Give your salads some ZSA, ZSA, ZSU!

By admin
September 13, 2017

Salad baked eggplant and fresh tomatoes

You don’t have to graduate culinary school to construct a fall salad that rings the bell on the zsa, zsa, zsu scale. You just need to know how to assemble some basics ingredients that will take your salads from wimpy to wow!

Shopping and meal planning are tough under the best circumstances. When you throw in busy work schedules, afterschool activities and all the other pressures that can ravage the limited time you have, the next thing you know it’s as though your SUV has become a driverless vehicle and it is inexplicably heading for the nearest fast food restaurant. PUT ON THE BRAKES! Great meals start long before it’s time to crank up the stove or pull out the chopping board. Some wise shopping ahead of time for flexible staples that can be used to pull together a healthy salad in minutes can save you time and unnecessary dinnertime stress (while keeping you out of the fast food line). Shopping is much easier when you only have to pick up the more perishable portions of your recipe.

BASICS Many of the ingredients that can make a salad super are already in your refrigerator or pantry. If not, you can stock up on a few of them next time you are at the grocery store. Here are just a few basics:

  • eggsWB.Eggs19785842Medium
  • bacon
  • black beans (canned)
  • whole kernel corn (canned)
  • salsa (jar)
  • black olives (canned)
  • pecans, almonds or walnuts
  • quinoa
  • couscous

FRESH The second category of ingredients goes on your fresh ingredients list to buy no more than a week in advance. Here are just a few to choose from:

  • spinach, kale, arugula, green leaf, red leaf, romaine or baby lettuce
  • purple onion
  • tomatoes
  • mushroomsPepper.
  • avocado
  • asparagus
  • red or yellow bell pepper
  • apples
  • pears
  • grapes
  • cucumber
  • yellow squash, zucchini (roasted or raw)
  • blue cheese, shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese, feta cheese

UPGRADES Upgrade your salad with some ingredients you should buy no more than two days in advance – lean meat, poultry or fish:

  • chicken breast or rotisserie chickenFresh salmon with parsley and lemon
  • top sirloin steak
  • shrimp
  • tuna steak
  • salmon

These ingredients, with the exception of the rotisserie chicken, which is already cooked, can be grilled, pan seared or baked quickly.

DRESSING Top off your masterpiece with dressings you can make ahead or purchase to have on hand. You know your family’s preferences, but some basic choices include:

  • vinaigrette dressingSalad Dressings
  • balsamic vinaigrette
  • ranch dressing
  • blue cheese dressing

TOPPINGS Other tasty toppings may be added for the flavor and crunch factor:

  • croutonsSmall pile of herb croutons on a white background
  • pita chips
  • taco chips
  • fried wonton strips
  • sunflower seeds

Now the fun begins. You have the makings of your own signature salads. Think about flavors that complement one another, then mix and match the ingredients for a variety of flavors, colors and textures.

Some classic pairings are a great place to start. Here are a few:

  • Chicken: apples, pecans, cranberries, cucumber, red leaf lettuce
  • Egg: purple onion, bacon, cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach
  • Steak: red bell pepper, mushrooms, pecans, purple onion, blue cheese, baby lettuce
  • Salmon: asparagus, cucumber, green bell pepper, green leaf lettuce
  • Black Olives: bell pepper, tomatoes, cucumber and feta cheese, romaine lettuce
  • Black Beans: corn, tomatoes, salsa, cheddar cheese green leaf lettuce

For information about how you can soup up your salads even more with herbs and spices perfectly paired to the ingredients you are using, visit and search for an article published in 2017, “Using Herbs in Everyday Cooking.”

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