Over 20 hearty Southern-inspired salads to keep your New Year’s resolutions on track
Even if you’re not explicitly thinking it, there is something about the beginning of the New Year that makes you want to be the absolute best version of yourself (if only for a moment). Maybe it’s because that last week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is fantasy land where deadlines for work disappear, calories don’t matter and hangovers don’t exist. It’s a magical seven days but they unfortunately — and necessarily — have to end.
January 1 signals the beginning of us all coming back to our senses. This means giving up the third plate of rum cake for steamed broccoli and, dare I suggest, eating salads again. Thankfully, eating well-balanced healthy meals doesn’t mean giving up flavor (or joy). Instead, salads like the 20 recipes below are not only multifunctional — they can be eaten alone as a meal or served alongside dinner — they’re also packed full of so much flavor you’ll wonder why the heck you didn’t eat them during the holidays.
Smoked Trout Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
Smoked fish is a wholly underutilized cooking ingredient. Here smoked trout is broken free from its usual bagel or scrambled egg breakfast combo and displayed proudly on a salad. But even when pairing it with fresh ingredients, you’ll want to be sure to pair it with rich, creamy flavors to help prevent the saltiness of the fish from becoming too aggressive. What better rich, creamy flavor than Green Goddess? If you’ve never tried this style of dressing before, think cucumber ranch. (Yes please.) Add in the brightness and sweetness of pickled onions for a zippy counterpoint that unites the whole shebang.
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Citrus and Fennel Salad
One of the best things about winter is the abundance of fresh citrus fruits. In addition to helping fight off colds, fruits like oranges, lemons, pomelos and grapefruits add a nice little zing to what can otherwise be a fairly dull produce season. This bright, refreshing salad is a wonderful example, especially when paired with January-friendly grilled or roasted seafood. A few tips? Removing the bitter white pith from the citrus segments removes any unwanted fibrous textures from the salad. If you’re sensitive to spice, stop slicing the jalapeño before you reach the seeds or more fiery part of the membrane of the chile, or just omit the pepper altogether.
Spicy Shrimp and Orzo Pasta Salad
This simple salad is perfect as a light lunch or a hearty side on the dinner table. This pasta salad packs big flavor, mainly from the Fresno chile and fresh herbs, and heft from tender shrimp. Our choice of orzo is very intentional here; unlike rotini, penne or farfalle — the most typical choices for pasta salad — orzo never becomes firm and gritty once cooled down. If you’re going to prepare this salad in advance, wait to add the basil closer to the time you plan to serve it. The flavor will not be impacted, but you’ll preserve the basil’s bright green color.
Shaved Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad with Pecorino and Walnuts
Growing up, Brussels sprouts were mini cabbages of despair. Often boiled and devoid of any flavor, these oft misunderstood vegetables deserve some time in the spotlight. Shaving Brussels sprouts very thinly helps to preserve a good amount of crunch and their naturally nutty flavor pairs perfectly with the Pecorino cheese and tangy Caesar dressing.
Salt-Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Mousse
Roasting beets in salt insulates the beets as they cook, keeping all of their flavor intact and preventing colors from running once the beets are cut. Salty, tangy goat cheese is a classic pair for beets, and turning the goat cheese into a spreadable mousse gives you the option for a more elegant presentation. However, if you’re just looking for a more functional salad, omit the milk and leave the goat cheese in a more crumbly form. Increase the amount of arugula and toss all the ingredients together after you cut the beets.
Pickled Shrimp Salad
At first glance, pickled shrimp may not sound too appetizing, but, take our word for it — if you skip this salad, you’d be missing out on one of the most delicious dishes around. Think of it like a Southern ceviche. Instead of limes or lemons being used to cook the shrimp — as it the traditionally method with ceviche — heavily salted water and white wine vinegar give this dish just the right amount of punch. Serve with tortilla chips (since everything else about this dish is healthy).
Heirloom Tomato BLT Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
The beauty of this salad lies in its simplicity; it captures the essence of a BLT sandwich into a salad. We’ve made good use of our ever-favorite dressing, Green Goddess, again here, as it offers creamy and herbaceous flavors that nicely complement the bright, acidic tomatoes. This would be perfect with a piece of grilled chicken or fish, or on its own as a hearty entrée.
Smoky Bacon and Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Black-eyed peas are a Southern staple eaten, traditionally, on New Year’s Day for good luck and then almost never again until a new year rolls around. What a shame. This versatile legume is packed with nutrients and endless flavor combinations. Here black-eyed peas take center stage in this easy-to-throw-together salad that can be served as a hearty side of light meal all on its own.
Arugula and Chicken Confit Salad
Literally meaning “cooked in fat,” confit is a preservation method that works by curing food in salt, then cooking it low and slow until tender. It can be a great way to infuse added flavors, such as citrus, garlic and herbs, into foods. And while duck legs are most traditional, we really like to confit whole, bone-in chicken thighs. This ultra-tender and flavorful meat makes a great topping to an arugula salad. Call it “healthy-ish.”
Grilled Asparagus with Country Ham and Mustard Vinaigrette
Bitter asparagus and salty country ham are a match made in heaven. Having mustard as the dominant flavor in the vinaigrette limits the sweetness in the dish, keeping the asparagus in check. You can either serve the salad while the asparagus is still warm or refrigerate the asparagus after cooking and serve chilled.
Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad with Basil Vinaigrette
Admittedly this is more of a summer salad but it can still totally be pulled off right now. This is the perfect salad for a light dinner, luncheon or just because you feel like it. Don’t slouch on the basil vinaigrette, which is similar in flavor to a pesto, but doesn’t include any nuts or cheese. Since the tomatoes and pickled onions bring acidity to the dish, the basil vinaigrette only uses enough lemon to bring out the flavor of the herb.
Harvest Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
For a heartier, slightly more seasonal dish, dig into this harvest salad, full of fall and winter vegetables like butternut squash, nuts and mirlitons. Better known as chayote squash, mirlitons are native to Mexico and Central America, but have grown around Louisiana since the 19th century. They are members of the gourd family, and have a tart flavor when cooked. When eaten raw, they have a fantastic crunch with a faint flavor of zucchini or cucumber.
Shaved Zucchini and Toasted Corn Salad
This is a light and vibrant salad that can serve as a side dish or a stand alone salad. If you can find a Swiss-style y-shaped peeler, you’ll get beautiful wide ribbons of zucchini that hold the remaining ingredients nicely.
Strawberry-Spinach Salad With Pecans and Blue Cheese
If you don’t feel like turning on your stove, a whole-meal salad like this should be your go-to. Strawberries and blue cheese form a pairing made in heaven. The natural sweetness of the strawberries matches flawlessly with the salty umami of blue cheese. Don’t like blue cheese? Try feta instead.
Apple Salad with Fennel and Walnuts
This is a simple salad, perfect for when apples are at the height of their season. Only the fennel bulbs are necessary for this salad, but feel free to slice the stalks and chop the fronds, and add them in as well.
Want even more salad recipes? Try these on for size
Peach Caprese Salad
Grilled Shrimp and Peach Salad
Grilled Kabocha Squash Salad with Maple Vinaigrette
Grilled Eggplant and Summer Fig Salad
Apple and Crispy Brussels Sprouts Salad
Even-even more salads are hanging out right here
Photos (citrus-fennel salad, beet-goat cheese salad, harvest salad, strawberry-spinach salad, apple salad): Ramona King
Photos (shrimp-orzo salad, pickled shrimp salad): Ranji McMillan
Photos (Brussels sprouts Caesar, kabocha squash salad): Maura Friedman
Photos (BLT salad, grilled asparagus salad, tomato-watermelon salad, zucchini salad): Lauren Booker
Photo (black-eyed pea salad): Lisa Lotts
Photo (chicken confit salad): Springer Mountain Farms