Turn an "oh" at salad into "oh, wow" with a little imagination and not much effort.
Even the best-dressed leaves can benefit from a sprinkling of nuts or seeds. Just add them right before serving so they stay nice and crunchy.
Greens served naked or barely dressed in a splash of citrus and olive oil will gain greater appeal with a shake of dried fruit or a generous serving of fresh fruit.
Meat is a great salad topper, but don't overlook beans, wheat germ, granola and canned tuna. Then there's diced or shaved cheese and green or black olives, marinated or stuffed.
Dry ramen noodles sautéed in butter and sprinkled with the accompanying spice package are a nice change of pace from croutons.
Snipped herbs -- chives, mint, parsley, dill come to mind -- add bold notes. Leftover rice or lentils, meanwhile, can be added with abandon.
Need more ideas? Pile on fresh or grilled vegetables; onions are especially delicious. If going with fresh vegetables, shredding, chopping, slicing and shaving will all add to the texture of the finished salad.
And don't overlook sprouts and shoots.
Finally, remember that it's no crime to double up on salad. Top greens with a creamy macaroni or potato salad and forgo the dressing.
Green Salad with Corn, Peppers and Smoky Red Pepper Dressing
Serves 4 to 8; dressing makes 1 cup. Half a grilled red pepper, with skin removed, and a small handful of basil produced an especially delicious dressing. This recipe is from "Heather Christo's Generous Table: Easy and Elegant Recipes Through the Seasons" (Kyle Books, $29.95).
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup plus 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 ounces roasted red peppers (packed in water, drained)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
1 peeled garlic clove
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 cups green lettuce, in bite-size pieces
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1 red bell pepper, small diced
1 yellow bell pepper, small diced
1 shallot, small diced
COMBINE in a blender the olive oil, vinegar, roasted peppers, cilantro, garlic, paprika and salt. Puree until the dressing is smooth. Pour into airtight container and refrigerate for up to five days.
COMBINE in a large bowl the lettuce, corn, red and yellow peppers and shallot and toss to combine. Add 1/2 cup dressing and gently toss everything to coat. Serve immediately.
Marinated Cucumber and Chili Salad
Serves 2 to 3. Habaneros are plentiful at Latino markets, but can be difficult to find at some supermarkets. Substitute another spicy pepper. The salad will be just as tasty. The longer the cucumbers marinate, the more tart the salad. This recipe is from "Fresh, Happy, Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes," by Jane Loxwell (William Morrow, $35).
1 cucumber, seeded, quartered lengthwise and finely chopped
1/2 habanero chili pepper, seeded, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Squeeze of agave nectar