It’s 2015 and we’re all leaf eaters.
We drown our salads in delicious dressings with names that take us to happier places, places that are miles from Saladtown: Italian (Italy), Champagne (a bar in France), Ranch (a distant uncle’s house), Thousand Islands (one of many islands). We capitalize the first letter of all dressings out of respect and gratitude.
But the point of salad is not to eat good. It’s to eat well.
So we’re ditching the dressing by isolating the best parts of a salad. Next time you cruise the fridge or size up the salad bar, try a dressing-free salad with at least 3 of the following 13 ingredients. Avoid the 6 or 7 or 8 bad ones I couldn’t avoid listing. And if you still don’t like how it tastes, I recommend you add salad dressing.
Famously known as “the watermelon’s cousin,” cucumbers do it all. Good crunch, good health-feel, watery flavor. Feeling ambitious? Take the peel off for better taste. Feeling tired and sad because you’re about to eat salad? Leave the peel on because of something about nutrients.
All side salads come with a single big cucumber front and center. That lone cucumber is the restaurant’s way of saying “yeah, we’re not sure what to do here but we can’t lose too much on cucumbers.”
2) Olives (green)
Olives are a food version of salad dressing because they make salads better and are probably not good for us. The green olive packs the most flavor and salt. Use sparingly.
3) Olives (black)
Most store-bought black olives don’t exist in nature, unless you count jars that cost $1.19 as natural. (Do you?) The best black olive, according to scientists, typically comes from the “Medium” store-brand jar.
4) Iceberg lettuce
By far the crunchiest and least work-appropriate member of the lettuce family. Iceberg lettuce commands respect with its evocative name and out-of-this-world structural integrity.
Iceberg lettuce may not have sunk the Titanic, but…well, I take it back. The Titanic would have no problem sailing through iceberg lettuce (assuming it was on top of lots of water).
Tomatoes taste far worse than tomato sauce but better than tomato juice. Smaller bites are best. I recommend buying the small cherry tomatoes and cutting each one into sixteenths for just the right tiny and controlled flavor explosion.
Big tomatoes look cool and taste more like their ancestor, the V-8 juice. Points for looks and color. Negative points for unpredictable amount of juice per bite.
Whoever came up with the idea of “good fat” can take a bow. Avocado makes everything a little better unless you’re eating it by itself. Kinda weird by itself.
Pairs nicely with the tomato.
7) Red onions
Croutons drenched in salad dressing taste quite good. But you’re also ruining the point of the salad, which is to punish yourself with healthy food in order to justify the pizza. For that reason, beware the mighty crouton.
The hearty deep green color lets everyone know you’re serious about your health. And isn’t that kinda what we’re doing here? I like spinach (not for eating though).
FUN FACT: Spinach is considered the most forkable member of the lettuce family.
Fruit always makes vegetable-based salad taste better, but it’s never quite at home, either. Let’s exclude fruit salads, and let’s not get into the actual definition of fruit.
Let’s forget I brought up fruit.
Cheese, go away. This is salad.
12) Carrots (matchsticks)
The more colorful the salad, the better. Apart from oranges, carrots are the only food that is consistently orange. TIP: Make sure you use the matchstick version of carrots. WARNING: They’re expensive for some reason. TIP: If you must use baby carrots, make sure to sharpen your forks before guests arrive. TIP: Just buy new forks.
I love kale because it tastes the way I feel when I tuck into a salad: a little sad, a little angry, a little proud, a little bitter. Kale just gets it.
TIP: Avoid kale.