Little known fact: When Instagram compiles my “Top 9” photos at the end of the year, there’s always a salad—sometimes two—in the mix.

Yes, the salad has occasionally ranked above pics from various date nights, vacation snaps, and novels I’m loving at the moment.

Apparently, there’s a clandestine society of salad lovers who demand pretty bowls of greens all dressed up for company. And because I’m all about giving the people what they want—less selfies, more salad—I’m sharing a few of my secrets to saying goodbye to sad desk salads. You know the ones.

Raise your hand if, like me, you’ve purchased a clam shell of spring greens with good intentions and tossed it, all wilt-y and slimy, in the trash bin four days later? This happened more times than I cared to admit. Whenever lunchtime rolled around, I simply couldn’t summon the enthusiasm for boring leafy greens.

I wondered why restaurant salads were so, so much better than the ones I made at home and with a little trial and error, I stumbled across a few helpful tips…

1) Make sure your lettuce is dry. Instead of putting the greens in the fridge immediately after getting home from the store, I open the package and give the leaves a thorough toss in the clam shell first. For whatever reason, this little bit of circulation keeps the salad-to-be fresher for a couple of extra days. You also keep the lettuce drier, which allows your vinaigrette to cling better.

2)Season your greens first. When we cook, we salt and pepper every layer for optimal seasoning, but I never did this with salad until recently. Sprinkle salt and pepper on your lettuce leaves before adding anything else to the party. The end result is a much, much tastier salad.

3)Make your own vinaigrette. In a pinch, store-bought dressing is just fine. But my salads wound up being so much tastier when I spent an extra two minutes whisking together Queen Ina’s lemon vinaigrette. If you want to add extra flavor, a dab of Dijon and a garlic clove grated in is a total chef’s kiss. As a bonus, it makes enough lemony goodness for a few salads, so you can keep a Mason jar’s worth in your fridge for whenever you need it.

4)Have fun with the toppings. Sure, the requisite tomatoes and cucumbers are fine, but I like to mix things up. Sometimes I make my own croutons (a way to use up a hunk of baguette or day old bread). Other times I add flavor-packed chickpeas, fennel, olives, or sweet potato cubes that I’ve roasted. Sometimes shaving Parmesan or Pecorino with a vegetable peeler instead of grating it adds a cool texture. And of course, you can’t go wrong with Feta, drained artichoke hearts, or fresh bell pepper.

5)For a party, try plating it on a platter instead. This is one of my favorite tricks when I have a dinner party. Not only is it a dramatic presentation, but since the salad isn’t all compressed in a bowl, you’re guaranteed to get a little of everything.

6)Final touches make a difference. Have some fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil) you need to use up? Throw the leaves in your salad for extra pop. Lemon zest (just the yellow part, not the pith) adds zing and freshness. Pickled red onions are a delicious accompaniment too.