Many of us grew up with “salad” being nothing more than a few flavorless leaves of iceberg lettuce, strips of purple cabbage, a few shredded carrots and a handful sliced cucumbers. At many restaurants, this is still the “house salad” that is served with your meal. No wonder salad isn’t a welcome sight at the table!
But there’s a whole world of flavorful, appetizing greens out there. A world that makes salad full of excitement, pizzazz, and incredible flavors. A world that offers a perfectly balanced meal: proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals all in one dish. A world that is delicious and nutritious at the same time.
Sure, romaine lettuce can jazz things up a bit by adding a slightly darker color and more nutrition than iceberg lettuce, but why stop there? Thanks to the staggering variety of produce now available in most grocery stores, you don’t need to be limited to only the greens that are most familiar. Many of the other greens and small cabbages available year round can add crunch, color, and a hefty dose of nutrients to your salads, whether you serve them as an appetizer or the main dish.
Here’s a look at how three lettuces and cabbages stack up in terms of the percent daily value (DV), per 100-gram serving:
Radicchio is a rock star! Not only does this reddish-purple colored cabbage add great color to a dish, it’s a vitamin K powerhouse, too. Endive and arugula also deliver high amounts of vitamin K, along with substantial amounts of folate and vitamin C. Vitamin C is not heat-stable, so try to get some from foods typically consumed raw. Beyond citrus fruits, good places to get vitamin C include raw include tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers.
Back to radicchio: grilling is a very popular way to enjoy this veggie, as it brings out its natural
sweetness. Add a little balsamic vinegar and freshly grated parmesan, and voilá! Radicchio is slightly bitter, but this can be welcome in a salad that’s presented as a starter, since bitter flavors help your digestion.
Arugula is a tender green with a deliciously light peppery twist. When added to a salad of mixed greens, it helps add a sophisticated depth of flavor. Because of its bitterness, it pairs well with sweet foods: try combining it with juicy watermelon and salty, firm feta cheese in a refreshing summer salad. In cooler autumn weather, arugula is dynamite with pears or red grapes and goat cheese. A salad of arugula with pumpkin seeds and shaved parmesan in a red wine vinaigrette is an easy way to impress dinner guests.
Endive lends itself to both hot and cold preparations. It can be braised, or served in a gratin with ham and cheese. Eaten raw in a salad, classic pairings for endive are blue cheese, pears, and walnuts or pecans. We also love it with dried cranberries for a little sweetness to blend with the tangy, pungent blue cheese! Individual leaves of raw endive can be used as “boats” or holding vessels for chicken, tuna, or egg salad for simple but eye-catching hors d’oeuvres. Also a fun way for kids to eat with their hands. Could also be especially helpful to make “sandwiches” for kids who are gluten or grain-free – endives means no bread is needed! You can also buy curly endive that are leafy like mustard greens. Many pre-packed mixed greens have curly endive in them.
These greens are equal-opportunity ingredients! They all work beautifully with every dietary approach out there: paleo, vegan, vegetarian, low-carb, gluten-free, dairy-free, diabetic, and more. They’re extremely low in calories, carbohydrates, and fat. People can consume a large quantity of them without racking up energy density or spiking blood glucose and insulin. They’re high in fiber and, by weight, their largest component is water — per 100-gram serving of endive, radicchio, or arugula, between 91 and 94 grams are pure water! How amazing it is that so many nutrients can be crammed into foods that mostly consist of water?! This also means that a large, crisp salad can be a fantastic way to help yourself stay hydrated.
Want to spice up and beautify your salad intake? There are tons of awesome resources out there, but today we’ll just share two of our favorites:
(1) Mark’s Daily Apple has an incredible outline of the basics of salad-making: your base, add-in’s, proteins, oils, acids, and spices/herbs. They have some awesome salad dressing recipes towards the bottom, too!
(2) We also love consulting the Salad Pairing Guide when we’re in the mood to try something new. If you get bored with your normal salad routine, this will be a perfect resource for you.