5 Ways to Break Out of Your Winter Salad Rut

2011_12_10-salad.jpg If you're anything like me, you're tiring quickly of seeing mixed greens with cranberries, goat cheese and pecans at every turn. This is especially disappointing when there are so many wonderful opportunities to make interesting winter salads. Having said that, I'm guilty as charged: I often throw together the same exact salad day after day at home. I like it, it's healthy, and it's quick. But repetition leads to boredom, so I've been making a big effort to strive towards newness in the realm of salads. Here's a few tips so you, too, can avoid a mid-winter salad rut.

1) A Sprinkle of Cocoa Nibs: I first started using a sprinkling of cocoa nibs on top of my salads this summer. While you'd think it would lend an odd sweetness to a salad, because of their slightly bitter nuttiness, they provide a really nice toasty, savory element. And a welcome crunch.

2) Mix Up Your Greens: It's easy to get in a rut when it comes to salad greens. We know which greens we like and we continue to buy them. Maybe you're a butter lettuce gal or a strictly romaine kind of guy, but next time you're at the market, choose a spicy arugula or watercress to change things up a bit.

3) Try a New Ingredient: I recently had a dinner party with a handful of good friends here in the Bay Area and we prepared a salad with fennel and mushrooms. Both the fennel and mushrooms were sliced paper thin and we dressed it with a simple dash of olive oil, lemon and good sea salt. It was a most welcome change from a more typical green salad. Now when I'm at the market, I've been picking up fennel or a persimmon or something I don't typically use in salads just to experiment with something new.

4) Herbs, Herbs, Herbs: My dad adds chopped cilantro to virtually every green salad he makes. After falling in love with salads at his house, I've tried adding chopped Italian parsley, chives or dill. Herbs are an easy, wonderful (and healthy) way to liven up any tired salad.

5) Hello there, mandolin: In addition to trying new greens or ingredients in a salad, slicing or prepping your vegetables in a new way will make you feel like you're experiencing an entirely new kind of salad. Try slicing your vegetables paper thin or as matchsticks on a mandolin. Or do the exact opposite and keep things robust and chunky. Visually, you'll trick your palate into thinking you're onto something totally new.

Related: What Kind of Salad Eater Are You?

(Image: Megan Gordon)

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