The $2 secret to make your salads zing all season

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The best summer meals make the most of fresh veggies and seem to always include a salad, whether starring as the main course with fresh greens, ripe tomatoes and peppers, or as a light side to grilled burgers or other summer specialties.

When you’re on a budget, heirloom tomatoes can be a delicious splurge, but they’re hard to swing every night of the week. And so on those nights, the nights where you’re eating pasta and jarred sauce or a quick fried rice, a simple green salad can still make year-round staples feel like a fresh summer feast.

So how do you make that salad pop? We’ll let you in on a secret. Whether you pick up a curly frisee, hearty spinach, baby kale or classic iceberg at your local farmers market, a little vinegar and oil can go a long way provided you have clove of garlic to make it sing.

That’s right — garlic. Grating a clove of garlic into your salads adds spice and brightness that make it taste like you’re eating more than just your daily dose of greens, plus the health benefits of fresh garlic elevate your simple salad into a superfood. Feel free to get creative, but here’s a way to get started.

Summer vinaigrette with garlic

The go-to ratio for vinaigrettes is one part vinegar to three parts olive oil, but vinaigrettes are forgiving — putting a vinaigrette together isn’t a science.

In a big salad bowl, add a glug of vinegar — balsamic, red wine or cider are classic choices — and a few glugs of olive oil. Add salt and pepper. And then grate a clove of garlic into it. Stir. Add greens. Toss. Serve. Yes, it’s that simple. But that’s not the only reason we love this…

  • It’s cheap. One large head of garlic is less than $2 (or cheaper if you shop sales or with coupons) and can last you through several weeks of salads. Plus, it makes a simple green salad special without the need to add other expensive ingredients (though if you shop smart for fresh produce, you can pick up veggies for a steal).
  • It’s healthy. Garlic is widely considered a superfood. Fresh garlic is especially renowned for its health properties. Allicin, the main compound in garlic, is antibacterial and has been shown to help regulate blood pressure, fight against blood clots and even has shown to reduce the risk of cancer. So not only are you getting a big dose of flavor when you add garlic to your salads, you’re upping the health quotient, too.
  • It’s delicious. Raw garlic packs a flavor punch that can seem daunting, but when you grate it and disperse it in vinaigrette, the taste enhances the flavor and doesn’t overwhelm it. By adding garlic to your salads, you and your guests will be asking, why is this so good? Answer: It’s the garlic!

Looking for more budget-friendly side dishes for your end-of-summer barbecue? We’ve got one right here that costs less than 50 cents per person.

This article originally appeared on Policygenius and was syndicated by

Featured Image Credit: UberImages / iStock.