The word salad comes from the Latin verb salare, meaning to salt. A Roman salad consisted of fresh greens sprinkled with salt for flavor; hence the greens were salata, or salted. (Just as a side note, in Roman times salt was an expensive commodity and was used as a form of currency, giving us the English word salary.)
Salads have come a long way since then, and range from simple tossed salads—basically greens and a dressing—to grain and vegetable salads. By and large, salads are served chilled or at room temperature. And the so-called “side salad” (as opposed to a main-course salad) is intended to be an adjunct to a meal. Side salads serve a number of functions in a meal. They can be served first, as a sort of appetite whetter. They can be served last (European style) as a bit of a palate cleanser before dessert. Or they can be served with the meal, as a side dish. The type of side salad you choose—and when you choose to serve it—should be governed by the flavors (and calories) in the rest of the meal.
Here is our recipe infographic for making a variety of delicious tossed salads. A tossed salad seems like it should be easy, but in fact there is an art to creating a balance between flavors, textures and weights.