It’s coming to be that period of summer when we just really crave salads—fresh, green, and vibrant! As nice as they are for a side dish, consider making them the focus of some of your meals. But how do you make salads filling and how do you keep them from getting boring? Use our cheat sheet below to help inspire flavorful new salads all summer long and stay out of culinary ruts. We’ve divided the elements of a salad into categories and made lists of each to really flesh out the range of possibilities (though we would be the first to admit they’re not exhaustive). We've also suggested oil & balsamic pairings for some of our favorite summer vinaigrettes.
How do you know what to pull from the lists? Well, first check what’s in your fridge and cupboards. We believe strongly in using what you already have and in improvising. Then, think about families of ingredients that belong to the same style of cuisine, region of the country or world, or harvest season. Chances are, if you choose ingredients this way, the flavors of your salad will go together and make a harmonious whole.
On the other hand, you don’t want your salad to be too homogenous and boring. Using opposite flavors in your salad will keep it interesting and balanced. We like to offset salty flavors with sweet, soft things with crunchy elements, bitter or sharp flavors with rich and creamy things, and light ingredients with more filling ones. Adding protein (animal or vegetable) and cruciferous, high-fiber veggies to your salads can help keep you feeling full longer.
Greens: Red/Green Leaf Lettuce, Kale (Massaged), Spinach, Romaine Lettuce, Arugula, Mache, Endive, Microgreens, Sprouts, Butter Lettuce, Watercress, Cabbage, Iceberg
Aromatics/Herbs: Onion, Scallion, Garlic, Ginger, Basil, Dill, Cilantro, Parsley, Mint, Shallot, Chives
Protein: Beans (Black, Kidney, Chickpeas), Tuna, Salmon, Eggs, Tofu, Steak (Sliced), Shrimp, Calamari, Chicken, Ham, Prosciutto, Bacon
Veggies: Tomato, Corn, Cucumber, Bell Pepper, Celery, Carrot, Radish, Avocado, Mushrooms, Beets (Roasted), Potatoes (Boiled New or Fried), Peas, Grilled Zucchini/Squash/Eggplant, Hearts of Palm, Cactus, Green Beans, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Marinated Artichoke Hearts
Fruit: Peach, Strawberry, Raspberry, Mango, Watermelon, Apple, Pear, Olives, Fig, Blueberry, Grilled Pineapple, Papaya, Cantaloupe
Grains: Pasta, Couscous, Bulgur, Quinoa, Bread (Croutons, Toasted Chunks), Tortilla Chips, Pita
Cheese: Soft Goat, Feta, Cotija, Shaved Parmesan, Bleu/Gorgonzola, Burrata/Fresh Mozzarella
Seeds & Nuts: Sunflower, Pumpkin (Pepitas), Sesame (Black or White), Spicy Peanuts, Sliced Almonds, Roasted Cashews, Candied Walnuts or Pecans
As purveyors of quality oils and aged balsamics, we also believe that a salad’s dressing is as important as the elements in it. Here are some of our favorite combinations for summer salad vinaigrettes—
Wild Fernleaf Dill Olive Oil and Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic: Use with salads featuring light greens, mild or tangy cheeses, fish, and poultry.
Basil Olive Oil and Aged Traditional Balsamic: Use on Caprese Salad, Panzanella, and any salad featuring tomatoes, pasta, or Italian flavors. Works well with dark greens and squash, too.
Fused Lemon Olive Oil and Lavender Balsamic: Unique summery combination that goes well with Mediterranean/Provencal flavors like artichokes, olives, beans, fish/seafood, and tangy cheese.
Persian Lime Olive Oil and Coconut White Balsamic: Use with tropical-style salads featuring lighter greens, avocado, seafood, and poultry.
Garlic Olive Oil and Jalapeno White Balsamic: Versatile combination that enhances Latin and Caribbean-inspired salads where a tart, savory, and slightly spicy dressing is desired. Cilantro & Roasted Onion Olive Oil or Chipotle Olive Oil with Key Lime White Balsamic is another good pairing for Latin salads.
Pecan Oil and Peach White Balsamic: Peach is our most popular balsamic in summer! Pecan Oil is the perfect lightly nutty complement to Peach. Suited for a wide variety of salads, especially those with fresh fruit, mild cheeses, seeds and nuts.
Sesame Oil and Honey-Ginger White Balsamic: Our go-to combination for Asian-influenced salads. Perfect on many types of greens, cucumber, bell peppers, tofu, poultry, shrimp, and even quinoa!
To make the tastiest dressings, add seasoned salts, spices, fresh herbs and aromatics, honey or brown sugar, soy sauce, mustards, minced chiles, citrus juices, and other vinegars like red wine or champagne to your base of oil and balsamic. Check out our recipe page as well as our Facebook and Instagram for some of our favorite salad recipes!