Need Creative Salad Ideas for Dinner Party
September 29, 2017 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Looking for outside the box salad ideas.

I've been asked to to bring the salad to a dinner party for 6 tomorrow night. The entrees are a roast rib for meat eaters and a squash veggie dish for vegetarians. I could bring a green salad with cucs, tomatoes, kalamata olives, etc., but I'd love ideas for salads outside the box. Something unusual, interesting, different, that works well. I looked at a previous question about "Go-To Salads" and got two ideas (the nicoise without tuna, and the arugula, shaved fennel, parmesan, dressed in lemon juice and olive oil), but would love more.

Also looking for interestingly presented salads.

Constraints: No mushrooms, no kale, no broccoli/cauliflower/cabbage, no avocado, no goat cheese, no feta, not predominantly spinach. No pork or other meat.

I'd like to use arugula, but I also have mixed spring greens available. Or maybe a no-greens salad? A warm salad?

posted by mmw to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
What about an Italian bread salad? I find it's generally a big hit at parties. I usually use the slightly easier Jamie Oliver version of the recipe.
posted by frumiousb at 4:01 PM on September 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Depending on the squash dish, something like this butternut squash salad could be nice, or could be too much squash.
posted by the primroses were over at 4:12 PM on September 29, 2017

This peach, quinoa, and chipotle salad is one of my favorite, but it's so filling that I usually do it as a main dish.

Here's a summer salad that uses arugula.

Late summer is a great time for tomatoes, so tomato and pomegranate?

How about a chaat salad?
posted by tofu_crouton at 4:23 PM on September 29, 2017

Came to suggest a panzanella, which is the same thing as the Italian bread salad frumiousb suggested. My favorite version involves the bread tossed with tomatoes, cucumbers, slivered red onions or shallots, and crescenza, a mild soft-ripened cheese. Fresh mozzarella chunks are also great in it. You could use any cheese you like, though, or omit it entirely. You can get as creative or not with the ingredients as you like.

This Grilled peppers and torn mozzarella panzanella is also great. Honestly just browsing around Smitten Kitchen's salad tag will give you lots of great ideas.

This brussels sprouts salad has impressed many dinner party guests. Or is that too close to cabbage?
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:26 PM on September 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: That Brussels sprouts salad looks scrumptious.
posted by mmw at 4:43 PM on September 29, 2017

This salad is so, so delicious. You can leave off the goat cheese, or bring a small log of chèvre so those who enjoy it can add it to their servings. The maple roasted carrots and cranberries feel appropriately seasonal to boot! Truly my favorite arugula-based salad of 2017, and I eat a LOT of arugula.
posted by little mouth at 4:45 PM on September 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't know where you are, but where I am it's possible to get in-season tomatoes and pomegranates right now, so this gorgeous salad is possible.
posted by pinochiette at 5:35 PM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

You want unconventional, outside the box, bleeding edge of salads? You want to use arugula?

Well my friend I think you're in luck.
I humbly present: Teacup Jello Salad with Arugula. It also features toasted pecans and ricotta.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:44 PM on September 29, 2017

This is like a Waldorf salad, but you halve the apple and scoop out the flesh and use the apple halves as little bowls (or even stick them back together). Make it with a Waldorf dressing or a mustard vinagrette.

Lemon juice (to prevent browning)
2 T. chopped celery
1 T. chopped walnuts
1 T. Dressing

Cut apple in half from stem to base. Remove core (try a melon baller). Scoop out almost all the meat, dice, and place in bowl with 1 T. lemon juice. (Brush inside of apple with lemon juice too.) Add celery, nuts, and dressing; toss. Fill apple halves with this mix and fit back together. Wrap in foil or plastic; chill well.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:43 PM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I brought a delicious salad to a rosh hashanah dinner last week and it was incredibly well-received. Someone asked me for the dressing recipe! I was going with the themes of the holiday, which are also very seasonal.

Dressing (from
3 tbsp golden balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp chopped shallots
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon water
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh black pepper, to taste

(That is the recipe I use when I make the dressing for my family at home. When I made it for a crowd, I found I needed to add more oil and honey...or maybe I screwed it up and then had to adjust!)

- Greens (I used mixed greens that also included herbs)
- Thinly sliced honeycrisp apples (squeeze lemon to prevent browning)
- Golden raisins
- Pomegranate seeds (you can find the seeds at the grocery store, or you can seed pomegranates yourself if you have the patience)
- Sliced almonds
posted by radioamy at 7:54 PM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is a bit more of a spring salad, but it's well balanced:

1 medium onion
1 large bulb fennel
1 tart green apple
1 ripe Bartlett pear
Crumbled blue cheese

Shave the onion and the fennel, thinly slice the apple and the pear. Dress with a simple lemon vinegrette. Go easy on the blue cheese, otherwise it can take over.
posted by Diablevert at 8:08 PM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Gado Gado!
posted by emeiji at 11:52 AM on September 30, 2017

Beetroot, orange and black olives is an unusual killer combo for a salad. Mix it up by busing blood orange and golden baby beetroots if you can find them.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 2:16 PM on September 30, 2017

I am on mobile and having hassles linking and searching, but, some years ago I asked something along the lines of "help me up my grain salad game," and it got some excellent answers, well worth digging up. ("Grain" also meant bean, legume, etc; you get the idea.)

Years ago a restaurant here had me as a frequent customer just over a salad they did. It is off the menu and I am no longer a patron. It relied on fairly quickly wilted spinach -- quickly dressed with a hot balsamic vinaigrette -- arugula would play nice there too -- and the centre had...oh, I don't know anymore. The fabulousness came from the quickly wilted spinach paired with pan-fried potato slices, and, as it sort of lives on in my house, the outer ring of "baby spinach," wilted and warmed, and a centre full of the sliced fried potatoes (perhaps with a little cornmeal for extra texture? they were not deep fried, but the texture was important), and this warm mess quickly gets chopped tomato, this point I use mostly (oh, the shame, yes, whatever) pre-grilled pre-marinated veg that I get from a good deli or good jars. Marinated mushrooms, roasted artichokes. A poached egg thrown in is heaven; a semi-hard boiled egg you did up some hours before works well too.

And this warm mess was usually topped with pine nuts and/or freshly made croutons, and chèvre is NOT OKAY for REASONS so I won't mention how nicely that quickly becomes part of a creamy dressing. But shaved asiago, or any other hard, fairly strong, cheese on top will work well.

The green around the edges says "salad!" But as much as I, 2nd generation vegetarian raising the 3rd, love a good salad salad, this one is a pile of warm filling goodness that only met a "chef salad" once in passing at a park. The vegetarians who are watching others eat filling, pricy protein will, if I and others I know in my "pain in the bum dinner guest" foodie tribe as I think I do, thrill to a thing that has warmth, and flavour (if you are at a loss: 1/3 olive oil, 1/3 balsamic, and 1/3 maple syrup is a perfect dressing here -- and a light sprinkle of poppy or plain sesame seeds, if you haven't got pine nuts, will not go unappreciated), and protein.

Alternatively: serve a very plain green salad. Serve it with marinated and hot and deliciously grilled halloumi cheese strips over it?
posted by kmennie at 12:57 AM on October 2, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! A lot of these sound great and some quite interesting! I appreciate the help. I ended up doing the arugula, fennel, and Pecorino romano with a light lemon dressing, from a previous Ask Me Fi posting, partly because I was short on time and partly because it was very simple and paired well with the complexity of the other dishes at the dinner. But I will be printing these suggestions out and using them in future.
posted by mmw at 4:11 AM on October 4, 2017

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