Which is weirder: eating salad naked or eating a naked salad? For us, it's definitely the latter. At MAD Greens, we craft all our dressings from scratch each day so no one ever has to eat an undressed salad. But with 19 options to choose from, it can be intimidating to know where to start. Like picking out any good outfit, let's go piece-by-piece, toe-to-head.

First up, the greens. Here, think about the texture of your favorite base. Hearty Romaine can withstand a heavier dressing like Blue Cheese or Caesar. The more delicate Spinach and Mixed Greens go better with a lighter vinaigrettes lest they get soggy. And if your salad is to-go, ask for the dressing on the side so you can add it right before you eat it to avoid a wilted meal. Our Wild Rice Blend is great with cloying dressings like the Citrus Hoisin or the upcoming Jalapeno Honey BBQ (stay tuned in June for additional info!).

 

Kale is an interesting one...acids, such as lemon juice, actually break down kale’s cellular structure making it easier to eat. The leaves become tender and the nutrients more digestable so pairing kale with an acidic dressing is a great choice. But since it's a tougher leaf, it can also take creamier dressings. 

MAD Greens MAD Fresh Kale

Next comes the protein, which often dictates the overall flavor profile, or look and feel, of your meal. Our Grilled Citrus Chicken goes well with almost any dressing, but since we brine it in lemon and lime juices, it makes sense with the more acidic vinaigrettes like Port Wine, Smokey Cider and Red Wine. The Grilled Steak, with its Asian-influenced marinade (rice wine vinegar, ginger, honey, soy sauce and green onions) goes great with the Ginger Soy, Citrus Hoisin and Sriracha Almond Vinaigrette. The Portuguese Piri Piri on the Tofu and the Shrimp is a versatile flavor profile that lends itself to strong dressings like Creamy Ginger or Honey Mustard. As for the Southwest Chicken, since it's dark meat, it pairs nicely with rich and creamy dressings or similar flavors in the Cilantro Chili Lime.

The final step is your ingredients, which are like jewelry,* so let's think about them in motifs (aka tastes): salty, sweet, bitter, sour, umami, fat and spicy. These tastes complement each other like a color wheel, which The Flavor Matrix showcases perfectly on the left. Try to match your ingredients' motif to your dressing's taste.

Sweet: Port Wine Vinaigrette...Sherry Molasses Vinaigrette...Ginger Soy...Roasted Red Pepper

Salty: Ranch...Caesar...Fat Free Balsamic Vinaigrette

Umami: Smokey Cider Vinaigrette...Citrus Hoisin

Sour (Tart): Red Wine Vinaigrette

Spicy: Sriracha Almond Vinaigrette (but also sweet)...Spicy Yogurt

Bitter (Tangy): Cilantro Chili Lime...Balsamic Vinaigrette...Honey Mustard

Fat (Creamy): Blue Cheese...Chipotle Caesar (but also spicy)...Creamy Ginger...Fat Free Ranch 

Taking the Port Wine Vinaigrette, you can see that its sweet taste pairs perfectly with the tart apples, fatty walnuts and salty blue cheese in the Poe salad. The sour Red Wine Vinaigrette is great for the Athena's creamy feta and brings out the sweetness in the cucumbers and tomatoes. And the Cilantro Chili Lime's tang is the best topping for Pancho Villa with its sweet corn and umami-forward quinoa.

MAD Greens Chef Dan Making Dressing

Follow these general guidelines when pairing a dressing and salad for a beautiful meal, but definitely don't ignore your own taste. There are no hard and fast rules (like No White After Labor Day), and sometimes mixing patterns can result in awesomeness (Spicy Yogurt on the Pomona is the author's personal weird combo). So go out there and strut your stuff! Then tell us what  your favorite salad/dressing pair is. Or if you have a go-to MAD Greens dressing, maybe try it on something new next time!

 

*It's actually a little known fact that Coco Chanel's famous quote, "Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off" also applies to salads (particularly those Create Your Owns that get a bit out of hand).