Thursday, September 8, 2011

How to Make the Perfect Salad

Having lived many places abroad, I hate when people generalize others. But this is one generalization I feel safe making: many Americans are not very good at making a delicious, nutritious salad. Salad doesn't have to be iceberg lettuce leaves with enormous cucumber discs and mayonnaise-based sauce all over it. Salad can be SOOOOO much better than that!  

While living in Finland, my host father taught me how to make a very simple and incredibly delicious salad! Salad doesn't have to be bland and something you feel obliged to eat before you get to the "good stuff". My good friend asked me to post a blog here on how to make my famous "Amy Joy Salad". So please, try out these little tips and hopefully it will revolutionize your ideas about salad. 

Here are a few basic salad tips:

1) The more tastes you put together, the better it will be. Try to have something salty, something sweet, something sour, etc. The tastes can all be subtle, but it makes the salad interesting. I will also add here that I like to combine hot and cold. A cold salad with warm chicken or sauteed mushrooms makes it interesting.

2) Wash all the ingredients and don't shake all the water off. I usually wash each ingredient in a colander, and give it one big shake to get water off. Everything in the salad should be moist.

3) Make sure everything is bite-size. This allows you to mix all the flavors together.

So here is the most basic recipe for my "Amy Joy Salad":

First, wash an entire head of green leaf lettuce. I like green leaf because it is soft, leafy, and easy to deal with. Sometimes I will also use baby spinach. Feel free to use what you want as long as the leaves are soft and a bright or dark green color. Color is usually a good indicator of lots of vitamins, especially for greens.

Take all the large leaves apart and stack a few on the cutting board. Cut into 1 inch strips vertically and horizontally before tossing it into a bowl. Throw away the white bases of the leaves.
Next, put in an entire English cucumber. I prefer the English cucumbers because of their thinner, less-waxy tasting skin. You can find them anywhere and they are longer and usually skinnier than American cucumbers. Slice it and then cut the slices into 4 so you have smaller pieces.

Next put in a tomato or two. I put in 1 large tomato here. I slice it and cut it into pieces about the same size as the cucumber.

Next, you get to add my secret ingredient. The secret to a perfect salad is having different flavors, so you have to add something sweet....

Yes, grapes. Use either red or black grapes because they are sweeter and have more vitamins than green grapes. Put about the same amount in as you did cucumber and tomato. I sometimes cut them in half to make them easier to eat. 

I ended up adding more grapes than were in this picture. Next, I add another texture and taste, and that is feta cheese. If you don't like feta, put a little grated mozzarella or blue cheese in. But seriously, feta is best! I just sprinkle some on top, as cheese has a lot of fat in it. 

Now you need to mix the salad. No, you can't just eat the grapes and cheese on top; the whole salad needs to be homogeneous. So mix, mix, mix.

Now it is time for my "salad dressing". I promise, you won't need traditional salad dressing for this salad. Start pouring some extra virgin olive oil a slow, steady stream and make a quick circle around the salad. Then mix the salad again. Now another quick circle. You shouldn't have put more than 1/4 cup on the whole salad. Yes, olive oil is high calorie, but is is full of the good kinds of fats. Think of how healthy those mediterranean people are! It is one of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.

As something a bit extra, I like to add a couple squirts of lemon juice. This adds that bitter, citrus taste. 
As the final touch, a couple shakes of the salt and pepper shakers, and you are finished!
Now eat and enjoy!

This is just the basic recipe for a great salad. I like to add things to this all the time. Sometimes I'll put in a little kiwi or some strawberries. Sometimes I may add pecans. When I made this salad last night, we ate it for dinner, so I ended up adding some hot baked chicken breast and mushrooms sauteed in garlic. Yummy!

So experiment and make sure you never eat another boring salad again:)

As a quick side note, my husband is not a fan of vegetables or salad, and he ate two plates of this salad last night.


  1. WOW! I am SO going to try that! Yum! Can't wait!

    Most of the time I am one of the boring-american-salad people, ugh. But every now and again I make a good one. I really like to make a spinich, craisin, almond and almond dressing salad (oil, vingegar, sugar, and almond extract) during the fall. And that one is tasty too. But I will totally try this one, I love feta!

  2. WOW that salad looks so good! I think my Family would like it we LOVE salad! I'll get them to try it:)



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