How to Make a Really Great Salad

How much time do you spend thinking about salad? I know, probably not too much. I think “normal” people don’t even think much about salad even while making or eating one.

We have already established that I am peculiar. And, as such, spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about salad. This is convenient for you because I can now save you a lot of salad thinking time, and impart the accumulated wisdom of years of figuring out how to make a really great salad.

First, perhaps we’d best define our term. Salad: A dish of raw leafy green vegetables, often tossed with pieces of other raw or cooked vegetables, fruit, cheese, or other ingredients and served with a dressing …This definition is pretty broad, from a dictionary called “free,” and I chose it because I like a lot of freedom when it comes to salad construction.

So, I am going to give you a rough formula for salad making, but you should keep in mind that there is a lot of flexibility and you should feel free to depart from my formula given the slightest provocation (what you have on hand, grow yourself, or find at the market).

Most of my salads start with some kind of leafy greens. I am a big fan of baby arugula and baby kale these days. I also really like romaine. I use very fresh greens, wash them well, and dry them either in a salad spinner, or by wrapping them in a towel. If I’m at the beach, I put them into a clean pillowcase and pretend to be a helicopter.

I usually dress the leaves in a big bowl. I might make a vinaigrette in a small bowl or a jar. But usually, I use the drizzle method. Vinegar goes first. I like either good aged balsamic or white balsamic. Then, a bit of agave or honey. A sprinkling of sea salt. Toss. Then a good drizzle of decent extra virgin olive oil. Sometimes I use walnut, almond, hazelnut, or macadamia nut oil. I tend to use equal amounts of vinegar and oil and maybe a quarter the amount of sweet. Toss gently. I use my hands or tongs.

Then, stuff goes on top. I almost always include some kind of fruit, cheese, and nuts.  There are many options; see individual salads below for ideas.

So, here’s the basic “recipe.”

Really Great Salad

greens, washed and dried
honey or agave
fresh or dried fruit
toasted nuts
optional: cooked or raw veggies, fresh herbs, meat, edible flowers, avocado

Dress the greens, add the toppings. Bring the salad to the table with everything nicely assembled and then toss before serving.

Here are some annotated examples to get you started:

This is actually the same salad pictured at the top of the page. It is baby kale with steamed Japanese sweet potato, parmesan shards (I use a vegetable peeler), grape tomatoes, toasted walnuts, raisins, mint, avocado, and violets. Dressing is aged balsamic, olive oil, and agave. I drizzled a bit of balsamic glaze over the top.

This is also baby kale. The parm here is grated. There are little date pieces, toasted walnuts, chives, and violets. Dressing is white balsamic, olive oil, and honey.


Baby arugula, dried tart cherries, toasted pistachios, and crumbled Roquefort. White balsamic, honey, olive oil.


Baby arugula, grated parm, toasted walnuts, tricolor raisins, and chilled quartered artichoke hearts. Aged balsamic, honey, and walnut oil.


Baby arugula, cilantro, tricolor raisins, slivered almonds, finely grated parm, violets, white balsamic, almond oil, honey.


Arugula, sliced steamed asparagus, sliced persian cucumber, avocado, slivered almonds, crumbled Roquefort, red raisins, chicken salad, black sesame seeds; white balsamic, almond oil, agave.

Arugula, grilled shrimp, grilled Japanese sweet potato, grilled pineapple, avocado, parm shards, macadamia nuts; champagne vinegar, macadamia oil, honey.


Arugula, roast turkey, sauteed broccoli rabe, steamed asparagus, avocado, provolone, tricolor raisins, pistachios, balsamic, olive oil, agave.


Arugula Salad from DebsPotsBlog


Surprising Kale Salad from Deb’sPotsBlog


Watermelon Salad from Deb’sPotsBlog

I hope you now have lots of new ideas for great salads! Please leave a comment and let us know about all your adventures in salad making!


8 thoughts on “How to Make a Really Great Salad

  1. I am a salad LOVER… I’m talking, I eat it for breakfast a LOT. So I totally understand spending a seemingly obscene amount of time thinking about great salads. 😉 I loooove all the salads you listed here! I’ll take a serving size bowl of each! Thanks for sharing the YUM! Cheers!


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