Anatomy of a Salad

Let’s talk salad.  As you may have guessed, I’m a big salad fan.  They’re easy, incredibly versatile and fast.  So let’s break it down so you can come up with some new ideas, and try some new combinations!  You can also skip the whole forma salad and do like this cute skeleton from Kraft.

This is by no means a complete list!  Leave a comment and let me know what your favorite salad/salad toppers are!  Also, if you think you don’t like a veggie, try roasting it.  I haven’t met a veggie that didn’t taste awesome after a little time in the oven!


  • Romaine (holds up well for a few days)
  • Arugula (a little spicy/peppery, my favorite)
  • Baby Spinach (holds up well and pairs nicely with fruits)
  • Kale (needs to be massaged, but holds up well for days)
  • Red Cabbage (great shredded)
  • Green/White Cabbage (great shredded)
  • Nappa Cabbage (more tender than regular cabbage, great with Asian flavors)
  • Endives (a little bitter)

Chopped Veggies (I usually pick 2-4):

  • Carrots (diced or shredded)
  • Cucumber (quartered then sliced)
  • Celery (sliced or minced)
  • Broccoli (raw or cooked)
  • Cauliflower (raw or cooked)
  • Radishes (thinly sliced, a little peppery)
  • Beets (a little sweet)
  • Tomatoes (grape, cherry, on the vine, plum, heirloom, orange, sun-dried)
  • Bell Peppers (diced)
  • Mushrooms (sliced)
  • Eggplant (diced and roasted)
  • Green Beans (steamed, sautéed, roasted)
  • Brussels Sprouts (shredded, roasted)
  • Summer Squash (diced, sautéed, roasted)


  • Oranges (slices, Mandarin)
  • Grapefruit slices
  • Grapes
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Dried Blueberries
  • Fresh Cherries
  • Watermelon
  • Apples
  • Pears


  • Chicken
  • Beans (black beans, garbanzo/chickpeas, kidney, white beans, pinto…)
  • Lentils
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Eggs (hard boiled, fried, poached)
  • Nuts (pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, candied, peanuts)
  • Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin)
  • Turkey
  • Cheese (feta, goat, blue, gorgonzola, brie, parmesan)


  • Wheat Berries
  • Couscous
  • Barley
  • Millet
  • Squash (butternut, delicata, kabocha, pumpkin)
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Potatoes (white, sweet, red/new: roasted, boiled, grilled)

Herbs:  (nothing like fresh herbs to make your salad fancy!  But herbs won’t last long, so make sure you only garnish what you’ll eat at one sitting)

  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Scallions
  • Mint
  • Cilantro
  • Oregano
  • Tarragon
  • Dill
  • Chives

Salad dressing options are endless.  Use your favorite, or experiment with something new.  Basically you can’t go wrong if you combine equal parts tart, acid (lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar-red, white, balsamic, champagne, etc) with oil (canola, olive, etc), then season with salt and pepper.  Totally easy, fresh and delicious.  Like a little more cream to your dressing?  Whisk in some dijon mustard or blend in an avocado or some Greek yogurt.  Fresh herbs are also a great way to add some freshness to your dressing.

Hope this helps you find new salad inspiration!

Salmon Cake Salad Nicoise

This updated salad nicoise uses salmon cakes instead of the traditional tuna.  This is a great way to make a salad exciting, or a great way to serve either of these salmon cakes.  Adding salmon cakes to the other traditional aspects of a nicoise salad, like potatoes, green beans, eggs, tomatoes, and olives makes this a great update.   I also like to keep things flavorful throughout the salad, so after boiling the potatoes (when they’re still warm), I dressed them in a honey-mustard vinaigrette, that way each bite of potato is packed with flavor.

Salmon Cake Salad NicoiseSalmon Cake Salad Nicoise (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 4-6

  • 1 salmon cake per person
  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 6 potatoes (I prefer to keep the skin on, so choose a new potato or red potato)
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 cups green beans
  • 3 hearts of romaine, chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup kalamata or green olives, optional (I didn’t use olives since the salmon cakes had capers in them)
  • honey mustard vinaigrette, to taste

Place washed potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water and add salt.  Cook over high heat, and let boil for about 15 minutes, or until fork tender.  Remove potatoes from the water and leave the water on the stove.  Add green beans to the boiling water and blanche for a few minutes until tender, then run under cold water to stop the cooking and keep the bright green color.  Chop green beans into thirds.  When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut into large dice and drizzle with about 1/3 cup honey mustard vinaigrette.

To assemble the salad, divide chopped romaine between plates.  Add 1 salmon cake and sliced hard boiled egg to each plate, then divide potatoes, green beans, tomatoes and olives equally.  Serve with honey-mustard vinaigrette on the side.

Steak and Blue Cheese Salad

Who says salad has to be boring?  This salad is packed with a ton of flavor and feels decadent with just a few special add-ons.  I find that the steak on this really makes it a filling and satisfying salad, perfect for lunch.  Blue cheese adds a great salty, pungent flavor that pairs nicely with the steak and makes this salad extra special.  Not into stinky blue?  This would also be great with feta or extra sharp cheddar.

Steak and Blue Cheese SaladSteak and Blue Cheese Salad (A Seat at the Table)

Makes 1 large salad

  • 3 cups spinach
  • 1/4 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1/4 cup chopped cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup snap peas, chopped
  • 1 oz blue cheese, crumbled
  • 3 oz Asian Marinated Flank Steak
  • Salad dressing, to taste

In a large bowl, add all ingredients and serve.

Blackberry Goat Cheese Salad

After a lovely holiday weekend celebrating and hanging out with family, I’m ready for some lighter food.  It was delicious weekend, but I totally stuffed myself.  If you too are coming off a celebratory weekend, let me suggest this Blackberry Goat Cheese Salad.  This hardly qualifies as a recipe, but it’s a super delicious combination and perfect for the summer when blackberries are reaching their peak perfection.  Don’t have blackberries?  This would be equally awesome with strawberries or blueberries or peaches!  It’s definitely the perfect end to a perfect weekend with family.

Blackberry Goat Cheese SaladBlackberry Goat Cheese Salad (A Seat at the Table)

  • spinach
  • cabbage
  • cucumbers
  • red bell pepper
  • carrots
  • blackberries
  • goat cheese

Combine ingredients in a large bowl, serve with favorite balsamic vinaigrette (like the one below).


Balsamic Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Adapted from Happy Foody

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 Tbsp balsamic vinegar  (white balsamic also works)
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp blue agave (or maple syrup or honey)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or magic bullet and mix until combined.

Grilled Ginger-Sesame Chicken Salad

So I’m trying to get more creative with my salads.  And this is definitely going to be filed under filling, delicious, interesting salads.  This is a great summer salad, full of fresh, strong flavors.  The marinade is wonderful on the chicken, and then it’s very easily transformed into a dressing for the salad.  If you’re looking for a new, interesting salad, you’ll definitely want to give this one try.  I made this on a grill pan, but it’ll be great for outdoor summer barbecues too!

Grilled Ginger-Sesame Chicken SaladGrilled Ginger-Sesame Chicken Salad (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 4-6

Adapted from Menu Musings


  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sriracha sauce
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 pkg chicken tenders, or two large chicken breasts cut into strips
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced


  • 1 lb Napa cabbage (1/2 a large head), thinly chopped
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cucumber, chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tsp white toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp black toasted sesame seeds

In a measuring cup, whisk together the soy sauce, canola oil, ginger, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, sriracha, and salt.  Add the chicken to a large ziploc bag, then add in 3 Tbsp of the marinade.  Seal the bag and allow to marinade for at least 30 minutes. Add red wine vinegar and scallions to the remaining marinade and set aside.

While the chicken is marinating, prepare the salad ingredients, and toss together in a large bowl.

Grill the chicken for about 4-5 minutes on each side, until cooked through.  Slice the chicken, and place on top of the salad.  Dress the salad, and serve.

Greek Kale Salad

Back to my kale eating ways!  This was something I was able to throw together with whatever I had on hand.  It’s easy and super delicious.  It’s easy to keep feta and olives on hand and during the summer months I usually have some tomatoes, cucumbers on hand too, so this is perfect when you don’t feel like putting a lot of work into your salad but you still want to eat your vegetables.  Kale adds some extra nutrients and staying power to this Greek salad.  If you want to make this more of a main dish just add in some chickpeas or grilled chicken.  Perfect for a weeknight dinner or lunch.

Greek Kale SaladGreek Kale Salad (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 4-6

  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 oz feta, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • Italian dressing to taste

In a large bowl, add kale and about 2-3 Tbsp of Italian dressing, massage the kale until tender.  Add remaining ingredients and serve.

Mediterranean Quinoa

This is a great grain salad.  It’s got everything you need!  Quinoa is packed with protein, but still has the starchy taste of a grain, the vegetables add fresh flavor and color and vitamins, feta and olives add to the whole Mediterranean deliciousness, and herbs make it fresh and summery.  I expect I’ll be making this a lot more this summer.  It’s easy to make, great for potlucks, picnics, or lunches.  The flavor is a little subtle, which I found to be a great refreshing taste, but if you want to kick it up a notch, add more feta and/or olives, or herbs, just taste as you go (remembering that it’ll come together more the longer it sits).

I can also picture this being a great tomato filling for later in the summer, just leave out the grape tomatoes and stuff a large tomato with this salad for a pretty presentation.

Mediterranean QuinoaMediterranean Quinoa Salad (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 20

Adapted from Eat Good 4 Life

  • 3 cups dried quinoa
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 Tbsp dried dill (twice as much if using fresh)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh mint (basil would also be fantastic)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 3/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives
  • 8 oz feta, crumbled

In a large saucepan, add quinoa over high heat.  Toast the quinoa, stirring the pan frequently, until fragrant and starting to pop.  Carefully add water and salt, reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover the pot and let cook for about 20 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed.

Meanwhile, in a measuring cup, whisk together the rice vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, dill, mint, salt and pepper.

Once the quinoa is done, pour about half of the dressing over the quinoa and mix well (adding it to the hot quinoa will allow the quinoa to better absorb the flavors).  Allow the quinoa to cool partially, then add the remaining ingredients, and top off with the remaining dressing.  Mix well and serve room temperature or cold.

Strawberry Avocado Kale Salad

This recipe is a little bit of a different take on Strawberry Spinach Salad.  The kale makes this a bit heartier, the avocado adds some great healthy fats and creaminess; strawberries for sweetness, and pecans for crunch.  The best thing about raw kale salads is that they’re hearty.  You could easily make this at the beginning of the week, and have easy lunches all week long.  Kale is also full of good for you vitamins, and is high in calcium!  While kale might be a bit intimidating, it’s quite easy to turn into a delicious meal.  Since kale is rather tough, if you plan to eat it raw you have to massage it.  I know it sounds weird, and I too have felt the “if anything’s getting a massage it should be me” thoughts, but alas, your raw kale wants a massage too.  All you have to do is rub the salad dressing into the leaves.  You’ll know you’re doing it right when the leaves turn a brighter green, look glossy, and have already softened up a bit.  It doesn’t take long to do a whole bowl of kale, so don’t let this deter your raw kale eating ways!

Strawberry Avocado Kale SaladStrawberry Avocado Kale Salad (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 4

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Lemon Poppyseed Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lemons, juiced (about 3 Tbsp)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp poppyseeds
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • About 8 cups raw kale, stems removed and torn into bite size pieces (or enough to fill a large bowl, it reduces to about half the amount after it’s massaged)
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 2 oz feta, crumbled (optional)
  • 3/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

In a measuring cup, whisk together the dressing ingredients.  Place raw kale in a large bowl, pour about 1/2 of the dressing onto the kale, and then massage the kale (rub the leaves between your hands), until kale is bright green and glossy.  Add remaining salad ingredients and serve.  Store in the fridge for about 3 days (although best to leave off the pecans until ready to serve).

Cabbage Salad with Thai Peanut Dressing

We’re getting temps up in the 90s already in the DC area. So I’m already focusing on meals that don’t require cooking. Salads are also great for taking advantage of spring produce. The star of this is really the dressing, the salad can be made with whatever you have in the fridge (although I am partial to Napa cabbage). This would also be great with chicken or tofu, although I kept it simple by using thawed edamame. And while I’m not usually a huge fan of peanuts, they add a great crunch and extra peanut-y taste to this salad. As with all nuts, make sure you roast them briefly before using them. It really brings out their flavor, and if you’re like me and store nuts in the freezer, it also helps thaw them out. All you need to do is spread the nuts on a dry pan and place them in the oven. Set your oven to 350 or 400 and by the time it beeps to let you know that it’s preheated the nuts will be perfectly toasted.

Cabbage Salad with Thai Peanut DressingCabbage Salad with Thai Peanut Dressing (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 6-8

Adapted from Canadian Gift Guide

  • 1/2 head Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups frozen edamame, thawed
  • 1 cup peanuts, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.


  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup packed cilantro
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 limes, juiced
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sambal oelek (chili paste)
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 Tbsp peeled and minced ginger
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.


Springtime Quinoa Salad

Spring this year in DC was a little weird.  We got some crazy hot 90° days and then had some rain and dropped back down to the 50’s…so with our little heat spell, spring seemed to pop all of a sudden.  And despite the fact that the warm weather keeps coming and going, I can’t help but get excited about some new, fun, cold salads.  Does that sound lame?  But really! Salads are great and feel so refreshingly spring!  All of the bright green vegetables in this salad are mixed with quinoa (an awesome “grain” that’s technically a seed and is protein packed!), and then it’s taken to a whole new level of freshness with the addition of a lemon basil dressing.  Yum!  This is great for a crowd and can be served cold or at room temperature.  If you don’t think you’ll eat it all at one time, I’d suggest only adding avocado to the portion you’ll eat.  Avocado has a tendency to turn brown when exposed to oxygen, which will make it less appetizing, although the acid from the lemon should help, as does keeping it in an airtight container, so it should be fine for at least 1 day before it starts looking a little sad.

Springtime Quinoa SaladSpringtime Quinoa Salad (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 12-15

Adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod


  • 2 1/2 cups quinoa
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 bunches asparagus, cut in 3/4″ pieces
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 bag (16oz) frozen peas, thawed
  • 3 avocados, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Lemon Basil Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tsp agave (more to taste)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
  • salt and pepper to taste (about 1/4 tsp salt)

Pour the quinoa into a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Allow the quinoa to toast for a few minutes, until fragrant, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent burning.  Add water and salt and allow quinoa to come to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed.  Fluff with a fork and then add to a large bowl to cool.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the chopped asparagus and allow to cook for a few minutes until tender.  Add the lemon juice and remove from heat.  (If your peas aren’t thawed you can add them to the skillet for a minute or two to thaw them).  Add the asparagus and peas to the bowl with the quinoa.

In a bowl or jar, whisk together the dressing ingredients.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Pour dressing over the salad, toss to combine.  Just before serving, fold in the avocado.  Serve room temperature or cold.