Seasonal Summer Salads

When the days are long and the sun is high, eating can be one of the last things on your mind. We all get so busy playing outside, and the heat can suppress our appetites. Then all of a sudden: it dawns on everyone that they are famished! This is the time for cool salad meals. Light, easy, and in tune with the season, salad for lunch or dinner is just the thing. With an endless array of ingredients, you can pile a whole meal into the salad and never get bored.

We all think of green salads first, but there are many other chilled, marinated and dressed salads that satisfy. Summer is the ideal time to enjoy seasonal produce, especially in Grilled Summer Vegetables with Fresh Mozzarella. Looking for nutritional balance in a single dish? Salads are a great way to incorporate many or all of the food groups: veggies, fruits, whole grains and proteins.

Whole Meal Green Salads

There are so many ways to combine veggies, fruits, proteins and grains to create whole meal salads. Here are just a few:

Basic Salad and Variations

Start with a big bed of romaine and oranges, topped with a serving of beans, nuts or meat or seafood. Then add a side of whole grain toast or crackers is pretty easy, dressed with a simple vinaigrette. Toss in whole leaves of basil and mint, as well as tender young kale or mustard greens. Pile on non-leafy veggies like broccoli and cauliflower, shredded carrots or beets, or chopped tomatoes and zucchini. Include berries, peaches and plums as a perfect foil for tangy dressings. Try these elegant combinations for sweet and savory salads: Spinach & Strawberry or Cranberry Nectarine Chicken Salad.

Coleslaw: More Than Just Cabbage

If big piles of leaves are too tiring to chew, try shredding veggies into a slaw. Cabbage is the original choice for slaw, but you can also shred broccoli stems, radishes, jicama, beets, and hearty kale and collard greens. Simply toss shredded veggies with a creamy dressing or a vinaigrette. Shred some chicken or baked tofu over the top for extra protein.

Give slaw an Asian twist by adding tahini or curry spiced yogurt dressing, and pile on some cooked shrimp or lentils. Or try making slaw with a twist with protein-packed Super Slaw or brightly colored Gingered Beet and Apple Slaw. Compliment each of these salads with whole grain croutons, crackers or toasted baguette-smeared with creamy cheese.

Include Whole Grains & Beans

Grain salads – from wheat berry to rice – form their own salad category. When you boil up a batch of rice or quinoa for your dinner sides, make some extra to use in a grain salad later in the week. Adding copious amounts of veggies is easy; just pick a theme. For a curry-inspired salad, blanch cauliflower and snow peas, add handfuls of cilantro and make a spicy yogurt dressing. For a classic Southwestern one, mix in corn and black beans, and stir salsa and plain yogurt together for a zesty sauce. Wheat berries have a lovely crunch and sweetness, easily complemented by adding fresh fruit, like berries or nectarines, and herbs like watercress or mint.

Bean salads are a wonderful way to get all that healthy fiber and protein and save a few bucks. Creamy beans melt on the tongue, especially after marinating in a yummy vinaigrette. Try a Southwestern inspired Black Bean and Corn Salad or Italian-style White Bean & Chard Pasta Salad. Don’t forget the soybean; edamame is a great salad bean, with a bright color and crunch. Just thaw frozen shelled edamame and make a three bean salad with black or kidney beans and green beans, and serve it on lots of veggies. Edamame or marinated and baked tofu are perfect in Asian salads, and can be dressed simply with a sesame oil and soy sauce spiked dressing.

Pasta and Noodles

Pasta and noodle salads can keep you entertained for many evenings. From a garlicky Orzo Pasta Salad with pesto and peppers, to an Asian Rice Noodle Salad, with piles of basil, mint, and veggies. Experiment with different grains and types of noodles. Incorporate the proteins you have on hand, from shrimp to chopped ham, or of course, cheeses for a Mediterranean flair.

Dress It Up

Complete your salad with a tasty homemade dressing. Most vinaigrettes are 2 or 3 parts oil to one part vinegar or citrus. For a tangier, lower-fat drizzle mix a 1 to 1 ratio oil to vinegar. Amp up the nutrition in your dressing and add a nut or seed butter – like in this Honey-Tahini Dressing recipe.

Dressings add color, flavor and nutrition to a host of salads and dishes. Make your own by simply stirring rice vinegar or lime juice with your favorite oil, a dash of sugar, and soy sauce to taste, and optional crushed garlic and ginger. Get loads of flavor from this zesty Ginger Jalapeno Dressing. Cheesy dressings are a great way to stretch a few crumbles of feta, chevre or bleu across a whole bowl of salad. Just mash the cheese, stir in fat free plain yogurt, crushed garlic and a dash of olive oil to taste. For more information on sauce alchemy, read The Magic of a Dressing article or watch this video Make Dressings from Scratch: Basics of Emulsification.

So keep some salad ingredients handy, and stir up a jar of dressing to keep in the fridge. Then you will be ready to make a big, satisfying salad when hunger hits. Try this Co-op classic recipes:

Summer Melon Salad with Mint and Prosciutto

Recipe & Photo from strongertogether.coop

The flavors of sweet melon, savory prosciutto and fresh mint play off each other perfectly in this refreshing summer fruit salad. Serve with fresh greens or a couscous salad, crostini and sweet tea. Experiment with different varieties of seasonal fruits: honeydew, blueberries and pineapple are delicious contrasts to the salty pork and feta.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small seedless watermelon, between 3-4 pounds
  • 1 pound cantaloupe (about 1/2 medium-sized melon)
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, minced
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled or cut in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 6-8 ounces prosciutto or ham, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Cut each of the melons in half. Scoop the seeds out of the cantaloupe. Using a sharp knife, trim the rind off the melons and cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes. Gently mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Serve on crisp lettuce leaves and garnish with the prosciutto.

This bright, fresh slaw is a sensational side dish for grilled vegetables and meats. Try it on burgers and wraps. Serve it with grilled salmon, lamb burgers, steak or with chopped seitan, shredded romaine lettuce and yogurt sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1⁄3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1 cucumber, julienned
  • 1 small fennel bulb, julienned
  • 1/2 cup julienned red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the orange juice, olive oil, vinegar, zest and garlic, then add the prepared vegetables and mix together gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

BLT Salad

Recipe & Photo from strongertogether.coop

A tasty salad version of one of America’s favorite sandwiches. Shredded tomato is the base for a creamy tomato-and-chive dressing. Smoky, crumbled bacon sets it off!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cubed whole-wheat country bread
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium tomatoes, divided
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives, or scallion greens
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 5 cups chopped hearts of romaine lettuce
  • 3 slices center-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toss bread with oil and spread on a baking sheet. Bake, turning once, until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Cut 1 tomato in half. Working over a large bowl, shred both halves using the large holes on a box grater. Discard the skin. Add mayonnaise, chives (or scallion greens), vinegar, garlic powder and pepper; whisk to combine. Chop the remaining 3 tomatoes. Add the tomatoes, romaine and croutons to the bowl with the dressing; toss to coat. Sprinkle with bacon.

By: Claire

ClaireClaire Harlock Garber loves to eat and drink and write about it. She has worked in the food industry for nearly a decade and was on staff at the Skagit Valley Co-op from 2010-2018, writing the regular columns Skagit Brew Corner, The Cheese Whisperer, The Bounty of Bulk, and What's Dippin' in the Well for the Co-op's blog, as well as articles for the Natural Enquirer newsletter.