As the wise Homer Simpson once pointed out, you don’t win friends with salad! At least not when they’re as bland as the ones you probably grew up eating. Whether you’re vegetarian or just looking for a good recipe for Meatless Monday, a strong salad game is essential to eating better and, most importantly, enjoying eating better. Look outside basic ingredients like lettuce and tomato and get creative with your veggies, starting with these expert tips from Chef Hugh Acheson. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom to check out his tasty recipe for a delish charred carrot and scallion salad, followed by some Newman’s Own contest details to make your salad even better.
Chef Hugh’s Salad Tips
1. Store your lettuce correctly. Don’t make the mistake of just throwing it in the crisper drawer. Instead, wrap the lettuce in a damp paper towel and keep it in a sealable plastic bag.
2. Expand your vision of the crouton. A store-bought bag isn’t the only way to add crunch to a salad. Bagel chips and farro are great crispy substitutes.
3. Use what’s in your fridge. Rather than going out and buying what you think you need, use the ingredients you already have on hand. Waste not, want not.
4. Make it a full meal by using apples, pears and some good cheese. You don’t need to buy a big salad in order to feel full.
5. Break out the pickles. Remember that jar of pickles you have somewhere in the fridge? It’s not just for burgers.
6. Recreate tastes from classic dishes. “The Italian sub salad is a beautiful thing,” says Chef Hugh, and we have to agree. Throw together some salami, crisp lettuce, cheese, pepperoncini, tomatoes and oregano, and mama mia! You’ve got a hearty and healthy meal.
7. Sesame seeds make things awesome. And they couldn’t be easier to throw on top.
8. Use tofu to get your daily protein. Just crisp it in the oven beforehand to give it a whole new texture.
Charred Carrot and Scallion Salad With Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette
— 1 bunch fresh carrots with tops (about 12 medium-sized carrots)
— 1 tbsp canola oil
— 1 bunch scallions, top 3” of dark green cut away, roots removed
— 1 ripe avocado
— 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
— 1/4 cup roasted almonds, chopped
— 1/2 bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley, stems removed, leaves left whole
— 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
— 3 tbsp Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette
— Kosher salt to taste
— Freshly ground pepper to taste
— Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to taste
1. With a knife, remove the top inch from the carrot tops, just above where the carrot meets the green. Soak the bright green tops in cold water. Wash the carrots well and place them on paper towel to drain and dry thoroughly. Coarsely chop and set them aside for later use.
2. Heat the canola oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots to the pan and slowly brown for five minutes. Turn them over and char for five more minutes. Remove the carrots from the heat and place them on a cutting board to mellow out.
3. Add the scallions to the pan and char for five minutes. Remove them to a cutting board.
4. Cut the charred carrots on a bias into 2-inch pieces. Place them in a large bowl. Cut the scallions into 2-inch lengths, also on a bias, and add to the carrots.
5. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit and cut each half into halves. Peel away the skin of the avocados, then cut the avocado flesh into large cubes and add to the bowl. Add the lime juice, almonds, parsley leaves, 1 cup of loosely packed chopped carrot fronds and sesame seeds to the bowl, and gently toss.
6. Dress with the Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette, gently toss again and season to taste with the salt and pepper. Using a rasp, grate Parmigiano-Reggiano over the salad.
Newman’s Own “Greens for Good” Contest
Chef Hugh came up with this recipe as part of the Newman’s Own “Greens for Good” contest, which he will be judging alongside other experts. Submit an original salad recipe that features a Newman’s Own salad dressing and the winner’s favorite charity will receive a $35,000 donation. Better yet, the top nine runners-up will get to choose charities to receive a $1,000 donation. All submissions are due by August 21, 2015 and you can check out the official contest rules at Newman’s Own.
So put Chef Hugh’s tips to the test, shake up a killer salad and go put your greens to good use.
What do you do to amp up a salad? Tell us your secret ingredients in the comments!
(Chef Hugh’s salad photo via Newman’s Own)