I love eating salads as meals but I find that there is a paucity of truly good salad recipes out there. By “good”, I mean actually sustaining as a meal with adequate protein, usually, but not always, from an animal source. Vegans will hate me but I just cannot stay full after eating a chickpea salad and will be reaching for snacks all afternoon (also legumes + IBS = bad combo, not to be messed with on a weekday). Good salads will leave you feeling satisfied yet light, and ready to get back to work without the slump that often plagues the afternoons following a pasta or otherwise high GI lunch. They are perfect summer lunches that often don’t need heating up. There are so many reasons already, we don’t even have to get into the health benefits of regularly consuming leafy greens.

So I hope to compile a recipe collection of TRULY GOOD SALADS, for my own reference even if no one else ever makes them.

My basic formula for salads:

  • leafy greens (spring mix, baby spinach, massaged kale, arugula, romaine, etc.)
  • chunk of protein (meat or fish)
  • homemade dressing
  • crunch factor (usually nuts or seeds; sometimes croutons; sometimes just romaine is crunchy enough)
  • salad enhancers (cheese, other vegetables, fruit, herbs, pickles, etc.)

You can actually run with this formula and see where it gets you. The Formula is how I came up with this recipe.

When packing lunches, I throw everything except the dressing and the crunch factor in a single large container with the leafy greens resting on top to prevent sogginess. I pack the crunch factor in a separate small container and the dressing in a mini-jar. Sometimes, I will pack the protein separately if I want to heat it up before adding it to the salad.

Now that we got that out of the way, here’s the recipe to a salad I made using fridge-foraged leftovers and loved so much that I made again. Also check out that title alliteration… 😀

Steps 1 and 2 can be done a day in advance. In fact, I like to prepare the dressing early because soaking the chopped shallots in vinegar essentially pickles them and removes their offensive harshness.

Recipe: Summer salmon, strawberry & spinach salad

Makes 2 portions
1/2 shallot
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon honey
2 servings of salmon
1/2 teaspoon Dijon or whole grain mustard
1 avocado, sliced
2 handfuls strawberries, halved
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3-4 handfuls of spinach
coarse kosher salt
fine sea salt
freshly ground pepper
(optional) parsley leaves for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Finely chop the shallot and add to a medium bowl with the red wine vinegar. Let it sit aside, pickling away.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the sunflower seeds, 1/2 teaspoon of the honey, and a pinch of salt and mix well together. Spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the seeds for 12 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  4. Prepare the salmon fillets by dabbing any excess moisture with a paper towel and then rub a generous amount of fine salt to all sides of the fillets. How you pan-fry your fish will vary so much based on the shape and thickness of the fillet (check out this post for the perfectly flaky pan-fried salmon). This was for 5-cm thick and 2-cm wide fillets. Heat a cast iron skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat. Once hot, add the salmon fillets skin side down (should sizzle right away) and fry until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Then reduce heat to medium-low and brown all of the other sides for 1-2 minutes per side, until golden brown. Total time typically no longer than 8-10 minutes, depending on the size. Err on the side of undercooking. If you are a beginner, you can check if the fish is done by gently applying downward pressure. If it flakes, it’s done. Remove from heat on to a plate.
  5. Finish making the vinaigrette. To the bowl of shallots and vinegar, whisk in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon honey, the mustard, a pinch of salt, and a good crack of black pepper. Finally, whisk in the 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
  6. In a large bowl, add the spinach and the vinaigrette and toss until well-coated. Portion onto plates and top with the salmon, avocado slices, strawberries, and the sunflower seeds. Serve with an additional few cranks of black pepper and (optional) parsley leaves for aesthetic.