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Basic Salad Topping Favorites

basic salad topping favorites | the hobby room diaries

After talking about basic skills any chef should master recently, I figured it would be a good idea to post on each of those things: salad, pie crust, and roasted chicken.  Today I’m covering a basic salad and you can expect to see pie in the next couple weeks and my first attempt at roasting a whole chicken.  I’ve gotten some good advice on bird roasting, so I think it will be a success.

Also, I received this box in the mail this week:

A couple months ago I signed-up for OXO’s Blogger Outreach (if you blog and cook, stop reading now and go sign-up, then come back) and I get to take part in their healthy eating campaign by posting about and giving away a salad spinner to one of you.  OXO, a real favorite kitchen utensil maker of mine, sent me a salad spinner to experiment with in addition to the one I’m giving away.  It is important to me as a blogger (and as a person in general) to be honest and fair in all I do, so know that although I received a free product, all opinions about the salad spinner are entirely my own and not influenced in any way by OXO.


basic salad topping favorites | the hobby room diaries

I have a really old OXO salad spinner from my wedding registry that I am happily donating in favor of my new pretty, salad spinner.  In a side-by-side comparison the newer model is a bit wider and has a thinner, more compact lid, so looks like it will take up less space.  Also, all materials are now clear, sturdier plastic and the inner lid is removable for washing.  All in all, the new spinner has the same great spinning mechanism, but is now sleeker and easier to clean.  If you make much salad, get a spinner; your days of watery dressing or soggy paper towels are over.

Now back to the basic salad . . . I eat a lot of salad and as much as I love eating greens, it gets a little boring day after day.  I like to keep jars of what I’ve started calling salad “accessories” on hand to spruce up the greens and transform the ordinary into something special.  I don’t usually put more than one or two toppings on a salad, because I still want the salad to be about the greens.  Here are my favorites:

  • Fruit: dried cranberries or cherries, pear slices
  • Nuts: sunflower seeds, spiced or candied pecans or almonds
  • Cheese: Parmesan grated or fried into crisps
  • Dressing: simple pantry vinaigrette or Penzey’s Country French Vinaigrette mix
The recipes below are basic and can easily be adapted for your own tastes, which is what cooking is all about, right?  Make sure to wash your greens first, even if the package says pre-washed.  You never know what might be on produce and it only takes about two minutes to rinse and dry in a salad spinner.  Also, dress your salad with a light hand.  You can always add more dressing, but you can’t take away too much dressing.
basic salad topping favorites | the hobby room diaries
basic salad topping favorites | the hobby room diaries
Favorite Vinaigrette, Parmesan crisps, and Candied Almonds

Favorite Vinaigrette, Parmesan crisps, and Candied Almonds


  • For the vinaigrette:
  • 1/2 cup oil (olive if you like the taste, neutral vegetable if you don’t)
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (red wine or balsamic are good choices)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed citrus juice
  • 1 tablespoon mustard (whole-grain or Dijon, used to emulsify)
  • Salt and pepper
  • For the Parmesan crisps:
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • For the spicy-sweet almonds:
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 3 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper


  • Make the vinaigrette: Place all ingredients in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup and whisk together; store leftover dressing in an air-tight jar or container.
  • Make the Parmesan crisps: Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and evenly sprinkle cheese over the bottom of the pan. Cook 5-10 minutes until melted, bubbly and lightly browned. Remove from heat and allow the cheese to cool slightly before removing to a plate or cooling rack with a spatula. Break into small pieces and sprinkle on top of salad or break into several large pieces and serve on the side of each plate.
  • Make the spicy-sweet almonds: Melt butter over medium heat in a sauté pan. Add the almonds, sugar, and cayenne pepper and stir until evenly coated. Cook for five minutes, stirring or tossing frequently. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Store extras in an air-tight container.
basic salad topping favorites | the hobby room diaries


What’s your favorite thing to add to a salad?



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