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Tasty Tossed Green Salads with No Recipes

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Green salad

The difference between an average green salad and a great green salad is the choice of greens, the flavors you match with the greens, and the dressing.

Start a green salad with two or three greens—choose varying flavors and textures. Next combine or toss the greens with flavor affinities—foods and seasonings that bring out the green’s best flavor characteristics or serve as a tasty counterpoint. Finally, add a dressing that will subtly complement and blend the flavors.

Garden greens have different personalities. Here are some suggestions for combining greens, adding flavor affinities–both good and great flavor matches, and dressings well suited for each kind of green; all with no recipes:


Also called rocket. Arugula has tender, dark green, elongated, indented, and coarsely textured leaves. It has a pungent, sometimes bitter, peppery flavor. Small leaves are the mildest flavored. Use arugula in combination with other greens—good choices are Boston or Bibb lettuce, endive, and radicchio. Arugula adds zest. Serve arugula alone with an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing.

  • Combine with: Boston or Bibb lettuce, endive, or radicchio.
  • Great flavor matches: goat cheese Parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar.
  • Good flavor matches: almonds, basil, white beans, red bell peppers, chicken, cilantro, clams, corn, cucumbers, dill, hard-boiled egg, fennel, grapes, lovage, mint, mushrooms, nuts, black olives, blood oranges, pancetta, parsley, pasta, pears, pesto, pine nuts, potatoes, prosciutto, radishes, shallots, shrimp, tuna, watercress.
  • Try these: (1) arugula + balsamic vinegar + lemon juice + olive oil + Parmesan cheese; (2) arugula + cucumber + feta cheese + mint; (3) arugula + endive + radicchio; (4) arugula + pears + prosciutto.

Belgian endive:

Also called chicory. Belgian endive has small, whitish, yellow-edged and elongated leaves that form a tight head. Use leaves whole, shredded, or cut into julienne strips or rings. Bitter-flavored, crunchy leaves are tasty separated and served with sweet fruit such as oranges or figs or sweet-flavored vegetable such as chopped beets.

  • Combine with: Boston lettuce, Bibb lettuce, watercress, arugula, or radicchio.
  • Great flavor matches: Gruyère cheese, prosciutto.
  • Good flavor matches: apples, bacon, cilantro, cumin, figs, smoked fish, garlic, Serrano ham, lemon, poultry, nuts, olive oil, parsley, smoked salmon, watercress.
  • Try these dressings: mayonnaise, cream dressing, walnut vinaigrette and Roquefort cheese, citrus vinaigrette, mustard vinaigrette.
Bibb lettuce with avocado salad

Bibb lettuce:

Bibb lettuce is a small tender butter head variety lettuce with very soft, tender green leaves that have a buttery texture and subtle sweet flavor. Bibb lettuce leaves are smaller and darker than Boston lettuce leaves. Small leaves should be served whole.

  • Combine with: Boston, romaine, and loose-leaf lettuces, Belgian endive, watercress, spinach, arugula, radicchio, or sorrel.
  • Great flavor matches: lemons, oranges, shallots.
  • Good flavor matches: avocados, basil, chervil, chives, cucumbers, fines herbes, parsley, black pepper, radishes, sesame seeds, tarragon, yogurt.
  • Try these dressings: Light, lemony mayonnaise, or white wine or citrus vinaigrette. Use a creamy dressing to mimic the light, delicate, creamy flavor and texture of Bibb lettuce.

Boston lettuce:

Boston lettuce is a buttery flavored, tender, pale-green loose-leaved head lettuce. Larger and paler leafed than Bibb lettuce. Both Boston and Bibb are butter head varieties.

  • Combine with: Bibb or loose-leaf lettuces, endive, spinach, or watercress.
  • Great flavor matches: lemons, oranges, shallots.
  • Good flavor matches: avocados, basil, chervil, chives, cucumbers, fines herbes, parsley, black pepper, radishes, sesame seeds, tarragon, yogurt.
  • Try these dressings: Orange juice and olive oil vinaigrette, flavored with tarragon; white wine vinaigrette; or buttermilk dressing.

Cress and garden cress:

There are many varieties of cress. Most have small dark greens leaves similar in size and shape to radish leaves. Cresses can vary from delicate, slightly peppery flavor to zesty, hot pepper flavor. Use cress to perk up a green salad or use cress in a tomato salad dressed with olive oil and tarragon vinegar.

  • Combine with: any mild greens; adds zest to Bibb, romaine, and loose-leaf lettuces, and spinach. Cress is a flavor accent; dress with a dressing suited to the main green.

Curly Endive:

Curly endive has curly, frizzy-textured, dark green leaves and a slightly bitter flavor. Use curly endive mixed with milder salad leaves to add a pleasant bite.

  • Combine with: red oak leaf lettuce, red lettuce, endive.
  • Great flavor matches: bacon, blue cheese, goat cheese, Parmesan cheese, Roquefort cheese, garlic, olive oil, orange juice, black pepper, white wine vinegar, walnuts.
  • Good flavor matches: almonds, anchovies, avocado, basil, bell peppers, beets, dried cherries, chervil, chives, cilantro, cucumbers, poached eggs, grapefruit, lemon juice, lime juice, white mushrooms, Dijon mustard, olives, red onions, flat-leaf parsley, scallops, shallots, tangerines, tarragon, tomatoes.
  • Dressing: Try dressing with vinaigrette.


The dandelion has bright green jagged-edged leaves with a slightly bitter, tangy flavor. Young, pale leaves are most tender and least bitter flavored. Leaves become more pungent as they darken.

  • Combine with: Bibb lettuce, Boston lettuce, or loose-leaf lettuce.
  • Good flavor matches: anchovies, bacon, garlic, Dijon mustard, peanut oil, onions, ground pepper, salt.
  • Dressing: Try dressing with warm, garlicky vinaigrette or white wine vinegar and olive oil.


Escarole is a rather coarse-leafed, slightly bitter green. Preferably use only the tender green-yellow leaves for salads. Use outer leaves in soups. Escarole has green leaves with pale yellowish-white heart (broader-leaved that chicory); look for crisp light-colored leaves.

  • Combine with: best alone or as an accent to another green.
  • Great flavor matches: cheese, garlic, olive oil, black and white pepper, salt.
  • Good flavor matches: almonds, anchovies, beans, beef, butter, dried chile peppers, cumin, fish, hazelnuts, lemon, black olives, onions, parsley, pork, poultry, shallots, chicken stock, tomatoes, red wine vinegar.
  • Dressing: Try dressing with garlic, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil or warm bacon and red wine vinaigrette.
  • Try these: (1) escarole + apples + Cheddar cheese; (2) escarole + olive oil + shallots.
Frisse and Boston lettuce salad


Frisée has yellowish-pale green slender and curly-frilly leaves. It is the sweetest of the chicory family, just mildly bitter.

  • Combine with: arugula, baby oak leaf lettuce.
  • Great flavor matches: bacon, blue cheese, goat cheese, Parmesan cheese, Roquefort cheese, garlic, olive oil, orange juice, black pepper, white wine vinegar, walnuts.
  • Good flavor matches: almonds, anchovies, avocado, basil, bell peppers, beets, dried cherries, chervil, chives, cilantro, cucumbers, poached eggs, grapefruit, lemon juice, lime juice, white mushrooms, Dijon mustard, olives, red onions, flat-leaf parsley, scallops, shallots, tangerines, tarragon, tomatoes.
  • Dressing: Try dressing with vinaigrette, walnut vinaigrette, or raspberry vinaigrette.

Iceberg lettuce:

Iceberg is a crisphead lettuce with a compact spherical head of pale green leaves becoming whitish-yellow towards the center. Iceberg lettuce adds a cool, crisp texture to mixed green salads and mild flavor.

  • Combine with: most other greens or serve in wedges.
  • Dressing: Try dressing with Russian, Roquefort, or French dressing.

Loose leaf lettuce:

Leaf lettuce has loose leaves that do not form a head but branch from the stalk, includes green, red, and coppery brown varieties called salad bowl, oak leaf, and ruby; often curly and fringed leaves with delicate, sweet flavor. Use loose leaf lettuces very young and within a few days of harvest for best flavor and to avoid spoiling.

  • Combine with: Combine mild-flavored loose leaf lettuce with  more robust watercress, arugula, radicchio, fennel, or sorrel.
  • Great flavor matches: olive oil, black pepper, salt.
  • Good flavor matches: apples, bacon, basil, bread, feta cheese, hard-boiled eggs, garlic, lemon juice, mint, mushrooms, Dijon mustard, nuts, olives, orange, parsley, peaches, pears, raisins, shallots, sprouts, tarragon, raw vegetables.
  • Dressing: Try dressing with red, white, or cider vinaigrette, or balsamic vinegar.


Mâche is also called corn salad, filed salad, and lamb’s lettuce. Small, cup-shaped, tender, dark green leaves with a delicate slightly nutty flavor, sometimes tangy.

  • Combine with: blander green or Belgian endive, or serve alone.
  • Great flavor matches: apples, beets, lemon juice, walnuts.
  • Good flavor matches: bacon, butter cream, Dijon mustard, pistachio nuts, orange, pomegranates, potatoes, scallops, shallots.
  • Dressing: Try dressing with raspberry, walnut, or citrus vinaigrette.
  • Try these: (1) mâche + apples + bacon; (2) mâche + apples + bacon + vinegar; (3) mâche + oranges + pistachios + pomegranates.
Mesclun salad


Mesclun is a mixture of a half-dozen or more wild and cultivated greens, herbs, and edible flowers, any mixture that can be eaten raw as a salad especially baby greens. There is no standard mesclun mixture but the flavor will vary from sweet and delicate to spicy and bitter. Mixes can include baby red romaine, endive mâche, oak leaf, radicchio, arugula, young chard, beet greens, and herbs such as dill, parsley, fennel, and chervil.

  • Good flavor matches: basil, goat cheese, chervil, chives, hazelnuts, lemon juice, olive oil, flat-leaf parsley, pecan, black peppers, salt, shallots, tarragon.
  • Dressing: Try dressing with light wine vinegar and a nut or olive oil, or vinaigrette.
  • Try this: mesclun greens + goat cheese + hazelnuts.


Radicchio has brilliant, ruby colored leaves with striking cream ribs in a small, tight head. Peppery near bitter-tasting flavor combines well with sweeter tasting greens.

  • Combine with: Boston lettuce, loose-leaf lettuces, spinach, Belgian endive, curly endive, or arugula.
  • Great flavor matches: Gorgonzola cheese, Parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, red onions, black pepper, prosciutto.
  • Good flavor matches. Anchovies, apples, bacon, white beans, capers, roasted chicken, chives, hard-boiled eggs, fennel, figs, fish, horseradish, lamb, lime juice, lobster, orange juice, pancetta, flat-leaf parsley, pasta, pears, pecans, pine nuts, pizza, pork, poultry, risotto, rosemary, salami, grilled seafood, shallots, shrimp, walnuts.
  • Dressing: Try dressing with walnut vinaigrette, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar.
  • Try these: (1) radicchio + arugula + endive; (2) radicchio + Asiago cheese + olive oil + balsamic vinegar; (3) radicchio + fennel + prosciutto; (4) radicchio + Gorgonzola cheese + pears; (5) radicchio + hard boiled eggs + olive oil + prosciutto + sherry vinegar + walnuts.
Romaine lettuce
Romaine Caesar salad

Romaine or Cos lettuce:

Romaine lettuce (also called cos lettuce) has an elongated head lettuce with long, crisp leaves shading from bright green to yellow. Excellent for succulent, crisp texture and subtle nutty flavor with a slight tang.

  • Combine with: Bibb lettuce, spinach, arugula, watercress
  • Great flavor matches: anchovies, avocados, Parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, olive oil, black pepper, shallots.
  • Good flavor matches: green and red bell peppers, capers, cayenne, chervil, chile peppers, chives, cilantro, cream, cucumbers, grapefruit, ham, leeks, lime juice, lovage, mayonnaise, kalamata olives, red onions, flat-leaf parsley, sour cream, chicken stock, tarragon, tomatoes, walnuts,
  • Dressing: Dressing with garlicky, anchovy, or red wine vinaigrette; olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Try these: (1) romaine + creamy garlic dressing + red onions + capers + parmesan; (2) heart of romaine + radicchio + Serrano ham + roasted pepper + white anchovies + crisp capers; (3) romaine + anchovies + Parmesan cheese; (4) romaine + capers + garlic + Parmesan cheese + red onions.


Spinach has dark green, spear-shaped leaves curled or smooth. Leaves have a slightly bitter flavor.

  • Combine with: Serve alone or with sorrel.
  • Great flavor matches: anchovies, bacon, feta cheese, goat cheese, Parmesan cheese, dill, hard-boiled eggs, garlic, lemon juice, shiitake mushrooms, Dijon mustard, olive oil, sweet onions, black peppers, pine nuts, potatoes raisins, shallots, sorrel, soy sauce, sugar, walnuts.
  • Good flavor matches: almonds, apples, basil, chard, chicken, chickpeas, chives, crab, cream cheese, curry, fennel, lentils, marjoram, mint, mustard seeds, pancetta, parsley, pasta, pecans, presto, prosciutto, quince, scallions, shrimp smoked salmon, sour cream, thyme, tomatoes, tuna, yogurt.
  • Dressing: Try dressing with vinaigrette, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar.
  • Try these: (1) spinach + bacon +garlic + onions, + cider vinegar; (2) spinach + bacon + walnuts; (3) spinach + fennel + Parmesan cheese + Portobello mushrooms + balsamic vinegar; (4) spinach + feta cheese + lemon juice + oregano; (5) spinach + garlic + mushrooms.


Watercress has crisp, bright green, glossy leaves with a refreshing bite and is usually mixed with other greens in salads. Wilts quickly when dressed.

  • Combine with: Romaine, Boston, or loose-leaf lettuces or Belgian endive, radicchio.
  • Great flavor matches: Blue cheese goat cheese, pecorino cheese, cucumbers, endive, leeks, olive oil, onions, flat-leaf parsley, potatoes.
  • Good flavor matches: almonds, apples, asparagus, bacon, bean sprouts, beets, red bell peppers, buttermilk, chervil, chicken, chives, cilantro, eggs, fennel, fish, garlic, ginger, lamb, lemon juice, lime juice, mint, mushrooms mustard, orange, oyster, pears, peas, salmon, scallions, scallops, shallots, shrimp, smoked salmon, sorrel, tarragon, tomatoes, veal, walnuts , yogurt.
  • Dressing: Try dressing with shallot vinaigrette or walnut vinaigrette.
  • Try these: (1) watercress + almonds + green apple + pecorino cheese; (2) watercress + bacon + cream; (3) watercress + endive + Roquefort chest + walnuts.
Salad spinner

Preparing Greens to Serve:

  • Choose greens that look fresh. Taste to make sure. Pass on wilted, limp or browned greens.
  • Remove stems from small-leafed greens, but leave the leaves whole.
  • Trim large-leaf greens such as romaine lettuce by tearing along the central rib. Tear leaves don’t chop them.
  • Place greens into a salad spinner or colander inside a large pot. Fill the container with water and swirl the greens around. Lift colander or spinner out of the water; repeat until the water has no trace of soil or sand. Spin the greens dry or dry them with a towel. Make sure all greens are completely dry.
  • Wait to dress a tossed green salad until just before serving, otherwise the salad may become soggy.
  • Serve tossed green salads on chilled plates.
  • Add just enough dressing to lightly coat each leaf; more will subdue the flavor of the greens. If you add too much dressing, toss in additional greens to save the salad.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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