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Over the years we’ve witnessed the humble salad’s transformation from the pale, bland opener of a meal—a simple bowl of lettuce covered with a run-of-the-mill dressing—to its vibrant centerpiece. Nowadays, salads are an ideal playground for new flavors and ideas. With the ever-expanding selection of intriguing and exotic greens available in many groceries, the sky’s the limit, from delicate baby greens to bitter-but-tasty radicchio to the spicier varieties found in our Asian Greens Guide.

To build a better salad, don’t stop with greens. Toss in a variety of fruits and vegetables fresh from the garden—tomatoes are fine, but experiment with other ingredients, too, like earthy mushrooms, or the sweet surprise of strawberries. Turn it into a meal by adding some protein, such as gently seared scallops or perfectly grilled flank steak. For the finishing touch, high-quality olive oil and a flavored vinegar can be elegant yet simple, but we also love the classics: Green Goddess, Thousand Island, and Ranch dressings are always delicious, but don’t reach for the bottle—fresh is best.

To further inspire you to indulge in the lighter side of dinner, here is a sampling of some of our favorite salads:
Asian Green Salad with Sweet Shallot Vinaigrette
Warm Chanterelle and Pancetta Salad
Seared Scallop Salad with Ponzu Sauce
Crispy Calamari with Curry Slaw

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