The Ultimate Spring Dinner-Party Trick: Mood-Ring Salads

Pink chicories, pink grapefruit, lobster, hearts of palm, shallots, champagne vinaigrette.

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As warmer weather approaches, we’ve started to crave lighter meals—so it’s time to rethink our approach to the humble spring salad. And there’s no reason it has to be boring. Quite the contrary: We enlisted chef and food stylist Camille Becerra to elevate the dish from ordinary to extraordinary. Her solution to leafy greens fatigue? Choose monochromatic ingredients. Consider these salads as a mood ring for your plate.

Ahead, Becerra reimagines the salad in five vivid shades. Though they might look decadent and impressive, they’re brimming with healthy, easy-to-source seasonal ingredients. Whether prepping for a springtime soiree or looking to upgrade your desk lunch, you’ll want to add these recipes to your repertoire stat.

The Radiant Spring Salad

Ingredients: Steamed kabocha squash • raw shaved carrots • pickled fennel in turmeric • puffed kasha • carrot romesco • extra-virgin olive oil • lemon • flaky salt

Bright pickled fennel in turmeric balances the density and smoothness of kabocha squash—with a satisfying crunch in the form of carrots and puffed kasha. Bonus points go to the collagen-boosting, free radical–packed properties of orange vegetables, to make you glow from the inside out.

Pro tip: Choose a (seasonal) palette. For example, if you want to incorporate springtime ingredients, Becerra recommends a pink scheme using pink grapefruit, watermelon radish, red radish, and cara cara oranges. Already thinking ahead to summer salads? Becerra says yellows and purples are the way to go. Pick up corn and chicory to jump-start your dish.  

The Earthy Spring Salad

Ingredients: Spiralized beets • radicchio • pickled barberries • cherries • red wine vinaigrette

Raw root vegetables, bitter lettuces, and tart barberries create straight-from-the-soil flavors that are as complex as their deep crimson pigment. Throw anti-inflammatory and blood-cleansing powers into the mix and this salad is nature’s showstopper.

The Celebratory Spring Salad

Ingredients: Pink chicories pink grapefruit • lobster • hearts of palm • shallots • champagne vinaigrette

Luxe ingredients like lobster and champagne vinaigrette look even fancier when made to match, while good-for-you chicories and grapefruit are a modern spin on special-occasion eating.

Pro tip: Begin with one ingredient. Going completely green? Start with something like asparagus, and hunt around for other produce in the same fresh color palette (Becerra is a fan of adding peas and fava beans).   

The Zippy Spring Salad

Ingredients: Shaved raw artichoke • celery • lime supremes • pistachio • Parmesan • extra-virgin olive oil • lemon • flaky salt

The everyday green salad gets a hit of zest thanks to lime segments and a generous splash of lemon juice. Celery and raw artichoke—much-buzzed-about health heroes—provide just the right amount of crisp snap and do double duty as an antioxidant and liver detox.

Pro tip: Use a large platter, not a bowl—your salad will tend to live better and longer. According to Becerra, if you toss everything into a deeper dish, all the dressing goes to the bottom.

The Elemental Spring Salad

Ingredients: Escarole • hijiki • spirulina dust • nori sheets • black sesame salt • miso honey dressing

Packed with minerals and nutrients—if anything is the new kale, it’s spirulina—this trio of sea vegetables adds depth and dimension to your plate. Balance dark and light with contrasting flavors (earthy miso and sweet honey) and fun textures (edible powders and flaky nori sheets) to round out the color wheel.

Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to change it up. Sometimes even a chef-approved recipe could use a little something extra. “Take a bite with all the ingredients, then reevaluate,” says Becerra. “Maybe it needs more salt or maybe it needs some cheese or maybe it needs a nut.” She ended up tweaking the all-white salad (below) by adding sesame seeds for some crunch.  

The Clean Spring Salad

Ingredients: Asian pear radish cooked rye berries mixed in Greek yogurt poached chicken sesame seeds citronette

White might be the color of potatoes, plain pasta, and other nutritiously void foods, but think of this combo as a palate refresher. The subtle, simple flavors of Asian pear, poached chicken, and plain yogurt—no hard spices or herbs needed—enhance the muted tone overall for a quiet dish that really sings.

This story was originally published in our Spring 2019 issue with the headline “Primary Palate.”

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