How to Make an (Awesome) Salad

July 30th, 2010 | Posted by Alison Spath in Dinner Time

A dear reader named Kenzie left a comment the other day asking me to do a post about how I make my salads and what I put in them. Turns out I just so happen to have “Big Giant Salad” on the dinner menu tonight! Here’s how I make a salad that will knock your (and maybe even someone else’s!) socks off.

Step 1: Start with a beautiful head of lettuce. Something OTHER than iceberg for crying out loud please. Red leaf is typically my head of choice, but green leaf or romaine work nicely.  Don’t be afraid to throw in spinach, arugula, dandelion or other mixed field greens too if you’ve got ’em.

A Head of Red Leaf Lettuce

Optional Step 1a: If you’ll be photographing your lettuce before you tear it to shreds, take it outside where natural light is abundant. This will be your best shot at getting the best shot of this gorgeous piece of red-greenery.

Step 2: Tear up lettuce to be washed in salad spinner.

Take note! Tear lettuce in large bite-ish sized pieces OFF the spine. You’ll find no spines in my salad. Spines bad! Leaves good!

A Red Leaf

You’ll know you did it right if you’re left with this:


(Don’t eat that part.)

Repeat.  And repeat.  And repeat and repeat and repeat until you get to the heart of the head.  Coo lovingly at those sweet little leaves in the middle that are so dang cute and tender.  Rinse leaves well in your salad spinner and then start the spin cycle.

It takes me about 10 minutes or so to rip through a good sized head of red leaf lettuce and it’s worth every minute.  I typically tear up a whole head at once and have a nice bowl full of greens for easy salads/sandwiches/wraps for the next couple of days.  This is also the best way to ensure any head of red leaf gets eaten before it’s forgotten and is turned into a head of slimy brown leaf at the bottom of my produce drawer.

Head in a Bowl

Lettuce torn up, Step 3: would be to head out to the garden to fetch yourself a fatty cucumber. (For sensitive, self conscious cucumbers, refrain from calling it a fatty and instead consider the term big boned.)

Big Boned

Step 3a: Try your damnedest not to sink your teeth into that thing as you walk back into the house.

Step 3b: Slice.


I don’t peel it – the skin is where all the good stuff is, yo! I’ll cut it length wise and de-seed if I’m in the mood.  Friday night rowdiness around here = cucumbers with the seeds still in them.

Cucumber sliced, the carrot is next on the list to meet it’s maker. Enter Step 4.

Carrot and Shredder

Wondering how I took that pic if one hand is holding the grater and another hand is holding the carrot? I know you are!


Have someone else take the picture? Psssh – too predictable! What if your husband is at a party and your 6 year old is currently out of your hair and you want to keep it that way?

It’s called your chin and your chest and the timer on your camera.  I do all my own stunts.

Back to Step 4.  Wash carrot.  Don’t peel.  Grate.  Eat the last little nub instead of adding “shredded knuckle” to the list of salad ingredients.

Carrot Shred

Step 5: Half a red pepper, de-seed and slice.

Half a red pepper

Step 6: Fetch yourself an organically grown tomato from your CSA stash.

CSA Tomato

Step 6a: Slice and de-seed.

Cucumber seeds? Maybe. Tomato seeds? Deal breaker. Might as well throw the whole dang salad straight into the compost. Forget it. Go eat a Big Mac, a fake milkshake, let a big ol’ belch rip and go to bed if you’re not going to cut the seeds out of the tomato.

De-seeded Tomatoes

What? Am I the only one who feels that way about tomato seeds?

If I have an abundance of time and am feeling motivated, I will chop up a ton of vegetables at once to make throwing salads together really fast and easy.  If I’m feeling lazy I’ll just get the lettuce part done and pat myself on the back for being that much ahead of the game for next time around.

OK so where was I?  Oh right.  Step 7.  Dig around for whatever other salad-ish vegetables you have in your fridge.

Green Beans

Step 8: Shout “rock out!” when you realize you’ve got fresh green beans to add to the mix!   Chop up into 1″ (exactly!) pieces, cut off those weird little tail-y and stem-y things and throw them into the compost pile with those shunned lettuce spines and pepper and tomato seeds.

Step 9: Add a couple tablespoons of your salad dressing of choice. Mine might be smashed avocado with salsa if I’m feeling like bottled dressings are the devil (like sometimes you do). If you are feeling less resentful of bottled dressings, a few of my current favs are Organicville Miso Ginger, Annie’s Goddess Dressing or like I used tonight – Good Seasons Italian Dressing made with apple cider vinegar and canola oil.

Good Seasons Italian Dressing

Step 10: Put the lid on that bowl good and tight cause otherwise it’s gonna get ugly in Step 11.

Put lid on tight!

Step 11: [Stock photo] I like my salads shaken, not stirred.

I'll Say It

Step 12: Dump dressing covered salad into a large salad bowl.  Take said bowl outside.  See Step 1 for explanation if you’ve already forgotten why this important.  If you will not be photographing your salad, just eat it straight out of the first bowl you used to toss it in like a complete heathen.


Step 13: Bring salad back inside and eat at computer while you write up this post.

Step 14: Hurry and click Publish and go check on your kids cause it’s awfully quiet up there.

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15 Responses

  • Jane/you-know-who says:

    So beautiful….that salad is JUST what I would eat. very nice.

    And this is my favorite out-of-context part of the post: “to fetch yourself a fatty”

  • Darn good looking salad, girl. Now if I could just plant that garden so I could walk out and get that cuke…ol if my CSA had any tomatoes yet…soon I hope.

  • I love that you do your own stunts… awesome!

    I deseed my tomatoes too! They are bitter and gross… glad I’m not the only one. :)

    Great looking salad!

  • Cynthia K says:

    I love your camera stunt! I thought about doing that before for something I wanted both my hands in, but I’m really far too lazy to try to find the timer on my camera, so I just didn’t take whatever the picture was. : /

    Veggie seeds in the compost got me an accidental compost garden this year–tomatoes and spaghetti squash! Does this mean I’m doing a poor job of composting? Absolutely. Is my accident garden doing much better than my actual garden? Absolutely. I think I’m just going to start throwing it all into the garden willy-nilly when the season’s over for the year.

    And I agree about the quiet being disturbing. I was disturbed by quiet yesterday and went into the living room to find my 2-year-old dotting diaper rash cream on her fingernails like polish.

  • Mackenzie says:

    Wow, thanks for fulfilling my request! Awesome :) And you could never write too much about running!

  • Allie says:

    Why are the spines bad? Are we not supposed to eat them? I love eating them; they’re so crunchy. Now I’m afraid there’s something bad about spines I don’t know about!

  • Alison says:

    Oh, sorry Allie… no, spines aren’t bad! I just don’t like them! I like the dark green leafy stuff.

  • Allie says:

    Oooh, ok phew! hahah. I was like, OH NO THE SPINES WILL GIVE ME CANCER OR SOMETHING haha,

  • Reading this i finally took a break from this work. I run a hardware store, and i get kinda stress throughout the day =) your site just gave me a few minutes of relax ^__^ I wish i could find a rss feed on your site, so that i could subscribe for some more. Ill be sure to come here more often from now on =)

  • Maria says:

    I just came across your blog when I looked up “How to make an awesome salad” in a search engine. Just reading this salad tutorial, I found you so entertaining. I love your sense of humor. I will definitely be bookmarking the site. Thanks.

  • This was fun to read, and your camera trick had me laughing! I love that you don’t peel your carrots… nice entry!

  • Nazanin says:

    You are awesome! I love your blogs and your sense of humour!!