There are salads and then there are salads! Many people get used to thinking of a salad as simply some lettuce, tomato and cucumber, when in fact there’s hundreds of ingredients that can go into a salad, making for countless fantastic and mind-blowing permutations.
First of all decide how big you want your salad to be, and then choose a plate or bowl large enough to accommodate it (I personally love using large white pasta bowls).
Once you’ve chosen your plate or bowl, it’s time to start building…
LAYER 1 – BASE OF GREENS
Begin by choosing 2-5 different types of leafy green, herb, living green and wild green for your base to provide a nice mix of flavours and contrast right out of the gate.
There are SO many different greens to choose from, and they’re a crucial part of a raw food diet (or indeed, any healthy diet) which is why we start here.
Some well-known examples to get you started include:
Lettuce, kale, spinach, chard, rocket (arugula), basil, coriander (cilantro), chives, mint, dill, sunflower greens, pea greens, watercress, dandelion leaves.
Once you’ve made your choice, tear, shred or arrange whole, and cover the bottom of your plate or bowl as little or as much as desired.
LAYER 2 – FRUITS & VEGGIES
Next up, select a few salad fruits and/or various raw veggies so that your salad has a good layer of high-water content foods to cover the greens.
Examples of what you might put in this second layer include:
Tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onion, carrot, beetroot, avocado, courgette (zucchini), sweet potato, broccoli, celery, fennel, squash, asparagus, corn, peas.
I invite you to be imaginative and vary the textures and shapes of these ingredients by grating, dicing, chopping and slicing them so that you can enjoy different textures as well as flavours, and also potentially layer them in a beautiful and visually stunning way.
If you want something sweet in your salad, small amounts of fresh apple, orange, mango, grapes, apricots, plums, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, pineapple and banana (add no more than two different types of fruit per salad) can be also added here. Bear in mind that fresh fruits, because they digest more quickly than all other ingredients, can and do create gas issues for some people, so in an epic salad especially, fresh fruit should be used sparingly, if at all. Just experiment and see what works for you as everyone is different.
LAYER 3 – HEAVIER FOODS
Your next layer is going to comprise of the denser or heavier foods – the ones that will really make the most difference to the overall experience of your salad. These are the foods that don’t fall into the greens, fruits and vegetables categories. Examples include: sprouted beans, sprouted seeds, young sprouted grains, soaked or dried seeds, soaked or dried nuts, soaked dulse or other sea vegetables, olives, mushrooms, anything dehydrated. You can also potentially add in small portions of pre-made raw food recipes as well such as nut cheeses, nut burgers, marinated mushrooms, pates, and anything else with a sturdier or heavier texture.
I recommend going easy with this layer and limiting yourself to a maximum of three different components. When you go overboard with the heavier foods your salad runs the risk of moving from epic to bomb-like! In this case, more is rarely better, so consider this layer wisely and be really thoughtful about what else is already in your salad and which heavier foods would go beautifully with them.
LAYER 4 – TOPPINGS
To finish off your epic salad might want to consider adding one or some of these: additional fresh herbs, edible flowers, dried seeds/herbs/veggies, sea vegetable sprinkles, ground ginger, freshly chopped garlic, ground flax (linseed), fermented vegetables such as kimchi, and/or of course a sumptuous salad dressing.
Having at least five great salad dressings under your belt is always a great idea. I would recommend finding or creating one that’s sweet, one that’s creamy, one that’s spicy, one that’s vinegary, one that’s runnier and more subtle (like a simple oil and lemon combination), and one that’s sour and that you can use to give more of perhaps an oriental flavour.
As you can see, if you follow these guidelines, there’s no way that your salad won’t be epic! Just bear in mind that the more complex you make your salad, the more thoughtful you’ll need to be about food combining so that you don’t create what’s affectionately called a “combo abombo” (a combination abomination!). It’s one thing to create an amazing looking and tasting salad, but you also need to consider how it will leave you feeling 30-60 minutes later, so choose well and experiment regularly to find your own perfect epic salad combinations that will do you proud and impress and inspire others, for many years to come.
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