Kenji Lopez-Alt is the chief creative officer of Serious Eats, where he writes The Food Lab, unraveling the science of home cooking.
Q: I want to eat salad more—do you have a taste trick?
A: “It’s not that I don’t like salads,” I thought a few years back when I made up my mind to get some more salads into my diet. “It’s just that I can’t stand store-bought dressing.” Fresh, homemade vinaigrette is great, but who wants to make one up for every meal? So I devised a trick to help make it simple and convenient to get salads into my diet.
The first step to convenience and deliciousness? Rather than measuring out the oil, vinegar, and aromatics every time, I keep a couple of squeeze bottles full of my favorite vinaigrettes in the fridge, ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice. To make things even faster, I write the recipe—with measurement indications—right on the bottle with a marker.
For instance, for my basic red wine vinaigrette, I write “1 tsp mustard” and “1 clove garlic” at the bottom of the bottle (leave out the garlic if you think you’ll need to store the dressing for more than two weeks). Next, I draw a line a quarter of the way up that reads “red wine vinegar,” followed by a line three-eighths of the way up that says “water.” Finally, a line near the top says “olive oil.” All I have to do is add the ingredients to the indicated marks. No measuring spoons to wash—heck, you don’t even have to use a bowl or a whisk; just put your finger over the top and shake.
And what about the major ingredients? Prewashed lettuces have been a huge boon to my arsenal, but one cannot make a salad with lettuce and dressing alone, so I also make sure to keep crunchies and flavor bombs on hand. In the crunchies category: a bag of croutons (preferably homemade), and nuts that I pretoast and store in the freezer (a 15-minute rest on an aluminum pan, which conducts heat away from them, will thaw ’em out fast). Give them a quick pound in a mortar and pestle for more even distribution.
As for flavor bombs? Bags of dried fruit like cranberries and cherries. Roughly chopped anchovies. Thinly sliced white or red onions (just make sure to rinse them in warm water to tame their raw bite) or diced celery and grated carrots. Cheese of all kinds—torn into small pieces if soft or semisoft; grated or peeled with a vegetable peeler if hard; crumbled if dry, like a feta or Mexican cotija. And don’t forget the canned beans. Chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, black beans, and cannellini beans all help turn a salad into a full-blown, delicious meal in no time.
Nowadays, things are different: I find myself struggling not to have salad for supper because it’s just so darn convenient and tasty.