I have been on a salad KICK lately. Maybe it’s because spring is here. (Sometimes, depending on the weather) or maybe it’s pregnancy, who knows–but they’ve been some of my favorite meals to make at home lately. I think a lot of times ordering salads in restaurants can get boring, or they’re just not filling enough, but making them at home? That’s a game-changer. You can customize them however you want, with whatever you have on hand!
Recently I was craving something really fresh–like a spring green salad with a garlicky dressing–and a quick google search lead me to this recipe on Bon Appetit. Now, of course, you know me, so I can’t just FOLLOW a recipe like a normal person, I have to make lots of customizations to put my own spin on it. It turns out, my rendition was SO GOOD that I decided it needed its own blog post.
My favorite part about this salad is that it can contain whatever veggies you love, and even better–whatever produce is in season at the time! There is no wrong way to make this delicious green salad. You can make it for dinner, or hold the meat and make it as a side dish. This would also be a great dish to bring to a summer BBQ, potluck, or party! It’s the perfect, healthy dish to enjoy all throughout spring and summer.
Here’s how to make it:
Spring Green Salad Recipe
If you’re new here, I am not a food blogger. I don’t typically measure things (at least very closely) and I make a lot of substitutions. My “no recipe recipes” are always designed to help you cook by instinct, with whatever you have on hand, rather than be pigeon-holed into a regular recipe. You’ll thank me for this skill later, I promise! You can’t mess it up–all you need to do is taste as you go, and adjust according to your preferences!
Ingredients for the chopped salad:
- Chopped romaine or lettuce of your choice (for 2 people I use about 1 head, but adjust as you need)
- Thinly sliced Brussels sprouts (about 6-8 depending on your desired ratio of lettuce to Brussels!)
- About 1/2 LB fresh green beans
- Handful of cherry tomatoes
- Mozzarella cheese (fresh or string cheese works too–it’s delicious in salad!)
- 1 avocado
- About 1/2 cucumber
- 1 thinly sliced radish
- 2 Boneless skinless chicken breasts OR shredded rotisserie chicken (feel free to eyeball based on how much chicken you like!)
- About 1 cup of your favorite small pasta, any kind!
Ingredients for the creamy herbed yogurt dressing:
- About 1/4-1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (I like 2%)
- Juice of about 1/2 a fresh lemon and/or splash of white wine vinegar
- Good healthy drizzle of olive oil (can always add more to reach desired consistency)
- Good mayonnaise (optional)
- Fresh chives
- Fresh dill
- 1 fresh, peeled garlic clove
- Salt and Pepper
If grilling chicken, preheat the grill. Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and your favorite herb seasoning. Drizzle with olive oil.
While you’re waiting for the grill to preheat, boil your pasta water (seasoned with salt–water should taste like the ocean!) if you’d like to use pasta in your salad. I LOVE pasta in my salad, but not everyone does! So feel free to omit this step if it’s not your thing. I typically like to use a small shaped round pasta. Other great option is to use farro if you want a healthier twist–it’s equally delicious!
When grill is hot, throw pasta in the water to cook, and grill the chicken. When chicken is done, tent with foil, set aside to rest while you assemble the rest of the salad! Drain pasta and set aside.
Step 3: Make the dressing!
Now, this is an improvise-friendly dressing you can make with whatever creamy base, acid, and herb you have on hand. I also don’t really measure anything exactly when I make dressing, I just eyeball, taste, and add more as I go. I recommend you do the same, because that’s the way to make it how you REALLY love it!
Note: I make mine with an immersion blender, but if you don’t have an immersion blender, a whisk will totally work–just make sure you mince your herbs and garlic really fine!
Start with the base:
In this case we’re using greek yogurt! But if you don’t have that and you only have mayo on hand, you can totally use that too. I typically like a mix of both, and I’ll play with the ratio depending on what I’m feeling like.
If you want to keep it lighter, obviously you don’t NEED to add mayo, but I think good mayo makes every creamy dressing taste better. I’ll typically start with about 1/2 cup of greek yogurt, and add in a heaping tablespoon of mayo. Also, if you ONLY have mayo, that totally works too. It won’t taste quite the same or be a “light” option–but who cares? I also usually like to add a small drizzle of olive oil in with whatever creamy base I’m using because I don’t like my dressing super thick, but again, this is optional.
Add the acid:
All dressings need a little bit of acid to add tang and bring them together! Typically my most-used acids are freshly squeezed lemon juice, red wine vinegar, or white wine vinegar. Here, I used about 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice as my sole acid, as that’s what the Bon Appetit recipe used (AKA my inspiration), but it still felt like it needed a little more of something once I blended it all together, so I added a splash of white wine vinegar at the end, and that did the trick. I would start with either one, then taste at the end, and adjust as necessary!
Add the seasonings and garlic:
I add in a generous smattering of fresh herbs here–about 2 tablespoons each of fresh chives and fresh dill. (Flat leaf parsley would also be good.) Also add one clove peeled garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
Fresh herbs and fresh garlic make the BEST dressings. I love my immersion blender because it pulses them into a delicious dressing in seconds, and doesn’t require me to go to the hassle of cleaning out my big ole giant blender, but any blender will do, OR you can just use a whisk. (Just make sure to mince the garlic and herbs very finely).
Add an extra kick:
Adding a little dash of hot sauce (like sriracha or tabasco) can make for a delicious touch! Not enough to make it spicy, but enough to make you be like, “wow, what IS that flavor that I can’t put my finger on?”
Taste and adjust until it’s perfect:
Taste it! What does it need? 9 times out of 10, I will add more salt and freshly ground pepper. Does it need a little more pizazz? Add more acid! Keep in mind the flavors will meld together as it sits, so if you’d like to make it ahead of time, that’s even better! If you’re not sure if it’s “finished”–let it sit for a bit, then taste in a half hour or so. You can always make last minute adjustments then.
Step 4: Assemble the rest of the salad ingredients:
Depending on what other kind of veggies you’re using (again, you don’t have to use what I used–feel free to do your own thing! you may want to blanche some of them ahead of time. For example, I LOVE blanched (but still crisp and al-dente) green beans in salads. You don’t want them totally raw because they’re too fibrous and hard to chew. You might be saying, “Jess, that’s way too much work” but I promise–it’s WORTH IT. Green beans in salad are SO DELICIOUS!
How to blanche green beans in the microwave: Chop the green beans in whatever size you’d like for your salad, then pop them in a microwave safe bowl with lots of salt, pepper, and a bit of water for 1 minute, stir, taste–if they’re still too raw for your liking, pop in for another 30 seconds to a minute. Taste–how are they? You want them to still have some crunch to them, not be mushy, but not raw either.
When they’re done, drain the hot water out and pour cold water into the bowl along with some ice cubes. (Others will tell you to pour them into a separate bowl of ice water, but why dirty another bowl? This method works fine too.) This keeps them from cooking further and cools them down to the perfect temp for your salad! Drain and set aside to dry on a dish towel.
Chop your remaining veggies: chop the romaine, thinly slice the Brussels sprouts, halve the cherry tomatoes, dice cheese, avocado and cucumber. Again, there are no real necessary measurements here! Eyeball what looks good to you and what you like more/less of! There’s no wrong way to make this salad! Add your diced chicken on top!
Toss everything together with the dressing, more freshly ground pepper, and serve immediately!
Spring green salad variations:
Snap peas would be great instead of green beans, thinly shredded cabbage instead of brussels sprouts, blue cheese or goat cheese instead of mozzarella. No chicken? Try crispy chopped bacon–you can also use rotisserie chicken instead of grilled chicken. This recipe would also be delicious with no meat at all!
Make it vegan/gluten-free:
Simply withhold the meat or use your favorite chicken substitute. Instead of dairy yogurt, you can use any plain yogurt of your choosing for the dressing. Regular pasta can be subbed out for gluten-free pasta, or a grain like farro would be delicious!
Sub a different dressing:
What other salad dressings are great for this recipe? This would be so good with my favorite go-to classic vinaigrette! Or perhaps a basil vinaigrette?