All Divas know that salads are one of the ultimate health foods. They can contain an exciting variety of colorful, delicious, and satisfying ingredients that provide the nutrients, essential for healthy living.
Meat, seafood, and poultry are ideal salad ingredients, along with lettuce and other leaves, vegetables, fruit, herbs, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, and cheese. Cooked vegetables also make good salad ingredients.
Salad greens provide the backbone of many popular salads with leaves in many colors. Remember, the greater the variety of leaves you include in your salad, the more interesting and nutrient packed it will be. Here are a few types of greens:
- Arugula – Known for the pronounced peppery flavor, these leaves are popular in Italian salads.
- Beet Greens – Red stems with soft leaves and are a mild flavor
- Mache – AKA lamb’s lettuce or corn salad. Leaves are a mild, slightly nutty flavor.
- Mesclum/Mesclun – A French mix of leaves include arugula, chervil, dandelion and oak leaf lettuce.
- Mizuna – Peppery, full flavored, winter green from the Far East.
- Nasturtium – Use both the colorful flowers and peppery leaves in salads.
- Radicchio – Bright red and white leaves with bitter endive used in fall/early winter salads. Peppery, nutty taste with a crisp texture.
- Red Chard – Like beet greens, these fiber-rich leaves have bright red stems.
- Romaine Lettuce – Large compact head with long crisp leaves that have a sweet, nutty flavour.
When you get salad ingredients home, give them a good rinse in cold water, then spin them dry or use a dish/paper towel to pat them dry. Never soak the in a sink of cold water because all the water-soluble vitamins and minerals will leach out.
Tip: Do not dress your salad until just before serving, because the leaves will wilt and become unappealing.
Now that you've decided on the base for your salad, it's time to start building the masterpiece you desire. Below is a list of things to look for when choosing fruits and vegetables so that they have the longest shelf life.
How To Choose The Right Fruit
Apples: Look for a firm, shiny skin with a deep color. Avoid bruises or scarring as they can speed up the decay process. The fruit should feel heavy for it's size.
Apricots: Look for fruits that are slightly soft but not quite mushy. They should have a fragrant aroma.
Bananas: Look for bright yellow bananas without brown spots. You can buy green bananas too and let them ripen at home. Steer clear of bruises and splits.
Blueberries: Look for berries that are firm, dry, and blue. You may see a white sheen but no worries, this is natural. Look at the bottom of the basket for any crushed or bad berries.
Cantaloupes: Avoid fruits that are green, instead look out for ones that are cream or golden with a nice fragrance. Keep an eye out for soft spots.
Cherries: Look for berries with a bright or darker color, plump and shiny with the stem still intact.
Figs: Look for soft, plump fruits with stems intact and slightly bent. Steer clear of dry, cracked figs but minor bruises and tears are okay.
Grapefruits: You want the fruit to have a smooth, thin skin and be heavy for it's size. It should feel firm with a slight give to the touch.
Grapes: You want to look for firm, plump fruits without brown spots or wrinkles. They should be attached to the vine and be heavy for their size.
Lemons and Limes: The fruits should be bright colored, fragrant and heavy for their size. Steer clear of one that are dried up or shriveled. .
Oranges: As with other citrus fruits, you want ones that are firm, smooth skinned and heavy for their size. Avoid ones that are dried up and shriveled.
Pineapples: You want to look for ones that have fresh looking leaves (avoid the brown ones), smell sweet and are heavy for their size.
Pomegranates: You want to look for ones that are heavy for their size and have cracks in the skin. Keep an eye out for mold though.
Quinces: Pick ones that are firm and golden in color.
Watermelons: You want to pick ones that are heavy and firm and make a hollow sound when knocked.
How To Choose The Right Vegetable
Artichokes: The leaves should be tight on the globes and they should feel heavy for their size. The leaves will also make a squeaking sound when pressed together.
Asparagus: You want to look for firm (not limp) stalks that are smooth, bright and have compact tips.
Avocados: These should feel a bit soft and be free of cracks or dents. Firmer ones can ripen at home but don't keep them in the crisper as they may cause other vegetables to decay.
Beets: Look out for ones with a deep color. They should be firm with fresh stems and slender (not hairy) taproots. Steer clear of ones with scaly tops or wilted leaves.
Bok Choy: If you're looking for young bok choy then it will be a light green color. For more mature bok choy, you should look for dark green leaves and bright white stalks.
Broccoli: Fresh broccoli should have crisp, green leaves, firm stalks and tight florets. Steer clear of ones that are starting to turn yellow or flower.
Brussels Sprouts: Look for firm, compact green heads with tight outer leaves.
Cabbages: Look for light green, firm, compact heads that feel heavy for their size. Make sure the stems are fresh and tight as well.
Carrots: Make sure you pick smooth, bright orange carrots void of any rootlets.
Cauliflower: Look for cauliflower heads that are tightly packed with white florets. Steer clear of anything yellow, spotted or flowering.
Celery: Pick ones with long green, firm, unmarked stalks that are green and not yellow.
Corn: Look for corn that has bright green husks and milky white silk. Avoid anything with brown on it and always check that the corn on the inside is plump not dry.
Cucumbers: Look for ones that are a uniform deep green color. Any yellow indicates that it's still in the ripening process.
Eggplants: The perfect eggplant will have a smooth, shiny skin and feels heavy for it's size. When you press the flesh slightly it should bounce back. If it doesn't give then it's not ripe. If it doesn't bounce back then it's overripe.
Fennel: You want to look for ones with firm, white, unmarked bulbs that have firm stems and fresh leaves.
Kale: Look for deep green colored leaves that are crisp and fresh.
Onions and Shallots: Look for bulbs that feel heavy for their size and are firm and dry. Steer clear of ones with sprouts or soft spots.
Parsnips: You want to pick ones that have firm, ivory-colored roots. Stick with the smaller ones as they are less fibrous.
Peas: Look for pods that are crisp and green. Steer clear of ones that are bulging, dried out or look yellow or white.
Peppers: Look for firm, unmarked, shiny peppers without splits and that feel heavy for their size.
Radishes: Radishes should be bright red with fresh green tops. The roots should be firm and unmarked.
Scallions: Look for scallions that have crisp, green tops and firm, white bulbs. Steer clear of anything that's wilting or turning brown.
Squash: Should be heavy for it's size, have a tight, shiny and unmarked skin. Avoid anything that looks dull or has soft spots.
Sweet Potatoes and Yams: Look for ones that have firm, smooth skins and that have no bruises or cuts on them.
Swiss Chard: You want chard that has crisp stalks and also has bright and shiny, fresh leaves.
Tomatillos: You want to pick green tomatillos with green husks. Stay away from anything yellow or brown.
Tomatoes: The perfect tomato will smell fragrant at the stem, have smooth, unwrinkled skin and feel heavy for it's size. Avoid ones that are bruised or mushy.