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salads with lettuce

Right off the bat, I’ll admit I’ve made practice wings for dinner the last two nights in a row. Batch #1, tear-inducing ghost chili wings from hell, can be seen here. Batch #2 were our very own Honey-Sriracha Wings. By batches, I mean two dozen. And now I’m ready for a nice green salad. But not a boring romaine or spinach salad from the nice deli. And really not a boring iceberg salad from the crappy deli. 

Salads are not about making lettuce taste like something. They’re about taking the best greens you can find and building your way up. Whichever dressing you choose (or make) should be so lucky to come along for the ride, ditto vegetables and protein.

  • Frisée is definitely one of those best greens. Also known as curly endive or chicory, frisée has a fresh, bitter, slightly grassy flavor. Owing to its springy, voluminous structure, it makes a great “nest” for a fried or poached egg and is very high in fiber and Vitamin A. A traditional salade Lyonnaise involves a poached egg, bacon and croutons on top of frisée, drizzled with vinaigrette.
  • Hiyashi wakame, or seaweed salad, is chewy and snappy, kind of like noodles. Typically made from a combination of seaweeds with different textures and varying levels of salinity, this salad welcomes crisp vegetables with a high water content like cucumbers and radishes to offset the saltiness.
  • Dandelion greens pack a heck of a lot of bitterness into a small package. But it’s worth it — this is one of the most nutritionally dense salads you can eat. Forage for them yourself or buy a bunch at the specialty market, and if the taste is a little overwhelming, stir-fry them to take some of the edge off
  • Finally, kale has officially attained the position of my favorite salad green. Trimming off the top few inches is a wise move, as the tender, more flavorful stuff lies beneath. While it still has the signature strong flavor of a dark, leafy green, it lends itself to a classic Caesar much better than Romaine. The salad trick du jour is massaging a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice into ribbons of kale and watching it turn bright green. 

And if you still find these greens a little too bitter for offsetting the minor infraction of eating two dozen wings in two days, try adding some fruit. It works for cheese.