I picked up two prepared side salads at the store the other day, thinking they'd help round out the meal I was planning. They looked beautiful in the case and beautiful when I transferred them to serving dishes, but after one bland and disappointing spoonful, I was done. Should you find yourself in a similar situation, I have a few easy tricks for turning a boring side salad into something tasty with none the wiser.
What a lot of prepared side salads lack — and not a few recipes, unfortunately — are the supporting ingredients that make the main ingredients sing. Spinach needs a squeeze of lemon. Beets like a good strong cheese to balance their earthy flavor. Beans come alive with an extra drizzle of olive oil.
A little of almost any of these ingredients will perk up your boring salad. Happily, you should be able to find at least one or two of them no matter where you are: raiding a friend's kitchen before a potluck or faced with the condiment table at a picnic. Start with a little, stir, and taste. Add a little more and stop when things start tasting good to you.
1. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: Adds richness and a "fullness" to a lusterless, dry salad.
2. Salt: Subdues bitter flavors and perks up the rest of them.
3. Lemon Juice and Zest: Brightens murky flavors, especially with dark vegetables.
4. Vinegar: Same supporting role as lemon juice, but with more flavor options.
5. Cheese: Because a little cheese will keep mouths happy when all else is boring.
6. Cured Olives: Their saltiness and meaty texture add savory depth.
7. Fresh Herbs: Think basil, dill, tarragon, and marjoram. Mince them fine and toss them in.
What are your tips for bringing a boring side salad back to life?
Related: Eight Ways to Perk Up Steamed Vegetables
(Image: Emma Christensen)