Crunch Salad with Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette

By Ann Fulton

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Store the base mix in the fridge for crisp, wholesome salads at the ready. For a satisfying, complete meal, simply top with a favorite protein.


I recently read a magazine article that proposed tossing the kale from your refrigerator, forgoing roasted Brussels sprouts at your favorite restaurant, and sliding your avocado toast into the trash can. (Or maybe not—avocados are expensive!)

Fear not, this was actually Bon Appetit’s humorous retort to a Whole Foods report predicting the top food and drink trends of 2018. Apparently, the grocery chain known for selling an abundance of colorful produce thinks that many of the green foods that were so recently in vogue are going to be dethroned by the likes of floral infusions, “functional” mushrooms, and puffed snacks.

At the same time, I’ve read multiple reports citing an increase in plant-based eating (as well as prudent reminders that most Americans fall short of the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables.) Personally, I’ve noticed a recent upsurge in requests for more meatless meals.

Reader requests for more healthy recipes challenge me and raise the bar for my own family—and for that I’m grateful. Though I’m not a nutritionist, my aim is always to make every recipe as healthy and as delicious as possible.

My goal for the year ahead is to honor those requests in a way that’s pleasing to meat and veggie lovers alike. (And yes, I do believe in reasonable portions of dessert!) I’m planning to bolster our intake of plant-based foods in both straightforward and unexpected ways. A basic green salad, for example, can hit new heights thanks to a simple but flavorful dressing, and there might just be a way to put mushy broccoli to good use. (Stay tuned!)

Starting the New Year off with a salad seemed a tad cliché, but I overlooked that detail thanks to the many merits of this wholesome recipe (and, technically, it’s still 2017!).

At first glance, the following recipe may seem somewhat ordinary, but the combination of crunchy, chewy, creamy, salty, and sweet elements make this colorful salad truly satisfying. Because the components will stay fresh for the better part of a week, they can be mixed in advance and dressed when ready to eat. This sort of simple meal prep makes eating well infinitely easier.

Though you can dress the salad as you please, I particularly enjoy it paired with the following creamy balsamic dressing. For added convenience, this too can be prepared ahead and offers a healthier option to many of its store-bought counterparts.

For a hearty, well-rounded meal, I typically serve this salad with a side of chicken, salmon, or steak, and it adds a fresh component to heavier fare like mac and cheese, even pizza.  Cooked beans or seared tofu may be added for protein-rich vegetarian options.

Crunch Salad

Vibrant color, crisp texture, and an amazing ability to maintain freshness for an entire week make this recipe a year-round salad super hero.

Crunch Salad is versatile enough to be tossed with almost any dressing. One of my favorite pairings, however, is this recipe for Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette.  Other great options include:

Crunch Salad
Make these ingredients refrigerator staples for convenient, healthy salads in minutes.  Tossed with your favorite dressing, this simple side dish tastes so good that you'll forget it's so good for you.  Top with your favorite protein for a satisfying, complete meal.

Yield: 4 main dish servings or 6-8 side dish servings
  • 4 ounces (about 8 lightly packed cups) baby spinach or mixed greens
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage (I like red for color; green is fine, too)
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli, optional*
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned or shaved into strips with a peeler
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup EACH slivered, toasted almonds and salted sunflower seeds
  • Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette (or substitute dressing of choice — ranch, blue cheese, apple cider vinaigrette are all great options)
  1. Add all ingredients to a large salad bowl. Drizzle with dressing of choice and toss well.

*If you prefer crisp-tender broccoli over raw, simply blanch the florets in a pot of boiling water for 1-1 1/2 minutes (or 30-60 seconds longer for more tender florets), and then drain and plunge immediately into a bowl of ice water. Drain again and pat dry. If desired, you may slice the stems and use them, too. This step may be done at the beginning of the week for convenient use over the next 5-7 days.


To completely prepare this salad in advance, add the desired amount of dressing to the bottom of a salad bowl. Top with the cabbage, carrots, and broccoli first, followed by the lettuce. Sprinkle with the cranberries, nuts and seeds. Cover and refrigerate until serving time and then toss as usual. If the salad will be in the refrigerator longer than a few hours, sprinkle the nuts and seeds on just prior to serving to maintain optimal crunch.

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  1. larry

    I’m looking forward to a new balsamic cream vinaigrette. The salad suggestion with the awesome balsamic vinaigrette recipe looks absolutely awesome. Can’t wait to make it and give it a try. Great photo of your salad as well.
    Thanks so much

  2. Chris Post author

    Hello Ann, Thanks so much for the creamy balsamic dressing. I just finished making it and it reminds me of what they serve in the 1920 fine dining restaurant in Longwood Gardens!!
    Love your column.Best to you in 2018!
    Keep it up!!

    1. Ann Post author

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Chris. I’m delighted this was a reminder of what you’ve enjoy at Longwood. (We love it there!)

  3. Liz Post author

    I am now buying these ingredients every week. They stay fresh for a long time in my crisper drawer and even my kids like the combination with your creamy balsamic salad dressing. Thank you!