m in training for a strongest woman contest.

All this moving assistance has me on an organizational rampage and has left very little time for cooking. I’ve taken comfort in simple meals that can be thrown together even when you don’t know where the pots are and the dining table has yet to be built. And after all the indulgences that the holidays brought my way, that’s amounted to lots and lots of winter salads.

Sure, winter salads sound boring because there’s no abundance of spring vegetables or loads of summer grilled bits, but they can still be pretty awesome. If you’ve read Keys To The Kitchen you know I like formulas and, to me, a good salad is a formula that’s a sum of color, crunch, and a dash of creativity. Here are a few super simple steps I’ve taken to make awesome salads even during the depths of winter.

Aida Mollenkamp Romaine Avocado Radish Salad

Embrace The Season

Winter seems boring but there’s all sorts of awesome produce if you give it a chance and it starts with the lettuce. Make it really fresh and light with Romaine Hearts (above), Little Gem lettuces, or Butter Lettuce, or add a kick of spice with baby arugula, watercress, or mustard greens.

Keep It Colorful

I swear there’s some sort of trick that when you add color to a plate, the food becomes more appetizing. Know what I mean? No? Well, try it out. Use all the colorful winter citrus like kumquats, blood oranges, and tangerines, roast some root vegetables, or give the more humble vegetables, like radishes, their moment in the spotlight.

Give It Heft

Unless it’s a starter salad to some big meal (in which case you want to keep things basic), add something to your salad with some substance. In my family that means cheese but it could be avocado, tofu, broiled salmon, or, my ultimate favorite salad topping, a poached egg.

ABC (Always Be Crunching)

I’m addicted to crunch and I’m convinced pretty much everyone else is too. So, make your salad more exciting by adding something crunchy or crisp. Try some crisp lettuce, thinly sliced celery, or grated raw root vegetables (like the Shredded Rainbow Salad my friend, Tracy, makes that’s a huge hit with kids).

Dress It Up (Or Down)

Certain salads (like the one pictured here) are so simple and straightforward that all they need is a little drizzle of good olive oil. Others really aren’t great until they’re topped with a dressing. With the cold weather outside, I like more substantial, creamy dressings like this Mint-Yogurt Dressing, this Buttermilk-Peppercorn Dressing, or this sweet-sour Balsamic-Date Dressing.