Summer Salads

Behold the bounty of fresh produce.

As summer heats up, you may be inclined to leave the oven off. It’s the perfect season for cool foods and fresh produce. It’s salad season.

Give Salad a Starring Role

Salads are often shuffled off as a side dish or an afterthought, but in the summer salad can be the star of the supper table. Fresh produce abounds. The lettuce is crispy and the vegetables are flavorful.

If salad doesn’t seem like enough for the main course, all you have to do is think outside the salad bowl. It’s easy to turn a salad into a hearty meal by adding some protein or a grain. In fact, salads are an excellent way to use up leftovers from last night’s barbecue.

Build a Better Salad

There are no rules when it comes to tossing together a salad. Your imagination is the limit. So dig through the garden and pillage your pantry and get ready to take your salads to summer stardom. A few ideas:

  • Choose your base: When most people think of salad, they think of a head of lettuce, but there are countless options for building the base and bulk of your salad:
    • Lettuce
    • Spinach
    • Chard
    • Arugula
    • Kale
    • Watercress
    • Collard greens
    • Any grain, such as quinoa, brown rice, or couscous
  • Add creative toppings: If all of your salads consist of lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and croutons, it’s time to branch out. Go for color, flavor, and crunch. Think about flavors that complement each other outside of a salad and get gutsy and toss them in. Some favorite salad toppings:
    • Bell peppers
    • Nuts
    • Olives
    • Fresh herbs such as basil or cilantro
    • Dried cranberries
    • Sliced strawberries
    • Roasted beets
    • Pomegranate seeds
    • Bean sprouts
    • Artichokes
    • Asparagus
    • Avocado
    • Jicama
    • Eggplant
    • Radishes
    • Cantaloupe
    • Grapes
    • Bean sprouts
    • Figs
    • Sweet corn
  • Throw out the rules: Fruit is fair game in a salad, as is just about anything your palate desires. Who says you can’t put kiwi in a salad? Why not add watermelon? As a matter of fact, cantaloupe and butterleaf lettuce make a fine pair. Just try it. You’ll see.
  • Add protein: Turn your salad into a main meal with the simple addition of protein. Some suggestions:
    • Grilled chicken, beef, or fish
    • Tofu
    • Legumes, such as black beans or garbanzo beans
  • Add bulk: If greens and protein don’t seem like enough to fill you up, consider stirring in a grain. Brown rice or quinoa make delicious additions to a green salad and often add a delicious balance to a tangy dressing.
  • Make homemade dressing: Salad dressings are simple to make and so delicious. One taste of homemade dressing and you’ll never reach for the bottle again. Keep it simple and start with an olive oil base and then add some tangy flavor. Stir a dash of balsamic vinegar, a dash of maple syrup, a dash of mustard and a dash of salt into olive oil for a delicious and healthy balsamic vinaigrette that beats any store-bought variety you could find.
  • Embellish: Make it beautiful and tasty. Add a sprinkle of dried cranberries or goat cheese. Shave Parmesan over the top. A final flourish entices the eyes and the taste buds.

Try It

Try these unique, delicious salads for a summer treat. Don’t worry about exact measurements—just grab ingredients that pair well together and get creative!

Grapefruit Avocado Delight:

Toss grapefruit sections with sliced avocado and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle lightly with balsamic vinaigrette (one part balsamic vinegar to four parts olive oil; dash of maple syrup; dash of salt; dash of mustard)
Jicama Mango Coleslaw:

Toss sliced jicama and mango with a dressing of coconut milk, lime juice, curry powder and cilantro.

Arugula Avocado Salad:

Toss arugula and avocado together. Toss with a light lemon dressing (4 Tablespoons olive oil; 2 Tablespoons lemon juice; 1 garlic clove; salt and pepper to taste). Top with shaved Parmesan cheese.

Hearty Mexican Salad:

Toss lettuce with cucumber, sweet corn, black beans, and brown rice. Add sliced tomatoes and avocado. Dress with a cilantro-lime vinaigrette (2 Tablespoons lime juice; ¼ cup olive oil; ¼ cup cilantro leaves; 1 jalapeno; 1 garlic clove; salt and pepper to taste). Embellish with fresh goat cheese.