There are so many times that I’ve heard people say that salads are boring, but today I want to show you that doesn’t have to be the case. I know it’s hard when you tell the family that you’re having salad for dinner, only to hear softly muttered complaints and a see a lot of eye rolling. But the fact is that with a little bit of imagination, and some experimentation, salads don’t have to be boring.
Salads can be as simple or as complicated as you like. I personally prefer the simple option most of the time because when I decide it is time to eat, I’ve normally left my hunger go too far and am already ravenous. I know I shouldn’t wait that long to prepare food because it means I am more likely to snack on whatever I can find, which is not a good option. That’s why I’ve learned to make meals that can be prepared fast, and salads can be one of the fastest meals to prepare.
The fastest salads that I make use completely raw ingredients – no cooking at all. These normally involve chopping up whatever vegetables I can find in the fridge, often resulting in unexpected and interesting combinations, and then tossing in a quick source of protein and carbs, with a simple dressing.
Top left: Lemon pepper tuna, wholemeal couscous, spinach, carrot, green capsicum, tomato and zucchini.
Top right: Prosciutto, baby spinach, tomato, radish, olives and marinated artichokes, served with toast and sundried tomato spread.
Bottom left: Smoked tuna, broad beans, cucumber, spinach, radish, shredded fresh mint and aged balsamic dressing.
Bottom right: Tuna, cos lettuce, radish, tomato, carrot, red capsicum, cucumber and a lemon-oregano dressing.
In a super quick salad, my protein source is usually canned tuna since it doesn’t need any cooking. I normally use tuna in springwater, smoked tuna, or lemon pepper flavoured tuna. I don’t often buy deli meats, although I do quite like ham off the bone (but not the pressed kinds), and occasionally buy prosciutto. I also quite like using leftover cooked chicken in salads if I have any.
To bulk out the salad I will sometimes quickly prepare some couscous, since it only takes 5 minutes to cook, or I might add toast or leftover cooked rice or potatoes. Then to finish the salad off, I mix up a fast vinaigrette to add a bit more flavour. When I’m feeling slack (which is not uncommon), I will just add the vinegar and olive oil directly to the salad and then mix them all up in the serving dish. You may like to check out my Super Fast Couscous and Tuna Salad.
Now quick is certainly good, but I don’t always like to eat raw and cold food – actually I much prefer cooked foods unless it’s really hot. So it’s actually quite common for me to cook a portion of my salad, most commonly the meat component and sometimes also the grain.
Top left: Poached chicken with buckwheat, mushrooms, tomato, rocket and parsley.
Top right: Smoky baked beans with pita chips, mixed lettuce, tomato and avocado.
Bottom left: Chicken and rice, with tomato, mixed lettuce, fennel, olives and a pesto dressing.
Bottom right: Beef meatballs with Greek seasoning, red capsicum, mixed lettuce, tomato, avocado and olives.
When I have cooked meat, chicken tenderloins or silverside eye steaks are my most common choice because they cook really fast and are normally ready by the time I finish chopping up the vegetables. Normally I will put some type of seasoning on the meat prior to cooking, which really helps to boost the flavour of the salad. You may like to check out my Quick Steak Salad on a Budget, or my Zesty Lemon-Scented Seasoning Mix.
Different types of cooked meat can be quite fun for a change. I quite like to have warm smoky baked beans in a salad, often with avocado and pita chips. I’ve also made salads with meatballs, which is a great way to use a budget meat in a salad since beef mince is cheaper than regular steak.
Lastly, play around with different types of grains or carbohydrate sources. Not all salads will need them, especially if they are quite generous with the salad components. But if you want to add some quick carbohydrates, my favourites are couscous, pita chips (which I make by putting the pita bread in the toaster), toast, and leftover cooked rice. Other grains that are worth considering are quinoa or buckwheat, although they will take about 10-15 minutes to cook. You could use potato or sweet potato to add some substance and extra vitamins, while going a little bit lighter on the carbs.
So really, salads don’t have to be boring. They are limited by your imagination, and of course what you have in the fridge. So long as you have a quick protein source and some easy to prepare carbohydrates, it’s then a matter of finding a few different vegetables and a simple dressing to add flavour.
What do you do to make salads more interesting? Do you have any tips on making salad preparation even faster?