We're talking about lunch and salads this week and I thought can I possibly write another recipe for a salad? I search for a lot of recipes online, I have a huge cookbook library, and I subscribe to many food magazines, but unless it's a very esoteric, composed salad I had at a restaurant that I'm trying to emulate, salads are more of an ad-lib kind of thing in my kitchen.

Let's step back a second and look at what it means to "throw together a salad" and come up with a basic formula for those who like a script more than improv.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen, Faith Durand, Anjali Prasertong)

By the way, if the idea of a salad feels like a big scary blank canvas, or you're new to salads, our salad recipe archive is a great place to start perusing ideas. Then scan your kitchen for ingredients and get going. This is a great way to clean out the refrigerator.

One of my favorite sources for ingredients for a great mid-week healthy salad is leftovers. Today for lunch I'm taking apart the end of a roasted chicken and chopping it with kale, shredded carrots (that's the "crisp vegetables" in the formula), cooked beets, a few big pinches of nutritional yeast, and some of my favorite Eggless Caesar Dressing.

A word on dressing, which people chronically fear. Start simple: the 3:1 oil to acid ratio is a good jumping off point. That means whisk together 3 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar. Taste and move ahead with little adjustments. You can do this!

The Why You Don't Need a Recipe for a Salad Recipe

Serves 1

A handful of greens and/or crisp raw vegetables and/or cooked vegetables
1/2 cup cooked grains (brown rice, barley, quinoa, etc.)
1/4-1/2 cup cooked protein (chicken, steak, tofu, beans, etc.)
1/4 cup your favorite salad dressing
1-2 tablespoons extra flavor treats (nuts, seeds, dried fruit, nutritional yeast)
Salt and pepper, if needed

Toss or chop all the ingredients together and toss with dressing. How easy was that?