Big hearty salads are great! They can:
For most of the recipes below I haven't specified exact ingredients or amounts, as you can adjust the composition to suit yourself. If you are after a great salad cookbook, The Moosewood Daily Special is dedicated solely to fabulous salad and soup recipes.
Notes on salad vegetables
Softer salad vegetables like tomato, cucumber and avocado don't keep well once chopped. Salad greens keep well in a separate airtight container, but tend to go mushy when mixed in a salad with dressing. If you want your salad to last a few days, minimise the use of these or add them at the time of serving.
The following have better staying power:
These can be made with any short pasta (curls, penne, etc), with teeny pasta such as risoni, or even with pearl couscous. Any Italian-style dressing can be added, or stir through a few dollops of pesto. In addition to any of the salad vegetables listed above, you might toss in:
Grain and bean salads
By adding any of the following to a mix of diced or finely sliced salad vegetables, you can quickly create a hearty salad:
Roast vegetable salads
One of my favourite salads for entertaining is a roast vegetable salad, comprising chopped pumpkin, orange sweet potato, carrot and beetroot. The vegies are roasted beforehand and served at room temperature, topped with crumbled feta or blue cheese and chopped fresh herbs, and drizzled with red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. It looks spectacular served on a large white platter.
This salad is also excellent for everyday eating. The vegies last a few days in the fridge, but add the cheese and herbs just before serving.
A Mediterranean roast vegetable salad can be made by roasting or grilling any of these: eggplant, zucchini, red onion, Roma or cherry tomatoes, red capsicum, asparagus, mushrooms and fennel. Again, these will last for a few days in the fridge so it is worth making a big batch. They are delicious as a side dish, or served with crumbled feta or grilled haloumi, salad greens and bread they can make a whole meal.
The simplest of potato salads can be made by boiling or microwaving potatoes, and combining them with finely chopped red onion or spring onions, some really good mayonnaise, and fresh herbs; mint, fennel or tarragon can give it an interesting twist. Or leave out the herbs and add a bit of curry powder instead.
If you want to make it more like a complete meal, any of the following can be added:
The watery mush served in fast food restaurants has spoiled coleslaw for many people, but a well-made fresh coleslaw draws compliments every time I serve it to friends. It tastes even better if made ahead, as the dressing softens the cabbage and the flavours mingle. You can use the classic drumhead cabbage, but for a tastier version use savoy cabbage or radicchio/red cabbage (or a mix of both); if you prefer a milder cabbage taste opt for Chinese cabbage.
The basis for coleslaw is very finely sliced cabbage, grated carrot and finely chopped red onion, mixed with a good-quality mayonnaise or coleslaw dressing. Any of the following can be added for extra deliciousness:
I hope this list inspires you to experiment with salad ideas. I'd love to hear of any brilliant creations you invent!