The garden salad is a craveable and nostalgic side dish that’s a classic for a reason. Resemblant of a steakhouse side salad, this garden salad is crisp (all hail iceberg lettuce), refreshing and loaded with texture. Toss with a simple red-wine mustard vinaigrette, dip a chunk of crusty bread in olive oil, and dinner is done.
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Why This Recipe Works
First and foremost, this is a garden salad, meaning it uses up a lot of garden ingredients like lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, and cucumber. But more than that, it also hits upon something that’s a target for most great recipes—nostalgia. One bite of this salad and you’ll be transported to that birthday dinner at the local steakhouse as a kid. Or you’ll be right back at the neighborhood cookout in the height of summer.
It’s a salad, but in the most delectable way possible, and in large part to the all-too-often overlooked crisp-king—iceberg lettuce.
If you too had a mom that piled dark greens and dark greens only onto your plate, then I think you’ll enjoy this one. Is iceberg lettuce the most nutrient-dense green? No. if you want that, check out out Lentil and Kale Salad.
But is this salad the crispiest of all crisp salads? You bet.
Aside from the veg and crisp iceberg, this salad is balanced in flavor between sweet-tart dried cranberries, a tangy mustard vinaigrette, and a few shavings of savory Parmesan.
For this salad we like to do a combination of iceberg lettuce, for crunch, and spring greens for color and tender texture. Use any leafy greens you like, we usually grab a mix of something, but spinach or arugula would be delicious too.
The combination of parsley and basil subtly elevate the salad without requiring much added work. Feel free to use a mix of whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. We also like dill, tarragon, thyme, and cilantro.
To say this salad is versatile is an understatement. Use whatever fresh veggies are growing in the garden or that you have on hand. Here we’re using diced fresh tomatoes and cucumber, but shredded carrot, radish, thinly sliced snap peas, and celery would all be great options too. You can always swap the large diced tomatoes for cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes.
Every great salad needs just a bit of sweetness and we thought dried cranberries were classic for this salad. You can also use golden raisins, currants, or dried cherries.
Some wide shreds of an aged salty cheese like Parmesan cheese or pecorino cheese does wonders in this salad. A bit of the salty cheese loaded with umami flavors counteracts the tang of the dressing beautifully.
We’re dressing the salad with one of our favorite vinaigrettes, our Red Wine Mustard Vinaigrette. It’s a riff on out Classic Vinaigrette made with whole-grain mustard and a bit of shallot. It’s tangy, savory and absolutely delicious on this salad. If you’d rather this be more steakhouse vibes, try our healthy Blue Cheese Dressing and add some thinly sliced red onion. If you’re serving with pizza, try adding a few pepperoncini and black olives on the side too.
test kitchen Tips
- The vinaigrette can be made up to 5 days ahead of time.
- Leftovers of this salad do not store well, so we recommend pairing down the ingredients if serving less than 4 people.
- Be sure to taste the salad before serving! This is how you will know if you’ve added enough vinaigrette or if you need to finish with some salt and black pepper. Remember to season a salad like you do any cooked dish!
- If you want a little added crunch, consider adding toasted sliced almonds or croutons.
- For salads, we recommend removing the seeds and membranes of the tomatoes while dicing them to ensure the dressing doesn’t get watered down.
More Salad Recipes to Try
- If you’re looking for a good weeknight dinner salad, check out our Salmon Caesar. It’s always satisfying.
- We also love our Thai-Inspired Steak Salad that’s packed with fresh herbs, tender butter lettuce and a bold citrus vinaigrette.
- Our Arugula Pear Salad with Toasted Lemon Vinaigrette is a great salad for when you need to “wow” a crowd. If you like iceberg, you’ve gotta try our Simple Blue Cheese Wedge Salad!
You can swap the iceberg lettuce with chopped hearts of romaine.
You can wash and spin dry the salad greens, though we don’t recommend prepping the iceberg lettuce in advance as it can deteriorate quickly once chopped. You can also shred the cheese using a vegetable peeler. Just be sure to store the cheese in an airtight container to keep it from drying out. And lastly, you can prepare the vinaigrette up to 5 days ahead of time. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.
Simple Garden Salad
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
- 1½ teaspoons honey
- 1 small clove garlic grated
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- 4 cups chopped iceberg lettuce
- 4 cups spring greens
- 1 cup parsley leaves
- 8 basil leaves, chiffonade
- 2 large tomatoes, diced (about 2 ⅓ cups)
- 1¼ cups English cucumber, diced
- ½ dried cranberries
- ½ cup shaved of Parmesan or pecorino cheese*
- For the mustard vinaigrette, add all vinaigrette ingredients to a small jar with a tight fitting lid. Secure lid and shake vigorously until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.
- In a large serving bowl, toss iceberg, spring greens, parsley and basil together. Add tomatoes, cucumber, cranberries and half of the Parmesan. Drizzle with half of the vinaigrette and toss gently to combine.
- Taste and adjust vinaigrette, salt and pepper to taste.
- Sprinkle remaining Parmesan over top and serve immediately.