Salads can be an easy, healthy choice for dinner, as they simply require some basic chopping and mixing (easy) of a heap of vegetables (healthy). The best way to get enough heft from a dinner salad is obvious: Add protein. But when you want a vegetarian dinner salad, it gets a little trickier. Here are the top secrets for making a satisfying salad:
1. Start with hearty greens. Kale, broccoli rabe and spinach are nutrient-packed and substantial alternatives to lettuce. Massaging tougher greens with oil and lemon juice breaks down the thick fibers, making them a manageable base for any toppings.
2. Add seeds or nuts. To make a salad that satisfies, add a handful of chopped toasted walnuts, almonds or cashews for extra protein, fiber and fat. Seeds (sesame, hemp, flax) are another good salad-topper, offering similar nutrients.
3. Go creamy. The typical advice is to avoid creamy salad dressings, and that’s true to a point. Bottled creamy dressings are often high in saturated fat and salt. But a homemade creamy tahini-, avocado- or even yogurt-based dressing adds so much richness to a salad that it tastes way more decadent than it is. Tahini goes well with garlic, lemon juice, water and olive oil; if you have an immersion blender, use it to create the perfect dressing texture.
4. Add beans. Beans are the easiest vegetarian substitute for meat, adding fiber and protein to the mix. Chickpeas are classic, but white beans, black beans and shelled edamame will also taste great.
5. Put an egg on it. Hard-boiled eggs are a sure-fire way to turn a salad into a meal.
6. Vary the veggies. Without veggies, you don’t have a salad! There once was a time when a salad was anything bound with mayonnaise or Jell-O, but to be legit these days, a salad needs veggies and lots of them. Think about texture, color and flavor when deciding what to add. Mandoline-shaved radishes and cucumbers, grated carrots, halved cherry tomatoes, and diced roasted cauliflower or sweet potatoes can all have a place in salad (although probably not together).