Sometimes it’s hard to get dinner on the table with all the summer activities going on. Between Little League games, lawn mowing, bike rides, family outings or staying too long at the pool or beach, summer dinners can be a challenge.
Meals need to be quick and easy with very little preparation involved. This is where a simple and delicious salad can come to the rescue. Along with seasonal fruits and berries, a salad is another food that reflects the essence of summer. All types of ripe produce are at their peak and begging to be tumbled into a salad bowl. And during these busy summer months we all are looking for time savers in the kitchen.
A salad’s base ingredient and rightful ruler of the plate is lettuce or a variety thereof. Textures range from buttery, tender, delicate to crunchy. Lettuce is a fat-free, low-calorie food that is a valuable source of Vitamin A and folic acid.
Fresh vegetables and fruits are delicious salad additions that can take any salad from ordinary to extraordinary. For instance, fresh, raw sweet corn adds a wonderful crunch when cut off the cob and sprinkled into a salad. Give your salad a touch of sweetness by scattering cut up pieces of stone fruits, melons or sliced, whole berries over the top. Also, make a homemade salad that equals fancy restaurant fare by adding toasted pecans, walnuts, almonds or pine nuts along with varieties of grated or crumbled cheese such as Asiago, Parmesan, blue cheese or feta.
Adding protein can turn your salad from a simple side dish into an entrée. Any kind of lunch meat such as smoked turkey, ham and salami are all good additions and taste great on salads. Tuna is another great protein to add. My all-time favorite time saver is to grab a rotisserie chicken (a busy parent’s miracle food if there ever was one) from the supermarket and add the de-boned chicken to my salad with veggies, lettuce, cheese, croutons and anything else that I can find in the refrigerator.
Salads also provide the perfect way to use that leftover steak, pork or shrimp from last night’s barbecue.
However, if you want to keep it meatless, just open a can of beans; kidney, garbanzo, cannelli and black beans all make tasty salad toppers.
Salads don’t need to be leafy and green to be called a salad. One of our much-loved salads is a Greek salad, which consists of tomato wedges, sliced cucumber, sweet onions, bell peppers, Kalamata olives and tangy feta cheese mixed with a simple dressing of lemon juice, olive oil and chopped, fresh oregano. Another tasty salad that tops our non-lettuce list is the Insalata Caprese. This is a great salad to prepare during the peak tomato season; it consists of slices of garden-fresh tomatoes and creamy fresh mozzarella cheese layered on a platter then topped with fresh basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Depending on my mood and taste buds, I sometimes add a small amount of balsamic vinegar to the top. Then there is our all-time favorite three-bean salad. The longer this salad sits, the better it tastes.
Diann Greene, whose column appears weekly in Accent, can be e-mailed at email@example.com.
SPRING SALAD WITH POPPYSEED DRESSING
q 1 bag Spring salad blend (or your favorite torn lettuce mix)
q 1 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
q 1 cup pine nuts
q 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
q 1/4 cup poppyseed dressing (recipe follows)
n Optional – fresh chopped fruit, whole/sliced berries and or bite size pieces of chicken
n Place the salad blend, cheese, pine nuts and halved cherry tomatoes in a salad bowl.
n Add dressing; toss and serve.
q 1/2 cup sugar
q 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
q 1 cup mayonnaise (I use Hellman’s)
q 2/3 cup Italian salad dressing
q 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (I use Kraft in the green container)
q 2 tablespoon poppy seeds
q 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
q 1/4 teaspoon salt
n In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar and wine vinegar. Add all the other ingredients, mix well.
— Recipe from Mom Jane
THREE BEAN SALAD
q 1 pound can cut green beans
q One 15-ounce can wax beans
q One 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
q One 16-ounce can black beans
q One 15-ounce can dark red kidney beans
q One 15-ounce can sliced mushrooms
q 1 cup chopped green pepper
q 1 cup chopped sweet onion
q 1 cup sugar
q 1-1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
q 2/3 cup salad oil (I use canola)
q Salt and pepper to taste
n Place the chopped green pepper and onion in a large bowl.
n Drain the green beans, wax beans and mushrooms; add to the bowl.
n Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans, black beans and kidney beans; add to the bowl.
n In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, vinegar, salad oil, salt, and pepper together; mix well.
n Pour the dressing mixture over the vegetables and toss.
n Chill for a couple hours or overnight.