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Stock Your Pantry for Serious Summer Salads

Here are five pantry staples to turn ordinary salads into hearty summer meals.

Whole Grain Croutons

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.

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