Tag Archives: salad

The Art of the Dinner Salad: 5 Tips for Making a Pile of Veggies Feel Like a Meal

I love salad. Big fluffy green ones. Crunchy ones. Hearty ones. Every salad have a special place in my heart. If I’m being honest, I’ve been caught on many occasions making a midnight snack out of a head of lettuce and some leftover dressing, a time when any normal person would be munching on shredded cheese from the bag or jarred salsa and chips. (I’m just living my truth people!) But the hard reality is that most people don’t share this feeling with me—and it’s my mission in life to change their minds. And that starts with the dinner salad.

Raw and Roasted Chopped Salad

I get that a lot of folks are resistant to the idea of eating salad—and only salad—for dinner. But as a person who almost always has friends staying over at my place, and am therefore responsible for keeping them fed, I’ve had plenty of practice converting salad skeptics. Through much trial and error, I’ve come up with a formula for a dinner salad that will satisfy both my salad hater friends and my salad obsessed self. It produces a pile of veggies that is substantial, satisfying, and a main course in and of itself—no post-meal snacking required. Here’s how to do it.

kale and brussels sprout salad

Photo by Heidi’s Bridge, styling by Molly Baz

Massaged kale makes for a more substantial salad base.

Hearty Greens

A substantial base is the key to a proper dinner salad. This is no place for boxed “spring mix” or a head of delicate butter lettuce—you need something with some oomph. I love to use cabbage (red, green, savoy, napa), kale, collards, or mustard greens, which will be able to stand up to all the flavorful add-ins, toppings, and dressings that this salad wants without wilting. The trick to making these non-lettuce salad bases delicious is to massage them with some olive oil, lemon juice and salt after they’ve been cut up. This helps to break down the tough cell structure these veggies have, rendering them tender and ready to soak up flavor.

ba basics crispy thai chicken salad plucking rotisserie chicken

Alex Lau

Leftover rotisserie chicken, tinned fish, and crispy roasted chickpeas all add protein and heft.


A dinner salad needs protein to make it really feel like dinner. Anything goes! Shredded rotisserie chicken. Last night’s roasted salmon. Jammy boiled eggs. But nobody’s saying you have to use leftovers—you can sizzle up a steak or a pork chop just for this salad endeavor if you want to make it feel less hodge-podge. And do not despair, vegans of the world: Crumbled tofu, frozen-then-thawed edamame, or crispy chickpeas are all welcome here, too.

twice roasted squash with parmesan butter and grains

Photo by Marcus Nilsson, Food Styling by Rebecca Jurkevich, Prop Styling by Angharad Bailey


Raw & Cooked Veg

Now that you’ve got a sturdy base and some protein in the mix, it’s time to incorporate some supplementary cooked and/or raw veggies. Again, this could be repurposed leftovers—roasted squash from a few nights ago, stir-fried broccoli—or some odds and ends from meal prep, like quick-pickled cukes or shaved radishes. You want to shoot for contrast, if at all possible—soft, sweet roasted carrots paired with crunchy raw cauliflower, for instance, or tender herbs and sprouts with steamed chunks of sweet potato. And don’t forget about fruit! Slivers of tart-sweet apple or Asian pear can bring both acidity and a bit of welcome sweetness to the party.

tahini ranch dressing

Photo by Alex Lau, food styling by Rebecca Jurkevich, prop styling by Emily Eisen

This creamy Tahini-Ranch Dressing is the kind of sauce that dinner salad dreams are made of.


This is not the time for light vinaigrettes and the like—you want a dressing that packs a punch, something that has a little heft to it. Remember: Because you started with hearty greens instead of delicate lettuces, this salad can handle it. Think yogurt-based dressings, a rich tahini sauce, or a garlicky homemade ranch. If you are inclined towards something closer to a classic vinaigrette, consider adding a bit of extra citrus, a healthy spoonful of Dijon mustard, or a bunch of chopped herbs, all of which will give it the extra something-something this salad wants.


Photo by Ted Cavanaugh

Toasted nuts and seeds are always welcome.


Starting to look like a pretty great salad, huh? Hearty base, protein, extra veg, a knockout dressing. Only one thing stands between you and the best salad you’ll eat all year: TOPPINGS! Don’t. Skip. This. Step! Toppings are what makes a dinner salad the crunchy-salty-creamy-craveable meal it should be. The more the merrier, but as a rule, I like to make sure to have something crunchy (think pita chips, fried shallots, croutons, nuts, seeds) and something cheesy (crumbled feta, grated Parm, nuggets of goat cheese) to really take that salad to the next level. Toppings are like the icing on a cake, or the star on the top of a Christmas tree: optional, but…not optional.

Want to see the formula in action? Try this dinner salad on for size:



Raw and Roasted Dinner Salad

Place a rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 475°. First things first: Prepare your squash for roasting. Delicata is our favorite winter squash—it’s sweet, sturdy, and the peel is not only edible but delicious—but you can use an equal quantity of (peeled!) butternut or acorn squash here if you want. Slice 1 large delicata squash in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, remove seeds. Cut each half again lengthwise, then crosswise into 1″ pieces. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet.


Flaky Cod with Celery Salad

Meanwhile, melt ghee in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and mustard seeds and cook, shaking pan occasionally, until garlic is just beginning to turn golden and seeds begin to make a popping noise, about 4 minutes. Stir in ginger and curry powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Remove from heat; season lightly with salt.


Chicory, Bacon, and Poached Egg Salad

Add remaining 2 Tbsp. oil to skillet and heat over medium-high. Arrange mushrooms in pan in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown underneath, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, toss, and continue to cook, tossing often, until golden brown all over, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl with dressing, but don’t toss. Strip rosemary leaves off stems into bowl and add chicory.


This Romaine Salad with Homemade Ranch Saved My Social Life

If your friends’ group chat is anything like mine, you’ve probably experienced that moment of panic as your plans to hang and make dinner for yourself and a friend or two balloons into cooking for the whole squad. This happened to me just this past week. The low-key hangout I really needed became dinner for six before I knew it. But, I didn’t have time to sweat it—I had a full-fledged kickback on my hands, and these people needed to eat.

Luckily for me, I had a brand spankin’ new Basically recipe up my sleeve. This romaine salad—Every Night Salad with Yogurt Ranch, if we’re being specific—uses super basic pantry staples to make something that looks and tastes like you spent all day shopping and cooking. So, with my internal countdown clock ticking (aka the swarm of “OMW!!!!” texts buzzing on my phone), I evaluated the contents of my fridge and dashed to the store to re-up on the couple of ingredients I needed to bring the whole thing together.

Every Night Salad with Yogurt Ranch

Now, if you’re thinking that salad isn’t exactly the life of the party, I get it. Bunches of sad-looking mesclun mix and boxed croutons aren’t exactly my idea of fun either. But you know what does get me going? Crunchy, crispy mouthfuls of cold romaine! Bright flashes of tart lemon and yogurt! Comforting hits of salt and heat from crushed almonds and garlic! With so much flavor in such a simple package, I could serve my friends a satisfying salad and still have the bandwidth to, you know, hang out with them.

While I was still waiting for company to arrive, I bumped some music, prepped my work space, and breathed easy knowing it would only take me about 20 minutes to throw the whole thing together (dance breaks included). I grated my garlic, juiced my lemon, chopped my herbs, and whisked, whisked, whisked it all together with rich, full-fat yogurt and a bit of store-bought mayo. Once the dressing was done, I slid on over to my leafy greens.

Basically Every Night Salad 04

The best salads are dressed twice.

Now, here’s the key to making a salad really shine: Dress it not once, but twice. Yeah, you read that right. (Well, you probably did.) No matter how delicious your dressing is, you still need to make sure that every leaf of lettuce gets a good hit of acid, fat, and salt before anything else happens—forgetting this is why so many salads fall flat. Here, I tossed the romaine leaves with a squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, and a big pinch of kosher salt to give the dressing a beautiful foundation to build on.

Once my greens were in order, I went back to my dressing. I gave it a taste, and since my lemons were kind of big, the whole thing skewed a bit tart; to compensate, added another spoonful of mayo to the mix get the the fat-acid balance right. I dipped a leaf of pre-dressed lettuce in to make sure the whole package worked. Bingo: just salty enough, creamy enough, and tangy enough, with a good hit of garlicky heat. I was in business.

When the doorbell rang, I whipped out a platter and carefully built my salad, layering lettuce, dressing, and crushed almonds to make sure that every bite was a winner. After throwing on a pair of pants, I was ready to play hostess with the mostest and field compliments all night because yes, this was a breeze. And yes, my friends can come back anytime. They’ll just have to give me a little more of a heads up next time.

Get the recipe:


Would You Believe Me if I Told You I’m Addicted to Raw Broccoli Salad?

The thought of reading an article about a raw broccoli salad probably sounds as fun as making a dentist appointment. (I’ve put the latter off for eight months now, BTW). But this broccoli salad recipe has loads of creamy peanut sauce, crunchy daikon radish, and a sprinkling of dried tart cherries, so now you’re probably like, OH HELL YEAH I’M IN.

It all started on a cool morning at the end of winter, in one of our ideas meetings. Senior food editor Chris Morocco went on and on about this one specific dish that blew his mind at Brooklyn pizza joint Emily. It was the raw broccoli salad. I get that Chris develops for Healthyish. And that he understands balance. But when I go to a pizza place, any part of the menu that isn’t the pizza section is completely irrelevant to my life. I was skeptical of this entire thing.

So one day, I found myself moseying around the test kitchen looking for snacks. And there I saw a plate of creamy dreamy peanut dressing, chopped up broccoli, radish, and cherries. I dragged a bite of broccoli through the peanut sauce. Then a piece of crunchy radish. Then another hunk of broccoli. And sooner or later I devoured the whole plate.

A few weeks went by. I was home and hungry, and realized I had all of the ingredients for this recipe in my kitchen. So I quickly whisked together creamy peanut butter, tangy rice vinegar, umami packed soy sauce, a bit of sugar, sesame oil, grated ginger, and kosher salt. I chopped up the end of a daikon radish and the crown of broccoli I impulse bought from the market. I tossed in the last of the golden raisins I had from this raisin pesto and voila!

And then I made more of the peanut sauce to toss with some rice noodles for lunch. And then for a park picnic a few weeks after that. And then my roommate stuck her finger in the sauce and she got hooked too.

So there are a few morals to the story, but the two I would like to focus on are 1) don’t procrastinate on scheduling your dentist appointments, and 2) ALWAYS trust Chris Morocco.

Get the recipe: