They don’t call them “salad days” for nothing. Summertime is the best time to turn the bounty from your garden, farmer’s market or supermarket into a salad supper that will be light on your budget as well as your diet.
Think about fresh baby lettuce, young green zucchini or yellow summer squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, scallions, cucumbers and a whole host of delectable veggies for starters. Add a bit of tasty cheese (like feta or parmesan), some inexpensive beans or frugal protein and you have a healthful, budget-friendly meal. Cooked orzo or quinoa go great in salads and add heft. Or top a green salad with hard-boiled egg and/or some canned or leftover grilled tuna or salmon.
How about a simple caprese salad? Slice fresh, ripe tomatoes and alternate slices on a platter with similar-sized slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, drizzle with a little olive oil and a spritz of balsamic or other vinegar, and sprinkle some torn or shredded basil leaves over the top. Add some crusty bread and you have a great lunch or fancy first course for a dinner party.
If you’ve got access to lots of ripe tomatoes, you might also want to try a Summer Bread Salad, an Italian favorite also called panzanella. Everything in it is fresh except the bread — here’s when you use that stale French or Italian bread you were going to throw away.
Salad doesn’t have to mean lettuce. This Southwestern Summer Salad is hearty enough for a vegetarian entrée, or a great side dish with grilled chicken, burgers or skirt steak. Here’s the recipe:
Southwestern Summer Salad
- 1 15-ounce can black beans (I get the kind with chili spices)
- 2 cups fresh corn cut off the cob (or canned, out of season)
- 1 large ripe tomato, diced
- 1 small can diced milk green chiles
- 1 teaspoon chopped or grated garlic
- 4-5 scallions, sliced (white and light green parts only)
- ½ cup fresh lime juice
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 avocado, peeled, seeded and diced
- Cilantro, if desired
Drain black beans, then rinse. Cut corn from cobs and add to a large bowl with beans. Add chiles, garlic, tomato and scallions. Combine olive oil and lime juice and pour over all. Stir to combine, and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Add avocado right before serving. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if you have it and if you like it.
A Garden Pasta Salad can be a main dish any hot summer night. To your pasta spirals, add sliced celery, carrots, bell peppers and your favorite Italian dressing. To make it a main dish, serve as-is or add some sliced pepperoni and black olives. Leftovers, if there are any, can make a great side dish for another meal, or a stand-alone lunch.
If you like tabbouleh, how about substituting high-protein quinoa, an easy-to-cook grain that looks a lot like the bulgur wheat grains used in the traditional salad. Refreshing bits of cucumber, crunchy green onions and fresh parsley help make this Quinoa Tabbouleh a light but satisfying summer meal. Because there’s no mayo, it’s also great in lunch boxes and for picnics.
Love summer produce? You may also be interested in the following: