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Stock Your Pantry for Serious Summer Salads

Whole Grain Croutons

The arrival of warmer temperatures and peak-season summer produce means serious salad-making opportunities. What do I mean by “serious” salads? A salad that is a meal on its own, that goes beyond a standard green salad. I like to keep my kitchen stocked with some basic ingredients so that whatever beautiful summer produce I come home with, or whatever garden-fresh produce a neighbor generously shares, I’m ready to put together a hearty salad.

Here are the key salad-making supplies I keep on hand:

  1. Canned beans—especially black, garbanzo and white. Keep several cans around and you’ll be ready to turn any salad into a satisfying meal. 
  2. Canned tuna, salmon or sardines—similar to canned beans, tossing these into a salad will instantly make a salad into a more robust dish. 
  3. Hearts of palm –one of my very favorite salad additions, they add a tangy flavor and tender texture.
  4. Sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil—chop the tomatoes and add the oil to your dressing. The rich, almost smoky flavor contributes a nice balance to lighter summer flavors.
  5. Crouton-making material – A little crunch goes a long way. Making croutons can be as simple as toasting a bagel, tearing it up into pieces and adding it to a salad. Or heating a little oil in a skillet, adding cubes of stale bread and cooking until browned, or baking in the oven. Also consider crackers broken up into bits, or tortillas cut into strips and toasted in a skillet. The goal is to add something with a real crunch factor.

What are your pantry staples for assembling serious summer salads? Happy salad making!

P.S. Looking for salad dressing recipes for your repertoire? Try these five classics.