No lettuce? No problem! Cool off with easy kitchen sink salad.

I want to be clear that no kitchen sinks were used in the making of this salad, or any salad by this name. The very thought makes me shudder. For those who don't know, "kitchen sink" refers to "everything but the kitchen sink," when the cook takes leftovers and odds and ends to pull a dish together. I've been known to make a mean kitchen sink casserole, which doesn't say much. Add enough cheese, and you can make anything delicious.  

I love a challenge, and making a meal when your fridge isn't stocked activates a creative portion of your brain. I become determined to pull the wool over my family's eyes, who have already opened and closed the fridge multiple times in defeat. "How did you...?" is the best way I can describe their expression. It gives me pride.

kitchen sink salad recipe

Kitchen sink salad recipe

The thing is, a kitchen sink recipe is always random, since it is never the same twice. It depends on what you have left in the house. So there won't be a precise recipe, but guardrails around how it's done. Some inspiration, some examples, plus the textures and flavors you need to pull it off. 

In this instance, I was craving something fresh and crunchy, but we were out of lettuce. We go through it quickly in the summer. When it's hot, we sometimes use it in place of taco shells, or to scoop up rice and Korean BBQ with. I stuff lettuce into spring rolls, and if you know me, you know I turn everything into a spring roll. Lettuce has so much potential, outside of salads, to make meals feel more fresh. They add a snap to your bite and add sneaky nutrition. At the same time, you don't need lettuce to make a salad either. We're thinking outside the spinner.

Charles Viancin

Here are the main elements you need in a kitchen sink salad - especially one with no lettuce.

The elements:

  • Snap
  • Protein
  • Savory
  • Sweet
  • Tang

Snap

Let's start with this element, as it's the main one. When you think of salad, you think of a snappy, fresh crunch. Here are some vegetables that can replace lettuce:

  • Chopped cucumber
  • Shaved carrot
  • Bean sprouts
  • Sliced radish
  • Bell peppers
  • Snow peas
  • Chopped celery
  • If you like heat, jalapeno

Protein

Protein will give this dish some heft, and keep you satisfied for a longer period. Especially if you are spent from a day at the pool, or other summer adventure

  • Beans (I love giant butter beans, dark kidney beans and garbanzos)
  • Chopped chicken breast
  • Chopped nuts (pistachios are my favorite, walnuts are easy to crumble, and cashews become satisfyingly creamy - to name a few)
  • Grilled shrimp
  • Sliced steak
  • Fried tofu
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pine nuts
  • Pepitas
  • Crumbled bacon

Savory

Adding these ingredents together may look pretty, but making the dish savory creates a flavor profile to tie it all together. My secreat weapon? Marinated artichoke hearts. Even when you drain the jar, the artichokes are slick with olive oil and covered in spices. When chopped and tossed into the mix, it adds subtle flavor to the whole salad.

  • Marinated artichoke hearts (secret weapon - see above)
  • Salt and pepper (always - every salad)
  • Herbs (extra credit for freshly-grown!) such as chives, cilantro, basil, dill, oregano, and mint
  • Cheese (goat cheese, crumbled bleu, and grated parmesan, to name a few)
  • Hearts of palm
  • Crispy onions
  • Olive oil (especially ones that are infused with other flavors)
  • Za'atar
  • Fried shallots or garlic (buy by the tubful at Asian grocery stores)
  • Chopped tomato
  • Sumac

Sweet

A touch of sweet adds an interesting contrast to the saltiness of the salad. You can be subtle, with a drizzle of hot honey or all-out, by throwing in a handful of dried cranberries. It all depends on your creation.

  • Dried cranberries, cherries or raisins
  • Sliced strawberries (great with goat cheese, walnuts and balsamic vinegar)
  • Chopped pineapple (pairs beautifully with chopped cilantro and seafood)
  • Sliced melon (think of how perfect it is with prosciutto)
  • Drizzle of maple or honey

Tang

The final element is important - especially if you aren't going for a creamy ranch-style salad. From squeezed lemon to vinegar, it provides that bit of pop in each bite.

  • Vinegar (any kind)
  • Za'atar
  • Squeeze of lemon or lime
  • Vietnamese fish sauce
  • Pineapple (also a fruit, but it's got tang!)
  • Sumac

I say this all the time, but please have fun with it. Experiment, take chances, see what works together. And it must be noted that this delicious salad was sealed by a silicone lid from Charles Viancin. He has a great collection at Ladles and Linens, playful lids shaped after produce. They are vibrant in color and earth-friendly, as you will use less plastic wrap and aluminum foil. 

Enjoy, and stay cool out there, kids!

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