While Trader Joe's stocks a battalion of premade salads, I pass them by every time. Salad kits are pricey, invariably soggy, and full of more lows than highs (teeny, tiny bag of dried-out cheese-no thanks). Here's how I mix it up at TJ's to incorporate protein, dark leafy greens, and a few killer vitamins into my salad.
Although a jaunt to Italy isn't on my itinerary this summer, a gorgeous platter full of well-dressed arugula, prosciutto, mozzarella, almonds, and artichoke hearts sweeps me ever-so-briefly away to a Tuscan vineyard. It hits all the highs: nutritious greens, luxuriously creamy mozzarella, a salty pop from prosciutto, and a crunchy top note from roasty-toasty Marcona almonds. Once you have everything out, pulling the salad together takes fewer than five minutes. It can easily serve as the centerpiece for a summer lunch or a casual dinner. (You don't even need to break out a knife!) Put these ingredients on your grocery list for your next TJ's run for sweet, sweet salad success.
Organic Arugula ($2.49 for 7 ounces)
Sure, chopped kale calls to me (speaking of Italy, it even says "Tuscan" right on the label), but those stout, substantial stems (ugh) are just too much to contend with for a quick salad. No one has time to painstakingly cut those hearty suckers out. Instead, focus on the ready-to-go curly, peppery strands of arugula. This go-to salad base can go head-to-head with kale's vitamin content, with arugula's own micro-nutrient dream team of beta-carotene, vitamin C, folate, vitamin K, and magnesium.
Prosciutto ($3.99 for 4 ounces)
TJ's stocks both a house brand of sliced Prosciutto as well as a slightly more expensive Italian Prosciutto di Parma. Both are excellent for all of your dry-cured ham needs.
Cilegine Whole Milk Fresh Mozzarella ($3.99 for 8 ounces)
Most commonly found in a Caprese salad with tomatoes and basil, these porcelain-white "cherry size" (ciliegine means "cherry" in Italian) mozz balls require no prep or chopping, just open your mouth and go.
Rosemary Marcona Almonds ($5.99 for 6 ounces)
If you get home without eating the whole bag of these salty, perfectly seasoned buttery almonds speckled with dried rosemary, you are already ahead of the game.
Artichoke Hearts ($2.49 for 14 ounces)
Look for these in an easy-open green-and-white can. Pop one open, drain, and tender artichoke hearts are at your beck and call.
Now, make like an Italian and mix a fresh salad dressing (no "Italian" dressing swimming with dried herbs and who-knows-what-else for you, thank you very much). Find any old bottle with a lid and add 3 parts extra virgin olive oil to 1 part red wine vinegar. No red wine vinegar? No problem. Substitute white wine vinegar or even lemon juice. Shake until emulsified, add salt and pepper, and you're good to go.
Start with a base of arugula, layer in artichoke hearts, scatter on pearly mozzarella balls, layer in strands of Prosciutto (I like the stress-busting aspect of shredding by hand), and shower almonds on top.
Toss all of the ingredients in one large bowl with the dressing, and grab a pal. Add crusty bread, and conjure Italy in the comfort of your own home.