We hope you’ll pardon this slightly meandering intro to this article…and we hope you’ll find it worth it.
Years ago we used to be a part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s annual Cooking for Solutions and Sustainable Food Institute events. And every year, as part of those events, we hosted a meal for some of the country’s top chefs (like Carla Hall, Rick Bayliss, Dan Barber) and food writers (like Marion Nestle, Mark Bittman, Francis Lam) at our Farm Stand in Carmel Valley. It was a fantastic event and not just because of the amazing food. The event brought together a group of people who all cared deeply about finding solutions for making our food production practices more sustainable.
One year, John Cleese (of Monty Python/Fawlty Towers) was a featured speaker. Not because we were great comedy material, but because he had put out “Wine for the Confused” on the Food Network. He had a lot to say about enjoying wine. One of his most important pieces of advice was this (take note wine snobs 😉).
“Just enjoy wine. If you like sweet wine, drink sweet wine. If you like fruity wine, drink fruity wine. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not good. I mean, if you prefer strawberries and someone told you should prefer raspberries you’d tell them to get stuffed, wouldn’t you.”
Right? So when a friend said, apologetically, she liked sweetness in her salad, we said, “Great! Enjoy!” She seemed like she was expecting a lecture about why she should like a different kind of salad. But no. Of course not. In fact, putting great salads together is an exercise in creating juxtapositions of flavors and textures: sweet, tart, salty, spicy, earthy, umami, crunchy, crumbly, soft, chewy. You don’t need them all in every salad, but intentionally choosing a couple of them for your salad will definitely level up your experience.
Here are some of our favorite combos that elevate any of our ready to use organic greens. Typically, these will work wonderfully with simple vinaigrettes, but feel free to try them with any of your favorite dressings.
- Dried cherries, feta crumbles, toasted pecan pieces
- Apple/pear/peach (depending on season) chunks, gorgonzola crumbles, toasted hazelnuts
- Bacon crumbles, goat cheese crumbles, toasted almond pieces
- Grated Parmesan, jammy eggs, roasted chickpeas
- Roasted beets, citrus segments, goat cheese
- Wasabi peas, grated carrots, toasted sesame seeds or chopped peanuts
- Watermelon chunks and feta crumbles
Or use this chart and blend any combination that sounds adventurous and amazing to you.
If you’d like some more formal recipes, here a few that might ignite your salad spark. They all derive their delightfulness from extraordinary combinations of surprising flavors and textures.