I would like to hear from people who hated salads and then learned to love them.
December 28, 2010 4:19 PM   Subscribe

I would like to hear from people who hated salads and then learned to love them.

I find it challenging to get enough vegetables and greenery into my diet, and I know it would be much easier if I ate salad. The problem is that there seems to be an infinite number of combinations of salad so I don't know where to start.

Also lettuce makes me gag a little, literally. There's something about the texture, it's not necessarily the taste. I am not sure how to overcome that.

Growing up I was never offered or made to eat salad at all, and because of that this is something I have almost zero experience with. So basically I'd like to hear from people who made the transition into loving food they previously disliked and how they did it, and also any sort of beginner's guide to salad tips that anyone might have.
posted by imabanana to Food & Drink (53 answers total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't like lettuce, what about other greens? Spinach makes for a great salad with, I think, a different texture (harder for me to say, because I don't object to the texture of lettuce.) Or an Israeli/Palestinian-style salad, ie, finely-chopped tomatoes and cucumbers with onions, dressing, and sometimes more? No lettuce involved, but veggie-tastic and very tasty.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:25 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Two huge tips that made me like salad better:
1) Cut it in small pieces so you get a little bit of every flavor in every bite.
2) Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on it. Sounds stupid, I know, especially since salad dressing is salty, but it seriously brings out the flavors more.

There are lots of salads here (Bittman's 101 salads) that don't include lettuce. Or try to find a leafy green that you prefer... could be a different variety of lettuce, baby spinach, etc.
posted by dayintoday at 4:26 PM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ranch dressing.
posted by Jimbob at 4:27 PM on December 28, 2010

Salad is a very loose term. Are there any greens you like? What about finely chiffonaded raw kale or chard with a little viniagrette on it?

Do you like beets? Roast off some beets with oil and balsamic. Slice them up. Add some nuts, a couple of endive spears and some goat cheese. Use the beet juice/balsamic to make a little viniagrette.

What about beans? Cook off an assortment of beans and toss with some fresh proscuitto and herbs and a little dressing.

The field is wide open with salads.
posted by TheBones at 4:28 PM on December 28, 2010

I find that salads are way too bland unless I put pieces of chicken on top. Also, try substituting the lettuce with spinach leaves.

Not exactly healthy, but I love me some garlic croutons on my salads as well.
posted by littlesq at 4:30 PM on December 28, 2010

Dressing. I know a lot of people who don't like salad because the feel like if they put enough dressing on it to make it taste good, there's no point in eating the salad. But dressing doesn't take away from the nutrition of the veggies. The other thing is iceberg and romaine--the standard salad lettuced are bitter and gross in my opinion. Try baby greens or a spring mix--SO much tastier and not nearly as rubbery or squeaky.
posted by Kimberly at 4:31 PM on December 28, 2010

I find salads a million times better if they have cheese on/in them. Some simple oil and vinegar dressing also helps a lot. FWIW, I also despise lettuce and never eat it if I can help it, I just find it to be a waste of time. Try different greens as the base. Spinach is a really good one.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:32 PM on December 28, 2010

I'm going to be completely honest and tell you that there is only one reason I started to enjoy eating salad: It has cheese. For me, salads are about toppings, and not about lettuce (I agree with you in that department!). You can pimp out your salad with all sorts of cheese, fruits, veggies, nuts, olives, ... really whatever sounds delicious at the moment! Do you also have an aversion to spinach? This for me is an acceptable substitute for lettuce. Choose a type of cheese (or veggie, or dressing), and build your salad around that. The "salad" part of it doesn't have to be the most significant part!
posted by genekelly'srollerskates at 4:33 PM on December 28, 2010

I'm not a lettuce fan myself, but I love, love, love spinach. I started with baby spinach, and now enjoy some lettuce variety salads as well (but really, I like spinach the best -- it has a less slimy/wilty texture than lettuce, which bothers me as well).

My favorite spinach salad is:
Baby spinach, topped with red onion (raw, just a little), a hardboiled egg, and -- the best part -- I cook some chickpeas in a little frying pan with oil, balsamic vinegar, a bit of honey (like, one teaspoon), fresh chopped ginger, and garlic. Oh, and salt and pepper. I use enough oil and vinegar so that it reduces but creates a dressing for the salad. If you pour it over the spinach while it is hot, you get a nice hot salad, with parts of the spinach cooked through -- it's divine.

My second favorite spinach salad I just invented this past weekend. I fed it to 10 people on Christmas and it was gone in minutes -- and these people include red-blooded American male farmers, not just ladies who lunch types:
Strawberries, quartered
Toasted walnuts, chopped
Goat cheese
The dressing is: 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon white sugar, 1/4 teaspoon tarragon, pinch of mustard powder.
Seriously, amazing. I went back for seconds and it was all gone.

Green bean salads are also great. It's a good way to get green veggies in your system without eating lettuce or spinach. I make one that is a chopped tomato (you can use canned, just strain out the juices first), a bunch of fresh green beans (a few pounds), and a sliced onion. Bake on the stove with 1/4 cup of water and a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or cold. This is a hit at dinner parties, too.

So, my short advice? Start with spinach, and move on from there. I actually buy the bagged spinach that is pre-washed because, let's face it, I'm a bit lazy. I'd like to graduate to fresh spinach someday; it's cheaper.
posted by k8lin at 4:35 PM on December 28, 2010 [21 favorites]

I also hate lettuce; too crunchy and watery. Don't get me started on cucumber and celery, either. I do like the mixed green salads you get in a bag at the supermarket, though -- there are enough variations on little leaves (peppery, buttery, etc.) that they're not so offputting).

One of my favorite homemade recipes is spinach, goat cheese, and strawberries, tossed with a little vinaigrette. But yes, there is no salad that cannot be improved with cheese or bacon or both.
posted by vickyverky at 4:37 PM on December 28, 2010

I rarely use lettuce, except the occasional romaine. Arugula and spinach are much better. I also use lots of toppings, too, depending on my mood. If I want something sweet, I'll go with a maple dressing with goat cheese and dried cranberries or apples. If I want savory or salty, I'll make a tangy vinaigrette and add some artichoke hearts, walnuts, or whatever else I have in the pantry.
posted by two lights above the sea at 4:38 PM on December 28, 2010

I am not a salad fan, but I do coarsely chop red cabbage, carrots and an apple or two (for sweetness) in the food processor. It makes a tart, sweet salad. Sometimes I'll add jicama, celery or a bit of broccoli for a change.
posted by TorontoSandy at 4:38 PM on December 28, 2010

Dressing choice. Growing up my family had two options: 98% high fructose corn syrup with a touch of red dye called "French" and 95% partially hydrogenated soy something with enough preservatives to run a taxidermy shop for a year called "Ranch." I discovered later on that there were more options to salad dressing than that bottled crap.

Proper dressings, made fresh will make any salad infinitely better. My favorite is the supposedly original caesar recipe, fairly easy to do fresh in a few minutes. I put the dressing ingredients in a food processor and have it mixed in seconds.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:43 PM on December 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

While I generally find Jamie Oliver to be a bit of a git, I do recommend his piece on how to make bad salad. Later, he offers some suggestions on how to make better salad. Basically, no iceberg lettuce, seasonal ingredients and a dressing with oil, something sour, and something flavourful.
posted by embrangled at 4:43 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I started enjoying salads a billion times more when I started making them with no lettuce. Greek salads, with cucumber, tomato, olives, feta, green pepper and onion. Or caprese... tomato, basil and mozz. You can throw together all kinds of combos of raw veggies sans lettuce and have something amazing.

If your desire to eat lettuce is a dealbreaker for this, though, at least make the ratio of lettuce to other, more delicious stuff is 50/50 or better. And as other commenters have said above, cheese, fresh or dried fruit (pears, dates, raisins, mandarin orange slices), and croutons can go a long way toward making a salad amazing. Skip the iceberg lettuce and move on to romaine or spinach as you go-to greens.

But I also learned to not hate lettuce anymore when I tried super-fresh Boston butter lettuce with just a little olive oil and salt and pepper on it. Believe it or not, salt and pepper can add a lot of pop to a salad, even one that is just greenery. Who knew?
posted by Andrhia at 4:46 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know you're not in Chicago, but if you ever get the chance to visit, try one of POCKETS menu items. They shred all of the salad fixings into small pieces, stuff it in a toasty warm pita, pour dressing on top, and it is amazing. Completely different "mouth feel" than a regular salad and super tasty. I'm a big fan of the Asian pocket. You could probably get the same texture by using a food processor for the ingredients or one of those mini choppers. I'm partial to romaine lettuce or spinach greens, some wonderful crumbly cheese, little sunflower seeds or other little nuts, and a balsamic vinegar based dressing. The other restaurant here which has perfected the salad is Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder's Chef salad (where you can combine their sour cream garlic and sweet and sour poppyseed dressings. And the bread, oh sweet JMJ, the bread!) But that is more of a "treat" salad for me because the dressings make it less healthy.
posted by jeanmari at 4:47 PM on December 28, 2010

Disclaimer: I love salad and always have. But you don't need to put lettuce or any of those leafy greens in it if you don't want to! Try Israeli Salad - it just has diced cucumbers, tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice and pepper (and sometimes other things, but that's sort of the basic/simple version) and it's delicious.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:49 PM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

There are so many different kinds of lettuce -- you should experiment! Lots of stuff you get in the regular grocery stores is just plain bad. The heads of romain can be tough and bitter; the stuff in bags can taste unappealingly musty. Try getting a really fresh head of lettuce at a farmer's market and see if that makes a difference, or just go to Whole Foods.

As for the toppings, salads are all about the oniony and savory stuff you can add in. I like to put in a freshly hard boiled egg, sliced, along with some high quality olive oil, salt and vinegar. Add some minced garlic or sliced green onions and whatever other veggies. Toss very, very well (this is crucial). The warm egg yolk makes everything creamy and yummy. For pro level, make some croutons. They're easy: just tear up some good bread into little pieces, toss on a baking sheet with olive oil, lots of salt, and pepper, and bake at say 375 until golden.

Finally, you really don't need to eat salads to get your veggies. Salads involve a lot of chopping and can be a pain. Lots of veggies are easier to make -- you can eat snap peas right out of the container; roasting beets is a cinch; sweet potatoes are good microwaved; it goes on and on.
posted by yarly at 4:51 PM on December 28, 2010

I never was made or even offered salad as a child either. I didn't eat my first salad until I was 28.

I started with a simple Caprese Salad with a little baby spinach throw in for good measure. I dislike lettuce too, but I do enjoy a spring green mix.

A spinach salad with some apples, strawberries, sliced almonds, goat cheese, and a nice balsamic vinaigrette can't be beat.
posted by ACN09 at 4:53 PM on December 28, 2010

Like you, I hated salad. Well, at least I thought I did. As it turns out, I hate iceberg lettuce. Once I discovered that salad wasn't just iceberg lettuce, I grew to like it more. I started with Caesar salads with lots of dressing and lots of croutons and spinach salads with lots of dressing and toppings as well. As I grew more used to the taste of the greens, I could reduce the amount of dressing and toppings I used. I still don't love salads, but I eat a lot more of them now than I used to.
posted by whatideserve at 4:56 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I eat lots of salads now, but had to overcome texture issues myself. I did this by:

1) Taking out or avoiding the lettuce ribs or stems on what ever type of green you are eating... that was the part that gave me the most trouble. Also, try baby spinach instead of regular spinach.

2) Alternately, try chopped salads. Lots of places do this now, and it sort of breaks everything down to the same size, and evens out the texture.

3) When assembling your own salad, be careful with overall flavor profiles. I love olives, and I love dried cranberries... but not on the same salad. At restaurants or delis they will often have different types have salads that have worked this out (Greek Salads, Asian Salads, Fruity Salads). Try one with the ingredients you like the most and see how it goes.

4)Give yourself permission to pick out things you don't like, and add things you do. Different cheeses, nuts, meats, and crunchy toppings can make all the difference.
posted by kimdog at 5:01 PM on December 28, 2010

It is definitely possible to grow to enjoy salad. For me, the key was a combination of things said above. Moving away from iceberg to interesting lettuces and greens like arugula. Learning how to make my own dressing so I don't have to be icked out by bottled weird dressings. Adding tasty toppings like cheese, nuts, and fruits (dried or thinly sliced). And oh, not trying to dress wet greens. Using pre-washed greens and not caring enough to re-wash them myself might put me at risk for... pesticide poisoning or ecoli or something, but wet greens make a nasty nasty salad.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:08 PM on December 28, 2010

In NYC we have manned salad bars where people will toss salads for you. Do you have these where you live? I have one every day for lunch, because one of these places is right by my office. They're awesome, because you always get fresh ingredients and the salads are well mixed.

THAT is huge: mixed. Normal salad-bar salads (and ones made lazily at home) suck, because the ingredients aren't all mixed together. It's a bunch of lettuce on the bottom, then a layer of sprouts, then a layer of mushrooms, then...

For me, the fun of salads in a complex mix of different tastes together. I don't want to eat 3/4ths and find that all I have left is plain lettuce. Yuck.

If you make salads at home, you can do what they do at the salad-tossing stations: they put all the ingredients in a big bowl (one of those big mixing bowls that use when you're making a cake) and toss the salad with tongs until it's all mixed together.

Use FRESH ingredients. That means you'll probably wind up wasting some produce. Too bad. Waste it if you have to. You DON'T want to be eating wilted veggies from two days ago. You don't even want to be eating veggies that are just slightly starting to wilt. Crisp and fresh or not at all.

Everyone has different likes and dislikes. (Alas, I don't like tomatoes or mushrooms.) Here's what I ask for at the tossing station most days:

- spicy grilled chicken
- walnuts
- SALT AND PEPPER (really improves the taste when mixed well, so that you get some in every bite)
- mixed greens (lettuce, but not iceberg)
- cucumbers
- carrots
- ONIONS (I won't even touch a salad without them. They add a major punch. I get red onions.)
- kidney beans
- garbanzo beans

That's it. I don't get any dressing, because I'm trying to keep it healthy. Instead, I get the cheese. I specifically ask for blue cheese, because it's strong. A little goes a long way. And I know I keep saying this, but if the salad is mixed will, I get cheese in every bite.

The above concoction clocks in at about 600 calories. But it -- plus an apple -- is my entire lunch. And it's so filling, I sometimes have trouble eating dinner.

Once a week, I treat myself to a "naughty" extra ingredient, like bacon.
posted by grumblebee at 5:09 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Find good dressings.
posted by k8t at 5:09 PM on December 28, 2010

I never liked the salads my parents made and I love the salads I make. There are a handful of key things:
1. Make sure the lettuce is fresh, crisp, not soggy, and is a kind you actually like.
2. Use only ingredients that you like (no tomatoes for me!). Maybe your salads don't have lettuce, whatever, that's totally fine.
3. Be creative -- add other things you like, which for me means sesame seeds, walnuts, goat cheese, raisins. Dried fruits are great, just quickly chop them into little bits and sprinkle all over.

And most importantly:
4. Stay away from those Kraft salad dressings and make it yourself. It is so easy. Buy a really good balsamic vinegar (it's worth it), then mix some olive oil and vinegar together and add some salt, and that's it. (Seriously that's it. It takes maybe 30 seconds.) You can tweak the taste until you find something you like.

I guess the bottom line is that you get to pick what goes in, so pick things you enjoy!
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:22 PM on December 28, 2010

I never liked most supermarket lettuces. I am TOTALLY into non-lettuce based salads (including ones with bitter greens like baby spinach leaves, or rocket). Then there's salads based on grated carrot, ones with diced cucumber, rice and lentil salads, coleslaws....

(By "based on" I mean where that's the main ingredient, and you add small amounts of other things for flavour).

Also I hate the slimy feel of salad dressings. Now I don't dress my salads at all, or I just sprinkle a tiny bit of lemon juice, orange juice, or vinegar on them.
posted by lollusc at 5:36 PM on December 28, 2010

Don't forget cabbage as you're looking into lettuce substitutes. It's got the texture of boot-leather when eaten in big leaves, but cut fine & eaten raw, it has a wonderful crunch with a peppery spiciness. And while cut cabbage doesn't keep at *all*, cabbage 'in the round' keeps something like 3 months, so you don't have to keep on replacing it if you're not that enthusiastic of an eater.

Another reviled salad vegetable to keep your mind open to is spinach. Hate, hate HATE the slimy green steaming masses my father used to pile on my plate and smear with lemon. But I discovered (at Golden Corral of all places), that FRESH spinach is delicious! Should still be springy, with no sign of mushiness along the edges.
posted by Ys at 5:38 PM on December 28, 2010

If you like crunchy, there are bags of "broccoli slaw" which is the stems shredded into tiny julienne strips. My ex loathed the broccoli but gobbled this salad, because he thought it was cabbage. Basically, make a Thai dressing: a little sesame oil, some rice vinegar, smidge of garlic chili paste, soy sauce, lime juice, splash of fish sauce. (You don't need ALL of these. Improvise.)

Toss with the broccoli slaw, maybe a little cilantro. I top with thinly sliced grilled beef or chicken for a main dish. Yummy.
posted by cyndigo at 5:51 PM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I used to hate salad as a kid--naturally, my favorite foods were of the fried variety. You've already gotten so many great tips above about trying different lettuces/dressings so I won't go too much into that. :)

I think my transition from hating to loving salads was

1) a mental thing: My mom is extremely health-conscious, and throughout my childhood she was always impressing on me the dangers of too much junk/fast food and the benefits of veggies/healthy eating. That didn't make me love fried foods any less, but it helped me turn salad-eating into a "good" behavior. I didn't particularly like it, but I felt like every time I finished a salad I had done a good thing for my health. It's just like exercising (at least, the way I view exercise). I don't enjoy dragging myself outside for a walk every day, but knowing that the walk is contributing to a healthier existence makes it tolerable and sometimes even enjoyable. With salads, the more I ate them the more I started to like them.

2) gradual: When I decided to try eating more salads I could only stand small portions drowned in fatty dressings and liberally sprinkled with cheese. No wonder they weren't that good to me, there are SO many other--much better--varieties of salad out there. Once I just got used to the idea of eating more salad I slowly started trying stuff beyond the usual carrot/iceberg/cucumber blah house salad (no offense to anyone who loves that, just not for me). The beauty of salad is that it can have anything in it, and once I started trying all the feta/gorgonzola/spinach/romaine/pine nut,etc etc combos I was in love. Fresh, healthy, and delicious!

If you don't know what kind of salad to try, I suggest just ordering something that sounds completely strange and different from anything you'd normally try. Sometimes those turn out to be the most delicious. Or...try a salad that is full of something you KNOW you like (if you like mediterranean flavors/spices and tomatoes/bellpeppers, try a fatoush salad! So good! If you like cilantro, just toss some in!). I think the key really is to just try more, different kinds of salad.
posted by sprezzy at 6:10 PM on December 28, 2010

I can't believe this thread wasn't titled "Can't Win Friends with Salad."

At any rate, I nth the people suggesting making your own dressing. I also find adding bits of cheese and something like sundried tomatoes with a little of their oil really helps lubricate the salad without adding wetness from the dressing. Personally, I like lettuce but hate when it's the least bit hot (as in grilled chicken laid on without being chilled). So maybe make sure everything is chilled before putting it on the salad.
posted by sweetkid at 6:29 PM on December 28, 2010

Finding the right dressing. For me, it was the various non-acidic Japanese salad dressings.

There are tons of greens outside of lettuce. You're referring to iceburg, right? It is pretty much devoid of any nutrition whatsoever. Maybe try darker greens (which are much higher in vitamins, cofactors, and minerals anyways).
posted by porpoise at 6:38 PM on December 28, 2010

Once I stopped eating shitty food, lettuce started to have a taste.

No more greasy, fatty food. Fewer carbs. I promise - you will start to appreciate you veggies in a way you never have.
posted by theraflu at 6:41 PM on December 28, 2010

I'm going to put in a vote for spinach as well. Plus you can grab some and stuff it in sandwiches or other foods to up your veggie take. Tossed with feta or blue cheese, raisins or currents and some nuts and it goes down really well.
posted by saffry at 6:45 PM on December 28, 2010

I was on a date in college at Olive Garden and didn't want to look lame by admitting I didn't eat salad. I then discovered, much to my surprise, that I liked the salad at Olive Garden. I don't know how that helps you though.
posted by COD at 6:54 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Iceberg lettuce and the ribs of romaine are gross. I don't like the crunch and I think they taste bitter. So when I make a salad I strip the ribs out of romaine and shred it into tiny bits. Then lots of tomatoes and cucumber, some sort of meat, and cottage cheese. And dressing. Mmm.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:05 PM on December 28, 2010

One discovery my wife and I have made in the past year that has helped me a lot is the addition of roasted potatoes. My wife would make a salad and it would do absolutely nothing to fill my stomach. By cutting up some potatoes, seasoning them and baking them in the oven, then adding them to a chicken ceasar salad we've created a full meal that gets all the rabbit food into me while also filling me up for a sustainable period of time. I love it!
posted by Glendale at 7:19 PM on December 28, 2010

You don't actually have to eat lettuce -- or spinach, or any other green -- to eat a salad. Slice some tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, a little red onion and black olives, throw in feta cheese and an oregano-ed dressing -- 'Greek' 'salad,' delicious. It is nice to have a mix like that in the fridge at the ready to chuck on top of greens, but they're optional.

Better food stores, and a lot of okay supermarkets nowadays, will have salads in the deli section sort of along those lines, just chopped veg in dressing -- usually with a little something to punch it up like dried cranberries or nuts or cheese. You might just hit a bunch of deli counters and ask for tiny servings of every veg combo going until you find something you like.

Don't feel it has to be healthy; the basic family-restaurant-issue iceberg, tomato, cucumber, token green pepper sort of thing has a lot of merit with a great creamy dressing, grated cheddar, fresh croutons, maybe a chopped egg too.

Disclaimer: I did grow up eating salad. I now have a small child who regularly insists on salad. I don't know salad-free life. But my mother made salads that were all chopped veg with just a few token pieces of lettuce... All veg -- no fruit, rarely cheese. (But, boiled peas!) I had to teach myself the ways of pear slices, walnuts, and goat cheese. Do you like plates of raw veg with dip? Just slice it differently and call it salad and wean yourself that way if yes.

Lots of spinach enthusiasts have already commented. This is a good direction to go in. I would start with the classic sort of spinach salad: chopped egg, mushrooms, perhaps tidbits of tomato and red onion, creamy dressing.

Don't overdo -- I will call a huge trough of leaves a meal, but it's also nice to have just a little pinch of salad on the edge of a plate of hot food.
posted by kmennie at 7:31 PM on December 28, 2010

I hate salads. When I worked in NYC, the store downstairs in my building would "chop" them by sending them through a food processor. I would have then do it twice. Changed the texture totally. They used to tease me in spanish that I wanted to eat my salad through a straw. Then after double processing, the key was the dressing. I loved blue cheese because it is creamy and binds the salad. Works great.
posted by AugustWest at 7:44 PM on December 28, 2010

I get the texture thing. I hate chewing. I would drink or slurp all food if I could. So I give you this: Gazpacho.

Gazpacho is soup that is a salad. It is great.
posted by millipede at 8:07 PM on December 28, 2010

I started to like salad as an adult by using fresh veggies from the farmers' market. Just walking around and having the sensory experience of choosing what to buy and thinking about all the delicious things you can make with them made the whole eating raw veggies thing appealing. Salad is now one of my favorite things, and I use a lot of the techniques mentioned above.

Another thing that helped me branch out and enjoy more kinds of salad was discovering that I can make dressing. I mean, that I can make it up, on the spot, and make just enough for one meal, and have a different flavor on the same basic salad every night of the week. This is especially helpful if you are trying to use up a large amount of fresh greens before they go bad, but you don't want to have the same thing over and over again.

I also inject a bit of humor into my meals by remembering my Dad's favorite salad phrase: "That's not food, that's what food eats!"

(I was an adult when I learned he stole that line from ALF!)
posted by purpletangerine at 8:18 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I started eating them every day, and they became habit, and now I am sad if I don't have a salad in the afternoon.

I put lots of stuff on them - croutons, shaved carrots, cheese shreddies, an ever-rotating collection of yummies. The lettuce is often just an excuse to eat all the other stuff.
posted by ErikaB at 8:22 PM on December 28, 2010

There are other lettuces in the world besides iceberg. Iceberg lettuce is hard on my stomach. Finding a great dressing helps a lot... I didn't know I liked Italian dressing until I tried it several times. Oh, and some restaurants are a pain in the butt because they don't chop the lettuce into bite-sizes and make you do it yourself at the table (or worse, their idea of a salad is literally half a head of lettuce on your plate).

(My family still jokes about the "house salad" at the restaurant - not the food court - inside the Shedd Aquarium. It was a hollowed-out tomato with 3 sprigs of lettuce sticking out of it and some dressing dripped over it. Some salad.)
posted by IndigoRain at 9:07 PM on December 28, 2010

Delicious thread; I'm sure I'll come back to it for ideas!

Tabbouleh's fresh and mild, & easy to find at Lebanese places. You can eat it with a spoon.

I like lentil salad for a hearty option. Cooked, room-temperature green lentils (can start with canned if it's easier), red onions, cubes of feta cheese, and chopped romano or cherry tomatoes; add olive oil and a bit of balsamic or lemon (if you want, I just like it plain).

Warm or 'wilted' greens are yummy, if not quite a salad. You can just chop spinach (of course) or any other dark green - kale, swiss chard - and heat it with olive oil until they darken a little but evenly, and before they release water. Quick squeeze of lemon (garlic if you like) and salt and you're good. Nice with fish.

You could do like a guacamole thing. Squish up avocado, tomatos, lime, and chopped onion & garlic. You could have that on toast.

Or you might roast and then chop red and yellow peppers, throw a bit of garlic & olive oil on em. Or do the same with eggplant. Or all together.

You could chuck nuts or seeds onto any salad (I like sunflower seeds, walnuts, hazelnuts).

Agree about getting quality veg, especially tomatoes... nothing more obnoxious or depressing than a fluorescent tomato. (On that - some, like me, avoid vinegar or lemon on tomatoes - can be very acidic.)
posted by nelljie at 10:40 PM on December 28, 2010

I find it challenging to get enough vegetables and greenery into my diet, and I know it would be much easier if I ate salad.

Not really?

There are lots of different vegetable dishes out there that aren't salad. Pick up just about any cookbook and turn to the "vegetables" section. Voila!

The problem is that there seems to be an infinite number of combinations of salad so I don't know where to start.

Also lettuce makes me gag a little, literally.

These are two very different problems.

If the problem is that you don't know "where to start" in making a salad, I'd recommend a cookbook with some salad recipes. There are probably cookbooks entirely devoted to salads and only salads, in fact. You should definitely be able to get ideas there. French cookbooks are often good because the concept of a salad as we Americans know it ultimately comes from French cuisine; and French cookbooks will have a ton of classic salad ideas which make a fantastic jumping off point.

If the problem is that you need to eat more salads but you don't like lettuce... ummmm.... maybe make some salads that don't have lettuce in them? There are salads out there which are composed entirely of non-leafy vegetables, as well as salads based around other greens like spinach, arugula, frisee, etc.
posted by Sara C. at 10:56 PM on December 28, 2010

I only started getting into salads this past year. The way I think about making them isn't too different from making a main entree.

For example, in spaghetti you've got your pasta, your sauce and your accents (cheese, meatball, etc.). The green leafy stuff is your base, the dressing is the sauce, and all the extra accents is whatever you like (cheese, meat, etc.)

The "accents" is what helps me not get tired of salad. Like it's the stuff you really want to eat while you're also eating the leafy stuff. Feeling crunchy? Apples and candied walnuts. Want protein? Salmon, shrimp, , hardboiled egg, chicken and/or avocado. Want color? Cherry tomatoes, sliced peppers, shredded carrots. Salad dressing can also add a kick too. Trader Joe's has fun flavor combinations. I also like using sesame oil.

It's just another opportunity to play around with food - both visually and flavor wise, which I think is most of the fun. And since you're making it, you can put whatever you like in it. I hate lettuce so I usually go with baby spinach or mixed greens. In the summer, I think all I did was throw lobster or crab meat with avocado onto my greens.

Man, I'm totally having salad today. 3 straight days of Christmas cookies, candy and leftovers are killing me.
posted by zix at 7:17 AM on December 29, 2010

There are a lot of great suggestions in response to this question I asked. It really upped my salad intake.
posted by punchtothehead at 8:56 AM on December 29, 2010

On a slight tangent, if the goal is "I want to be eating more vegetables and enjoying the experience" rather than "I want to learn to like salads", try green smoothies. You can hide half a bunch or more of spinach, kale, collards, or romaine lettuce in a smoothie and be unable to detect its presence. My husband (veg-averse by nature but made the mistake of marrying a produce-loving Californian) can testify to this. "I'm getting three servings of kale in this glass of something that tastes like a banana-almond butter-chocolate milkshake? Damn, pour me another!"

He also thinks they're a gateway drug, as he's found himself enjoying salads a lot more since we've been drinking green smoothies, without deliberately trying to. No guarantee on that front, but you never know...
posted by Lexica at 10:17 AM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am generally not a fan of salad .. until I figured out how to make an easy and tasty one. Making my own dressing was key. Most store bought dressings are too strong in flavor for me.

I make this nearly every day for lunch:

Red Onion
Diced Cucumbers
Shredded Carrots
Grape Tomatoes
1/2 Avocado

About two cup-fuls of Canola Oil --- (not Olive oil .. its too strong)
About four big drops of Red Wine Vinegar
A little bit of Agave Nectar -- (this adds a nice sweet flavor)

I mix up the dressing and toss the whole salad with it.
posted by duckus at 9:04 PM on December 29, 2010

So this was basically me. I never ate salad, except occasionally caesar (and really I might as well have had a cheeseburger...). Over the course of a year, I experimented with making salads and now I can make what I think can reasonably be called a restaurant quality salad. This is what I eat 4 or 5 nights a week. I use a big shallow metal bowl.

Spring mix or baby spinach
Red onion
Avocado (very important to my salad enjoyment)
Goat Cheese, .5 - 1 ounces crumpled
Sometimes marinated artichoke hearts but try to get all the oil out before adding
Walnuts (optional and high fat so measure before adding)
***HIGH quality infused olive oil, this makes all the difference, invest in a $20 or $30 bottle and only use on salads, each bottle I buy lasts about a year, if not longer. Right now I have rosemary and a few others.
***HIGH quality infused balsamic vinegar, I usually go for the fruit ones, right now I have fig, very good.
SALT and pepper

Now put all these ingredients in the big bowl. Measure out the olive oil and vinegar. For a huge entrée size salad you should not use more than 1 teaspoon each of olive oil and vinegar. I think using equal amounts tastes best. I usually only add 1/2 teaspoon of each. Add at least 1/4 teaspoon of salt to an entrée size salad (sometimes I use up to 1/2 teaspoon but these are large salads) and freshly ground pepper. Now toss the salad very well. The goat cheese should be in crumbly small pieces so that the goat cheese disintegrates a big when you are tossing it and coats the lettuce along with the olive oil and vinegar. This makes the salad taste almost like it has a creamy dressing on it, but for a fraction of the calories and with a far richer and more complex taste. So toss it really well until it's coated.

Now add:

Protein: Salmon, chicken, shrimp, scallops, prosciutto, but really whatever you want, Trader Joes is great for this

So that's my salad. I also highly recommend making your own salad dressing from scratch. Bottle dressing from the store is universally god awful and making your own dressing is remarkedly easy, although I think it's unnecessary if you use high quality olive oil and vinegar with salt and toss your salad well. I really think the key to finding a salad you like is using the vegetables you like (and just those vegetables, I don't like vegetable and 3/4 of the vegetables I will eat are in this salad) and then trying out different types of lettuce to find what you like (it matters more than you might think) and then finding a dressing you like.
posted by whoaali at 12:53 AM on December 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Seriously, did you try the potatoes??
posted by Glendale at 5:25 PM on December 30, 2010

chop up a jalapeno. put it in soy sauce. stick it in the fridge overnight.
*magic dressing*
posted by kristymcj at 5:46 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Glendale is right - potatoes are great for salad. I usually boil up three or four baby potatoes, halve them and mix them through a salad of greens, tomatoes, chicken and avocado. It's filling enough to be a main meal. Tuna and pasta is a good mix too, and I've also tossed a handful of cooked white rice into a bowl of rocket, spinach, tomato, scallions and avocado. The dressing is definitely key as well - even a spoonful of balsamic vinegar will do and when I'm buying salad at the deli I get them to put in a spoonful of mashed boiled egg with mayo, which is easily enough to coat the lot. I also buy those little tins of dressed tuna, like red onion and tomato or lemon and black pepper, which are good to use as a main dressing. Try something like mango or other fruit as well, especially if having a strong meat as well. I had mango and mackerel salad earlier - yum.
posted by mudkicker at 9:26 PM on December 30, 2010

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