This simple yet elevated salad is the perfect side for practically any main course. Gone are the days of clunky raw vegetables covered in ranch; the side salad has a fresh new look. This easy modern accompaniment salad recipe balances sweet and savory flavors with crisp and crunchy textures for a salad plate that's sure to please.
You Will Love This Recipe
- It's simple. Very little prep work here. Make it even easier by purchasing most of the ingredients pre-prepared.
- It's versatile. Serve it on separate plates as a side dish, family-style as an appetizer, or add a protein on top (like my honey mustard tofu) to make it a main course.
- It is flavorful. Fresh vegetables and cherries add gentle sweetness and crunch, seeds and nuts add savory and nutty notes, and red onion adds pepperiness and tang. All together, these flavors come together for a deliciously balanced salad that can easily complement the rest of the meal.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Leaf lettuce: I've used a combination of red and green leaf lettuce, but feel free to purchase a mild-flavored pre-prepared salad mix or other mild fresh salad greens, such as romaine.
- Cherry tomatoes: Halving some cherry tomatoes helps them to be easier to maneuver and enjoy. I've used a rainbow heirloom cherry tomato mix for a more colorful salad, but any cherry or grape tomatoes will do.
- Carrots: Shredded carrots add a mild sweetness and crunch. You can substitute with thinly sliced red bell pepper or another carrot substitute.
- Pepitas & sunflower seeds: Add crunch, nutty flavor, and heart-healthy fats. You can swap one or the other for hemp hearts, pine nuts, chopped pistachios, or walnuts.
- Dried cherries: Add a tart, sweet flavor and chewy texture. You can substitute dried cranberries for a more cost-effective choice.
- Cashews: Give even more crunch and a softly nutty flavor. Feel free to omit or substitute chopped almonds, walnuts, or pistachios for a similar taste.
- Red onion: The key to not overpowering a salad with zippy red onion flavor is to dice it to integrate it well into all the other components. Feel free to omit it if you're not a fan.
- Olive oil: Serves as the base of the homemade vinaigrette. Feel free to use another neutral oil, though olive oil will taste best.
- Dijon mustard: Helps to emulsify the vinaigrette.
- White wine vinegar: Brightens up this light vinaigrette. Feel free to use another vinegar that leans on the sweeter side, such as red wine or apple cider vinegar. Lemon juice may also work, though I recommend starting with two Tablespoons and adjusting to taste.
- Garlic: Adds umami, aromatic flavor. Feel free to omit or substitute the olive oil for garlic-infused oil if you are sensitive to garlic.
- Salt and pepper: Feel free to try my recommendation or season at the end to your taste.
1. Rinse and roughly chop the leaf lettuce leaves into bite-sized pieces. Thinly slice the ribs of the lettuce. Discard the end of the lettuce. Dry the lettuce with a clean tea towel to remove excess water, or optionally place the lettuce into the bowl of a salad spinner, rinse a second time, and spin until the lettuce has dried considerably.
2. Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a small pitcher, bowl, or jar. Shake the jar or use a fork to briskly stir the dressing until it is well combined.
3. Add all of the salad ingredients to a large bowl and toss to combine. Serve or store with the dressing on the side, or continue to the next step.
4. Give the dressing a last stir, and add the dressing to the salad. Toss the salad until the toppings and dressing are evenly distributed. Serve family-style from the large bowl or divvy the salad into 8 salad bowls or plates.
- Deconstructed salad: Serve the crisp greens, vinaigrette, and toppings separately buffet-style to allow each person to make their perfect appetizer salad.
- Feel free to alter this recipe with seasonal produce. Replace some lettuce with thinly sliced red cabbage in the fall or garnish with edible flowers in the spring. The opportunities are endless!
- If you prefer hearty salads, add a warm cooked grain such as quinoa, brown rice, or bulgur to "beef up" this dish.
Make-ahead: All components can be prepared a day or two ahead of time and stored separately until ready to serve. I like to keep the lettuce in a large airtight container and then apportion and store all of the dry ingredients (cashews, pepitas, sunflower seeds, and dried cherries) and veggies (tomatoes, onion, and carrots) in medium jars together. The dry ingredients can remain in the pantry, while the veggies can go in the fridge. The dressing can be made 3-4 days ahead and stored in the fridge.
Store: Store leftover salad in an airtight container in the fridge. If the salad has not been dressed, it will last about 3-4 days, whereas dressed salad will last about 1 day.
- Chop all of the ingredients into bite-sized pieces. As my nutrition professor used to say, "I don't want to look silly eating any of your salads!".
- Eco tip: Making your own dressing means not only is it more delicious, but you also avoid purchasing a plastic bottle and excess dressing leading to food waste!
- If you love the dressing on this salad, save the vinaigrette recipe separately to try on other salads!
Accompaniment salads are made to complement the flavors of the main dish. They typically add a fresh element, though not always (i.e., potato or pasta salad). They differ from main course salads in that they tend to be lighter and smaller. Most accompaniment salads are vegetable or lettuce salads. However, fruit salads can also make for a tasty complement to the main course. Common examples of accompaniment salads in the US include garden, greek, chopped, and Caesar salad, though there are many others.
An accompaniment or side salad is unique because it pairs with the main dish to create a flavorful and balanced full meal. It can add fresh and bright flavors to an otherwise rich or hearty dish. Alternatively, it can add more texture or starch to a lighter main. Adding an accompaniment salad is a good way to add flavor and texture to your dish that may otherwise be difficult to incorporate.
Modern Accompaniment Salad
- 1 large or 2 small heads leaf lettuce (about 8 cups or about 6 ounces)
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved (or grape tomatoes)
- ½ cup shredded carrots
- ½ cup dried tart cherries
- ⅓ cup frozen shelled edamame, prepared per package instructions
- ⅓ cup chopped roasted cashews
- ¼ cup sunflower kernels
- ¼ cup pepitas
- ¼ red onion, diced
- Rinse and roughly chop the leaf lettuce leaves into bite-sized pieces. Thinly slice the ribs of the lettuce. Discard the end. Dry the lettuce with a clean tea towel, or optionally place the lettuce into the bowl of a salad spinner, rinse a second time, and spin until the lettuce has dried considerably.
- Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients in a small pitcher, bowl, or jar with a secure lid. Add the lid and shake the jar or use a fork to briskly stir the dressing until it is well combined. Taste and make adjustments to preference.
- Add all of the salad ingredients to a large bowl and toss to combine. Store or serve with the dressing on the side, or continue to the next step.
- Give the dressing a last stir, and add the dressing to the salad. Toss the salad until the toppings and dressing are evenly distributed. Serve family-style from the large bowl or divvy the salad into 8 salad bowls or plates.