Hearty greens: A substantial base is the key to a proper dinner salad. You can use cabbage (red, green, savoy, napa), kale, collards, or mustard greens, which will be able to stand up to all the flavorful add-ins, toppings, and dressings. The trick to making these non-lettuce salad bases delicious is to massage them with some olive oil, lemon juice and salt after they have been cut up. This helps to break down the tough cell structure these veggies have, rendering them tender and ready to soak up flavor.
Protein: A dinner salad needs protein so anything goes including shredded rotisserie chicken, roasted salmon or steak.
Raw and cooked veg: Now it is time to incorporate some supplementary cooked and/or raw veggies. Again, this could be repurposed leftovers—roasted squash, stir-fried broccoli—or some odds and ends from meal prep, like shaved radishes. You want to shoot for contrast, like soft, sweet roasted carrots paired with crunchy raw cauliflower, for instance, or tender herbs and sprouts with steamed chunks of sweet potato. You can even add fruit, slivers of tart-sweet apple or pear can bring both acidity and a bit of welcome sweetness to the party.
Dressing: Think yogurt-based dressings, a rich tahini sauce, or a garlicky homemade ranch. If you are inclined towards something closer to a classic vinaigrette, consider adding a bit of extra citrus, a healthy spoonful of Dijon mustard, or a bunch of chopped herbs, all of which will give it the extra something-something this salad wants.
Toppings: It is what makes a dinner salad the crunchy-salty-creamy-craveable meal it should be. The more the merrier, but make sure to have something crunchy (think pita chips, fried shallots, croutons, nuts, seeds) and something cheesy (crumbled feta, grated Parm, nuggets of goat cheese) to really take that salad to the next level.