A great green salad is all about fresh seasonal vegetables with just enough dressing to highlight their flavors and tie the whole dish together. This dish is versatile enough to be a side dish, a quick afternoon snack or an entree with the addition of a protein or two.

Fresh ingredients are the key to an appetizing green salad. Don’t limit yourself to iceberg lettuce — choose two or three greens to add color and subtle flavors to your salad. Many varieties are available year-round in grocery stores.

Take your time in the produce section or farmers’ market. Choose vegetables that look and smell as if they’ve just been picked, or spark your curiosity. Try to include a variety of colors and textures that will add interest to your salad.

Consider adding a sweet, salty or crunchy element to your salad. Nuts, seeds and fresh or dried fruit can make an ordinary garden salad exciting.

Wash greens gently to avoid wilting. Submerge individual lettuce leaves in a bowl of cold water and swish to dislodge any dirt or sand. Lift them out of the water onto a clean towel and pat dry or use a salad spinner to remove excess water.

Tips

Removing excess water helps the dressing adhere to the lettuce, and prevents your dressing from becoming diluted.

Cut vegetables into bite-sized pieces while retaining their natural character. You don’t want your family or guests to have to guess what they’re eating.

Tear lettuce leaves to remove woody stems or ribs. Leave smaller varieties like arugula and young spinach whole. Tear romaine and other large-leafed lettuces along the rib to retain their character.

A basic vinaigrette is the classic accompaniment to a green salad, but don’t let that limit you. Choose dressings you enjoy, but don’t overdo it. Dressings should be an accent, not the primary flavor in your salad.

A basic green salad can serve as the canvas for a variety of other flavors and ingredients. Try these suggestions, or come up with your own salad creations:

  • Southwest grilled chicken salad: Top your green salad with tomatoes, avocado, bell peppers, grilled corn and chicken. This is a great way to use leftovers from a barbecue.
  • Cold cut salad: Slice your favorite deli meats and cheeses as toppings for a green salad. Add olives or walnuts as an accent.
  • Shrimp salad: Toss grilled shrimp, pine nuts and roasted garlic with your salad.
  • Pear, Arugula and Pancetta Salad: Arrange slices of pear and pancetta (or prosciutto) over a bed of arugula or mixed greens.
  • Steakhouse Salad: Top a mound of green salad with thinly sliced steak. Grilled red onions add a sweet spicy note to this salad.