I never have any idea what to put in a salad. I know this much: make your own dressing, that's a given. Mushrooms are a good bet, as they soak up all the flavor and end up being remarkably delicious. Leaves: yes. Good oilve oil and vinegar (or lemon / lime juice). Salt, fresh pepper. Avocado if you feel fancy. Raw onions, just a bit, taste sweet when combined in with the vinegar.
There's this one salad dressing recipe.
It's beyond amazing. It belongs to my girlfriend's mother. Red wine vinegar is put into the bowl, and you add garlic, dried basil, salt, pepper. Then you whisk in oilve oil, really getting your wrist into it so it combines and emulsifies with the vinegar. 3 parts oilive oil to one part vinegar. Toss in a handful of great Parmesan. Now, the key: put sliced mushrooms in for 5 minutes or so. They soak up all the goodness, become heavenly.
Improvise from there. We did the mushrooms, avocado chunks, bit of sliced onion, marinated jarred artichokes from Trader Joe's (those are $1.99 cheap and tasty). Rinse Romaine lettuce and put it in the fridge, hard white end down, while the mushrooms soak up the dressing, which makes the leaves crisp up. Stack the leaves and cut sideays into chunks, spin in a salad spinner, then toss.
NOW: the kicker. This is venturing into heretic territory, but that's fine. Frozen tortellini, boiled then run under cold water until just slightly warm. Filled with Parmesan or ricotta or something rich and cheesy. It's crazy, I know. But it works so darn well. Toss that it like it were another vegetable addition to the salad. Top with more Parmesan. Taste, adjust oil/vinegar/salt. It makes a whole meal.