The satisfying salad blueprint

+ vegetable gardening, french pastries, & more.

Good morning…The first Cook Well channel video went out this week if you didn’t catch it.

  • Moving forward, you can expect more real-time recipe walkthroughs and extra deep-dive taste tests!

Thanks to everyone who subscribed and watched the first video! A lot more great content is on the way.


The satisfying salad blueprint

Early readers might remember this chop salad using leftover fried chicken kaarage!

Why are salads more satisfying at restaurants than at home? They include a range of ingredients that lead to a full eating experience. For a salad to feel complete, it should contain:

  1. Extra side vegetables or protein

  2. Crunchy elements

  3. Creamy elements

  4. Flavor additions

Not to mention more thoughtful dressings (see below) to bring it all together. Here’s how you should think about assembling a salad:

Step 1: Choose a base

Today’s salad blueprint isn’t just for leafy green salads. These elements are designed to dress up any salad base:

  • Leafy greens

  • Chopped Brussels sprouts or broccoli

  • Pasta (deli-style pasta salads)

  • Bread cubes (panzanella)

Step 2: Gather the additions

Then add at least one ingredient from each of these categories:

This is what will set your salad apart. The amounts of these additions are to your preferences.

Step 3: Choose a dressing

You can’t have an amazing salad with a subpar dressing from the back of your fridge. Once you realize how simple making dressing at home is, you’ll never go back.

Pair the dressings thoughtfully:

  • Neutral greens like romaine fare well with a heavier, creamier dressing.

  • Flavorful bases like brussels or arugula only need a light vinaigrette to shine.

Step 4: Toss it all together

Dressings contain fat and acids crucial for amplifying flavor throughout the salad. Restaurants toss and pre-dress salads thoroughly for this reason.

  • Don’t skip this step: a light, even coating of dressing on your salad will be much more satisfying than a dry pile of ingredients with an uneven squiggle of dressing overtop (a classic amateur mistake).


Try these salads…

Your turn! While the above guidelines should let you construct a salad with anything you might have in the fridge and pantry, here are a few of our favorite salads to try — which include leafy greens, raw brussel sprouts, pasta salads, and a panzanella:

Extra credit — for even more info, check out these two videos:

FOOD TRENDS 🚀 presented by Epic Gardening

Raised bed vegetable gardens

Why has vegetable growing in raised beds become so popular?

You can’t make flavorful food without flavorful ingredients. Unfortunately, not all vegetables are created equal.

  • In the U.S., grocery store produce is often farmed for maximum yield instead of flavor. Vegetables are picked immaturely, transported thousands of miles, then artificially ripened.

It’s no wonder people grow up not liking vegetables and then have a revelation at their first farmers-market tomato or candy-like beet from a friend's garden…

  • A growing number of home cooks turn to gardening to supply their kitchens with high-quality produce instead of starchy, bland vegetables.

The most reliable way to get started is with raised beds, which have significant advantages over planting in the ground:

  1. Easier to work on and around. An elevated surface is much more accessible than the mobility required to bend over and work on ground level.

  2. Helpful for those who don't have access to usable native soil. Beds can be filled with an ideal growing mix regardless of where you live.

  3. Prevent common pests like rabbits, gophers, or any other small mammals.

In particular, modern home gardeners favor metal raised beds. Our recommended beds are Epic Gardening’s Birdies Raised Beds, which last decades longer than even the best-built wooden beds.

Now is the perfect time to outfit your garden before summer. Take advantage of Epic Gardening's 25% off all Birdies Raised Beds sale before it ends on May 27th.


Regional French baked goods

This week’s dinner winner is Adil B, who emailed in two regional French pastries usually prepared for the Epiphany holiday at the start of the year. Interestingly, these baked goods divide the country during that time.

According to Adil: “The North would bake a frangipane (an almond-based galette) where the South would prefer a candied fruit crowned brioche called gateau.” The submission even included a map showing the pastry-preference divide:

We love learning about new foods through readers like Adil from all around the world.

  • Reply with your best home-cooked food photos for a chance to be featured. Bonus points if you include a history & geography lesson with your submission.


In a minute or less: Cacio e pepe

What we’re watching: The #1 pizza in the world

Was this forwarded to you? Subscribe here.

Not reaching your inbox? Try this.

Need more inspiration? View the newsletter backlog.