When you’re hosting a larger gathering, the last thing you want to do is deal with things a la minute. That means you’re not going to want to be mixing vinaigrettes and dressing salads at the last moment.
There are plenty of tips out there for keeping your greens and other ingredients as fresh as can be. Perhaps you shock your carrots and celery in ice water to keep them fresh as can be (or revive them). Maybe, like this writer, you stash your clean salad greens in the fridge in your salad spinner. Others swear by leaving heads of lettuce whole until the last minute. And we love thinking about how to bring 12 types of veggies “back to life.”
Let’s take a moment to celebrate, too, the hands-off beauties that can live on the buffet table without any drama at all. Usually centered on hearty greens or green veggies like kale, collards or Brussels sprouts, they’re good for you, easy to execute, and generally don’t require you to touch them once they’re set out. Here are three of our favorites.
If wilting is a concern, consider darker, sturdier greens. Spinach is in Bobby Flay’s gorgeous harvest salad, along with its vitamin-packed buddy, kale. This dish feels like a romp in a New England meadow in October: Cranberries, apple cider, pomegranates, pecans and pears all make cameos. So, too, does puffy wild rice and a classic French Dijon mustard vinaigrette spiked with apple cider and clover honey. It’s truly autumn (or late autumn) in a bowl.
Test Kitchen Director Belle English is a superfan of Brussels sprouts salads on pretty much any holiday table, such as this killer no-wilt Brussels sprouts salad. Brussels simply do not wilt. Here they mingle with unctuous Gorgonzola, thinly sliced Pink Lady apples, a bit of red onion, and toasted walnuts. A Dijon-maple-garlic vinaigrette brings the whole thing together. It’s “meaty” enough that many vegetarians won’t need much more than this and some bread.
Kale lovers know that “massage kale leaves with olive oil” is a frequent step in raw kale salads. Why? Kale is almost un-wiltable until you add heat. Tuscan (aka dinosaur, aka Cavolo Nero, aka Lacinato) kale has a particularly delicate, lovely texture. It shines in this earthy kale salad with quinoa pistachios and pomegranate seeds. This salad largely comes together 30 minutes before you need it. A honey-Dijon-white wine vinegar vinaigrette serves as a marinade. It lands on the table just barely tenderized, and you season it once more just before serving. Quinoa delivers a protein punch; pomegranate seeds add juice; the whole thing looks just gorgeous.