How to Make an Amazing Salad at Home

By Amanda Paa – Updated July 6, 2020

Amazing Baby Kale Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette {paleo, vegan}

As much as I love sharing a meal with others, I equally enjoy the solo dining experience. And since I typically travel alone, it happens quite often. You’ll usually find me seated at the bar, not because I’m a big drinker (one glass of wine is my max when I’m in an unfamiliar area), but because its the best way to snag a spot at a hot restaurant without reservations.

When there isn’t a conversation to hold, I get to watch the bartender make cocktails and pick up a few secrets, maybe listen to a little waitress gossip as they pass and back forth, and am able to pay a little closer attention to the food I’m eating. Recently I’ve had some really amazing salads, not the entree type, but the smaller ones at the top of the menu that have seasonal ties, or the house speciality (that caesar salad at the steakhouse you crumble for).  Which has led me down this path of figuring out the composition of an unforgettable salad that leaves you saying, “But that salad was so simple, yet it was so, so good. Like, I want to eat that every day good. Why can’t I make an amazing salad like that at home?” 

While visiting Brooklyn, I walked a few blocks in the rain and took refuge at Le Barricou, a french inspired restaurant. It was late, 9pm (which is early by their standards), and all I wanted was hot and crispy french fries, but I figured I should get some greens in too. I typically don’t order a kale salad, but I saw warm bacon vinaigrette and poached egg in the same description and I was won over.

It looked rather unassuming, wispy pieces of baby kale, softened and glistening from the warm bacon dressing, the egg plopped on top, and a few seared mushroom pieces around peaking out from the mound. From behind the bar, a voice instructed “Make SURE you poke the egg and let the yolk coat the greens. It’s part of the magic.”

The Unassuming Baby Kale Salad ~ ingredientsEveryday Shallot Vinaigrette

He was right, the chef was right, the combination was right. The yolk blended with the bacon flavors just perfectly, like carbonara, and the kale held up to it, brightening the richness. Little bits of mushroom for umami….. leading to the fork scraping the bowl clean.

At that point it dawned on me — an amazing salad separates itself from an average salad when every ingredient is treated as a main ingredient. Simplicity. SALT (as in a salty ingredient, like olives or bacon, and on the greens themselves). AND what you dress it with is key. Not showy in looks, not built with everything on a buffet line. Like life, it gets messy when too many things try to compete. 

Unassuming Baby Kale Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette {paleo, vegan}Unassuming Baby Kale Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette {paleo, vegan}

I’ve been on the quest to make my version of a killer salad at home, simple and easy, but classy enough for a dinner party (and they’ll all be asking for the recipe). This Unassuming Baby Kale Salad has my heart, with just a few high quality components. Dried apricots, Castelvetrano olives, and a tangy shallot vinaigrette blitzed with fresh oregano. Like the egg was to the salad I had at the restaurant, this dressing is non-negotiable. And because you’re using baby kale, there’s no need to massage the liquid into the salad.

I think you’ll love the recipe I’m sharing, but I’d love for you to experiment with different ways. Here are the key things I’ve learned so you can make an amazing salad at home too.

  • Think of combining things that are opposites: sweet/savory, tart/bitter, earthy/herby, light/rich.
  • Your dressing should make the greens sing.
  • Move over spinach – try out different varieties of greens and lettuce!
  • Don’t forget the salt.
  • Dress it in a big bowl, not individually. This way all the leaves get a light coating, not just a heavy douse on a few.

I’d love to hear if you have a house salad, or if you have an “end all, be all” dressing that I need to try, so let me know in the comments below. And if you try mine, tag it on Instagram with #heartbeetkitchen!

The beautiful wooden salad bowls and spoons you see in this post are from Willful Goods, a local Minneapolis maker. Araya uses bare wood (like beech and maple) and organic textures, dipping them in bold colors that are inspired by a number of different things, including season and her surrounding. I love that they are both modern looking and functional! They’d be a great addition to any home, or a lovely gift (I especially love the under $50 section for this). You can check out all the things she makes, including serving boards, bowls and utensils, the cutest little planters, and some amazing pillows. 

How to Make A Great Salad ~ Simplicity!How to Make a Great House Salad.

Unforgettable Baby Kale Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette
Recipe Type: paleo, AIP, vegan
Author: Amanda Paa
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
I also love to add fresh feta or parmesan to this salad!
  • 5 ounces baby kale
  • 10 dried apricots, each sliced vertically in about 4 pieces
  • 15 castelvetrano olives, some left whole, some sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • Shallot Vinaigrette:
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 apricots, chopped
  • 1/3 cup really good olive oil
  1. Add kale, all but 2 apricots (will be used for dressing), olives, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt to a large bowl.
  2. In a blender, add shallot and cover with apple cider vinegar. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients including the 2 cut apricots you left out. up to olive oil, and with the motor running, slowly add in the olive oil. You’ll be drizzling it in, not pouring. Taste, and adjust salt as needed.
  3. Start with 1/4 cup of the dressing, and toss to coat. If you need a little more, add. You want the leaves to be coated, but not drenched.

Did you make this?

tag @heartbeetkitchen on instagram and hashtag it #heartbeetkitchen

May 25, 2016


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  1. Meg @ Beard and Bonnet

    I just love your cooking style Amanda! This salad is perfection…can we put on the menu next time you visit? :)

    • amandapaa

      definitely on the menu, along with your magical gf biscuits. xo!

  2. Brittany

    I’m a salad girl so I’ve had my fair share of restaurant salads. I’m always pleasantly surprised when I fall in love with a salad I order, because many restaurants serve sub-par salads. It’s like they’re added to the menu because the chef HAD to add a salad, almost an afterthought. This garlicky kale salad ( is definitely my “house salad.” It’s inspired by the garlicky kale salad from the Whole Foods salad bar and it’s amazing! It has a zesty tahini dressing that I can’t get enough of.

  3. Alison @ Food by Mars

    Making a great salad is so NOT as easy as it seems. Totally agree! I have to try the one you had in BK now because it sounds ridiculous. Love yolk as a dressing.

    AND I’ve been meaning to make a homemade shallot dressing so I’m using yours for sure. Sounds perfectly balanced and this salad looks like the kind you eat in slo-mo. YUM! Xo

  4. Sara @ Cake Over Steak

    I love this post!!! Making a good salad at home is no joke. A lot of times we just throw together whatever we can, but it’s always a balancing act of making sure you have all the right components, even when just throwing one together. Also LOOOVVEEE those bowls!

    • amandapaa

      The art of the salad is similar to the art of a good “grain bowl”. Which you seemed to have figured out with those sweet potato gems! xo

  5. Cassie

    OMG, you have NO idea how many avocados we go through in our house because we just eat SO many salads! We juts had a mixed greens white bean avocado salad last night for dinner too! You can pretty much add anything into a salad, but yes, definitely mix up the greens, add a pinch of sea salt and use a variety of flavors!

    • amandapaa

      I can’t get enough avocado on my salads either. In fact, it would be a great addition to this one! The creaminess would be a lovely component. xo

  6. Karen @ Seasonal Cravings

    There is nothing like a good salad and everyone needs to have a few in their arsenal. I love the apricots for a new twist. Yum!

  7. Jolaine

    Thank you! That link worked perfect. Thank you for all you do. I’m a huge fan ❤️

  8. Jolaine

    This is amazing!! I’d love to pin it to my Pinterest food page but it says there are no images and I can’t! Helllllp!!

    • amandapaa

      Hi Jolaine! Maybe trying clearing your cache? Seems to be working on my end, and I’m using the chrome extension, or the pin it button each image. Here’s one of the pins if you’d rather do it that way:

  9. shanna

    I enjoyed reading this so much! 1) I love your perspective on dining solo and the unique capabilities you have when you’re undistracted; it makes something a lot of people dread feel like something that’s a gift! 2) I so relate to loving restaurant salads and 3) the salad here looks excellent! What a pleasure to read, Amanda, really.

  10. Abby @ Heart of a Baker

    Your words couldn’t be any truer, a good salad just really makes a meal! I had one a few months ago here in Milwaukee that was arugula, asparagus and a few other veggies topped with a vinaigrette and it was incredible. I also agree about traveling alone, I kind of love it and always enjoy being at the bar (good people watching too!) for a good dinner/drink. Now I’m off to peruse those lovely bowls and think about a lunch salad! xo

  11. Julia Mueller

    There’s a restaurant here in Reno that does an amaaaazing kale salad with a poached egg on top – I never would have thought kale + runny egg yolk works, but it totally does! Definitely magical. I’m loving this super helpful post – my go-to salads definitely become a snooze over time, so I’m always interested in seeing how other folks do their greens at home. Will definitely be making that vinaigrette – shallots are life! <3

    • amandapaa

      Poached egg are pure magic for so many salads. I’m so glad this post was helpful. It was like a mystery that always stumped me, leaving restaurants and being like – why can’t I do that at home? Yay to salad success. :) xo