"I'm not a salad person," I say to you the same thing I say to my students who claim they don' t like books: "You just haven't met the right one."
Salads are BY FAR the best diet food and the opportunity for creativity is endless. Salads are no longer the boring iceberg combo with ranch. In the past couple of years salads have had a makeover--become trendy even. Now, instead of going to a restaurant to get a variety of lettuce and toppings, its all available in your local grocery store.
In my mind, the basics of salad building include GREEN, PROTEIN, CHEESE, and COLOR, and of course you need dressing. So here are a couple of suggestions for each category. The key is to buy high quality and FRESH ingredients that you intend to use within 2-3 days. I keep a lot of these ingredients on hand and just throw them together when I’m in a hurry.
Green: (<---Click for a guide and recipe suggestions) Lettuce is the basis. Your greens must be fresh and must compliment your accoutrements. Varieties include: romaine, mesclun, spinach, boston butter, cabbage, etc. Check out Epicurious' "Screening the Greens" for an illustrated guide.
Protein: salmon, chicken, nuts (almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews, honey glazed walnuts)
Cheese (use sparingly): fat-free feta, blue cheese, gorgonzola, goat, etc. If you really want to surprise yourself buy a gourmet cheese to add to your salad. Whole Foods has a fantastic cheese selection. Just go and tell the sales person your salad ingredients and even wine accompaniment and s/he will pair your food masterfully.
Color: dried fruit, fresh herbs, bell peppers (raw or roasted), carrots (shave to add texture), red onions, avocado, mandarin oranges, blueberries, peaches & apricots (they’re in season - go to the farmer’s market for a special treat), strawberries (also in season), the list goes on and on.
Dressings: My current favorites are Raspberry Vinaigrette and Honey Lime Chipotle. The latter I had at a restaurant and I am intent on recreating that sweet goodness.