Maybe you call them poke bowls, baja bowls or simply a chef salad. There are lots of names for those main-dish salads you eat for dinner with nothing more than perhaps a slice of toasty garlic bread, and clever cooks are coming up with ways to make them more delicious than ever before.

For Baby Boomers, eating a salad for dinner meant some iceberg lettuce with tomatoes and cucumbers topped with shredded cheese. And, if we were lucky, some croutons out of a box. Most times, the only word that went with salad was "side." Salads were an afterthought — something green to go with a steak and potato.

Fortunately, salads for dinner now are a main event with all sorts of ways to make them healthy, delicious and, best of all, filling.

Here's a list that pretty much sums up the anatomy of a main-dish salad — the ingredients that make it healthful and satisfying.

* Whole grains keep the salad filling. You'll see brown rice, quinoa, farro and bulgur wheat, among others. Many times, these are the base of the salad rather than lettuce. But we need to eat our greens, so read on.

* Often leafy greens are the base of the salad, ranging from spinach to kale with some romaine or another member of the lettuce family tossed in. No longer are we subject to a wedge of iceberg.

* A mix of textures from raw or roasted vegetables adds contrast. Roasted beets add a lot of color; carrots, celery and peppers provide crunch.

* If you don't add meat to your salad and follow a plant-based diet, it's important to add protein. Nuts and seeds are a good way to do this, and they also add a nice crunch.

* Shredded hard-boiled eggs and assorted cheeses are both good sources of protein and add a savory element to your salad.

* Finally, your dressing is what brings the salad to a beautiful finish. But don't let it come from a bottle. Make your own dressing. A zesty vinaigrette or nice Asian miso dressing would be versatile enough to dress a wide variety of salads, from those with rice to traditional lettuce salads.


Crispy Chickpea Miso Salad

Use any mixture of fresh veggies you want, and add chicken or shrimp, if desired.

Crispy chickpeas add a lovely texture.


1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed, well-drained and blotted dry with paper towel

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon white or yellow miso paste

2 teaspoons maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

Creamy Miso Dressing:

4 tablespoons miso paste

3 cloves garlic minced

1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and grated

1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons rice wine or white vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

2 cups cooked brown rice, quinoa or cauliflower rice

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced vegetables (such as red or green cabbage, bell pepper, cucumber or carrots)

1 avocado, diced

1/4 cup finely chopped, roasted salted peanuts

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and drain chickpeas well. Then pat very dry — this will help them crisp up.

To a medium mixing bowl add oil, miso paste, maple syrup and red pepper flakes; whisk to combine. Add chickpeas, and toss to coat.

Arrange chickpeas on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 20-25 minutes, tossing and stirring at the halfway point to ensure even baking. They're done when crisp and deep golden brown. Set aside.

Prepare dressing: In a jar, whisk together the miso paste, garlic, ginger and vinegar. Add the olive oil and sesame oil; season with salt and pepper. Seal the jar with a lid, and shake vigorously.

To serve, divide rice or quinoa between serving bowls, and top with chickpeas, veggies of choice, avocado and dressing. Sprinkle with nuts, and serve.

Note: Store any leftover dressing in refrigerator for up to one week.

Contact Anne Braly at or at