Sunday, May 31, 2015

Toss It: The 5-Ingredient Salad

"Can you bring a salad?"

I was a bit shocked by the request from my mother-in-law for Memorial Day. Usually I am tasked with bringing dessert for gatherings, and I was prepared with sliced peaches, pound cake and whipped cream.

But salad? That's not me – even if I'm the "healthy" one. Why? I tend to bring those "healthy" things that are a bit outside everyone's comfort zone ... aka, the kale and Brussels sprout chopped salad kit from Kroger. It's easy, delicious and not something I'd make on my own. Too much prep.

Prep. It's what I hate about salads. All of the washing and chopping and mixing and fancy dressings – it's too much work. I'd rather pay $7 a pound at my favorite downtown lunch spot than $7 on ingredients for a week of salads.

Alas, I digress. I needed a salad for our Memorial Day cook out and I needed it quick. The request came at noon and we were due at the in-laws at 5:30. Factor in a newborn that had fought naps all morning, I knew a fancy Pinterest salad was out of my league.

But still I searched. And what I found was awesome.

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A spinach salad with blueberries, gorgonzola and walnuts, served with a store-bought dressing. Yes, the recipe suggested a bottled raspberry vinaigrette.


I threw in some red onions because, well, red onions make everything taste better.

As I ate the salad, and then went back for seconds, I realized that the taste of a salad is not relative to the number of ingredients. You don't need a monstrosity with 20 toppings.

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Nope. I've decided that only five things are needed to create the perfect salad: greens, cheese, something crunchy, something sweet and something tart. The crunchy could be nuts or seeds; the sweet would be a fruit or even carrots or peas; and the tart, I guess, is onions or something to contrast the sweet.

A few ideas:

• Spinach, bacon, cheddar, peas and sliced red onion
• Spring mix, pecans, feta, strawberries and drizzle of balsamic vinegar
• Mixed greens, snap peas (sweet and crunchy!), ricotta salada and radishes

I'll admit this recipe doesn't work all of the time – not every great topping fits nicely into the category and sometimes more is actually more. But, there is something to be said for simplicity and taking out the stress of healthy eating, meal planning and entertaining.

Do you have a favorite salad to share? I'd love to see it!


  1. Great ideas!!! I make more complicated salads and I like to make my own dressing!! Like you I would rather not make a salad cause it takes too long!! :)

  2. yay!! As you know, I've been trying to pack salad for lunch. Unfortunately I only have two I rotate between. 1 is an Asian type salad with mandarin oranges, almonds, whatever greens I have, chow mein noodles and sesame dressing (and grilled chicken if I have it). that is more than 5 ingredients, sorry. I usually do prep work the night before and assemble in the break room at work.

  3. Gorgonzola cheese and red onions make everything better! What was the bottled dressing you used. I have a great recipe that includes dressing.

  4. My 5 ingredients: baby spring mix, honeycrisp apple, cashews, Craisins, and lemon poppyseed dressing (homemade - fresh squeezed lemon, diced onion, Dijon mustard, sugar, and poppyseeds, mixed to taste)