When you choose your salad greens, feel free to mix varieties for more interest. We like to combine light and dark greens, as well as mild and spicy ones. Examples include arugula and romaine, Bibb lettuce and mustard greens, spinach and endive, or all of them. The more the merrier!
You can buy triple-washed greens, but keep in mind that they tend to go bad more quickly and lose some of their flavor and freshness. There’s also disagreement over washing pre-washed vegetables or not. We look at the “sell-by” date and choose one with at least a week before that date . If the date is in the next few days, we don’t buy it. At home, we open the package and sniff. If it smells good and appears to be dry and fresh, we usually don’t wash it. If it has an unpleasant odor, we’ll rinse it well and remove any damaged leaves. When in doubt, play it safe and wash it first, but make sure everything is very clean to avoid cross-contamination. (This is another reason we like to use a salad spinner that is dedicated to raw vegetables.)
Some greens like spinach, romaine hearts and endive are easier to chop or slice first, then wash in the salad spinner. You’ll rinse out the grit that is sometimes found inside, and you won’t end up with a big puddle of water on your cutting board and counter.
In addition to the “sell-by” date, packaged greens will usually indicate if they’ve been pre-washed or not. If there is no indication, err on the side of caution and assume that they have not been washed yet.
If you wash your greens, you’ll need to spin or pat them dry before continuing. If you don’t have a salad spinner and plan to make salads frequently, we recommend you get one. Otherwise, wash greens well in a colander and pat dry on clean dish towels or paper towels. Leaving water on the greens will cause them to go bad more quickly and will prevent the dressing from sticking and coating the leaves.
Once your greens are done, it is just a matter of adding toppings! We suggest you try different variations to see what you like. Our rules of thumb are:
- Add color! You can do this with some bell pepper, red cabbage, carrots or whatever vegetables you like.
- Add a protein. Some of our favorites are beans but you can also throw in some leftover chicken, salmon, nuts, cheese or hard boiled eggs.
By following these directions for building a salad, you’ll find it much easier to throw a salad together to take to work or eat at home every day. You might also be surprised how filling a packed salad can be.