Summer is salad season — the time for lighter meals that don’t require much cooking but do stir up plenty of pleasure once they hit the table. I love to have fun while creating a good summer salad. That means experimenting with all kinds of wonderful veggies, cooked and raw. I recently had guests for brunch. I served quiche and a vegetable salad made from grilled zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers and red onions. I added chopped fresh parsley, tossed it with a simple vinaigrette and served it over a bed of dark leafy greens. Delicious!
Do you remember the salads of “yesteryear”? They were made from a few simple variations on the lettuce, tomato and cucumber theme, and not much else. This definition of “salad” from dictionary.com proves my point. A salad is: “a usually cold dish consisting of vegetables, as lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers, covered with a dressing and sometimes containing seafood, meat, or eggs.”
I have to wonder what year that was written? These days, salad seems so much more sophisticated! Good thing I discovered the definition by the Encyclopedia Britannica Online: Salad is “any of a wide variety of dishes that fall into the following principal categories: green salads; vegetable salads; salads of pasta, legumes, or grains; mixed salads incorporating meat, poultry, or seafood; and fruit salads….”
Now, that’s more like it!
When you start building your savvy summer salads, remember to use an assortment of vegetables, raw and cooked, for greater flavor, different textures and a wider range of nutrients. For hearty main meals, round out your salads by tossing in whole grains, legumes or your choice of protein such as chicken, shrimp, eggs, tofu, cheese or nuts.
Here are some ingredient ideas for building super veggie salads:
- Summer squash, grilled, lightly steamed or raw – sliced or shredded
- Varieties of onions, red, white, yellow, sweet Vidalia, green scallions and spring onions
- Grilled eggplant, radicchio, endive, cabbage leaves and even lettuce
- Assorted tomatoes, including both yellow and red varieties
- Cauliflower and broccoli florets
- Green beans — try the slender French version called Haricot Verts
- Artichokes, hearts of palm and canned water chestnuts
- Peppers — green, red, yellow, orange — and jalapenos
- Carrots, corn and peas
- Beets, red or yellow, are great; par-boil then slice and grill for great flavor. Or grate them and use raw.
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Bite-size pieces of kale, collards, Swiss chard and baby spinach
- Bok Choy – try grilling the baby version
- Cucumbers are fine; try the English or seedless variety
- Fennel and garlic scapes
- Fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, cilantro, chives and any others you love
- Fruit: Pineapple, oranges, watermelon and other melons, berries, cherries, apples, pears, kiwi, peaches, plums and nectarines are delicious in salads, as are tropical fruits such as mango and papaya.
For a fabulous array of summertime salad recipes, check out Summer’s Best Picnic Salads
Salads are one of the most versatile ways to enjoy a wide assortment of fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, proteins, herbs and seasoning in one dish. While they can be served cold, room temperature or warm, veggie salads are always best eaten fresh. Unless your recipe specifies otherwise, don’t put the dressing on until ready to serve.
Do you love a good, crisp summertime vegetable salad? Got a favorite? I would love to hear!