As the weather heats up I’m looking for dinners that are light and cool – not only to make but to eat as well. That’s where salads come in.
Growing up a salad was iceberg lettuce with tomato, cucumber, carrots if we had any and were topped with a bottled dressing. Except in the summer when there were fresh vegetables of all sorts to add, fresh lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower and more, fresh veggies made all the difference.
In today’s grocery stores there is a plethora of veggies available year-round, salads have taken on a new life. Add fruit, whole grains, beans, eggs and even pasta to make it a meal. Toss some homemade dressing on the top and you have a quick and cool dinner that even the kids will eat.
One of the tricks I use is to buy chicken in bulk and prep it by cooking it in the crockpot, shredding it and freeze it in portions with some of the cooking liquid.
The other issue with salads are the tomatoes. If you can get away with it, use whole grape tomatoes so your salad doesn’t get soggy. If you must chop, take out the seeds, which will reduce the moisture. You can also keep the diced tomato separate until you need to serve.
MEXICAN CHOPPED SALAD
My favorite salad for dinner comes from Janet is Hungry and is a Mexican Chopped Salad that I have taken the liberty of adding to.
Her dressing is spot on, so I simply make a double batch.
But for the salad itself, I also add black beans, corn, avocado, black olives to the lettuce, tomato, cucumber and red onion. I top it with grilled chicken and serve with tortilla chips for dinner.
Leftovers, if you have any, can be put in a wrap for an easy to eat lunch.
ISRAELI COUSCOUS & ARUGULA SALAD
Next on my list is a recipe I recreated from something I found in the deli section of my local grocery store. I doubled the greens in this Israeli Couscous and Arugula salad. Season to taste with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- 1 cup cooked Israeli couscous
- 1/2 cup peas
- 1/4 cup green onion
- 4 cups baby arugula
- Chicken – any way you can get it, just not fried – shredded roasted, grilled, baked, steamed, Short Cuts!
- olive oil (about 1/4 cup)
- Lemon juice (about 1 whole lemon, add zest for an extra boost)
- salt and pepper
TUNA LAYER SALAD
Tuna Layer Salad is another easy and pretty dish. You can replace the tuna with ham or chicken if you prefer.
Layer 1 1/2 to 2 cups of each:
- Hard boiled eggs
- Canned tuna (two cans)
- Shell pasta
Top with – creamy chive dressing from Good Housekeeping and grated cheddar cheese.
TWIST – make a mini version in a jar for lunch!
CAPRESE PASTA SALAD
Once the summer is in full swing I make this salad once a week with fresh picked tomatoes and basil, fresh mozzarella and grilled chicken (not required). I simply make the pasta – penne or rotini – and add the diced tomato, seeds removed, 1/2 pound of cheese, two chicken cutlets chopped and 4-6 basil leaves sliced thin. For some extra zip I heat the olive oil with garlic and a dash of red pepper flakes before I pour it over the cooked pasta.
The best part of this recipe, aside from how easy it is, is that you can eat the salad cold for lunch the next day or add it to some lettuce with a splash of balsamic vinegar for a healthier version.
WHEAT BERRY SPINACH AND STRAWBERRY SALAD
This is on my to-try list from last year actually. Wheat berries were hard to find without a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods nearby. When they added a section for whole grains to my local store I grabbed them. What intrigued me, aside from trying the wheat berries, was the combination of flavors here. This is one you can add chicken to for sure. It’s also part of the Cook Once, Eat 3 Times column in Cooking Light.
SEA SCALLOPS, BEET & ARUGULA SALAD
Shrimp and scallops are easy add-ons to salads and pair well with summer fruits. This recipe is easy to toss together, especially since scallops sear in moments.
GRILLED STEAK AND ARUGULA SALAD
There are only so many times you can eat meat and potatoes, even when you toss them both on the grill in the summer. This is where arugula comes in handy. I prefer baby arugula since it has a milder kick to it, but summer fresh arugula cannot be beat! Just add some tomato, cheese, toss with a balsamic vinaigrette and plate with your hunk of red meat for an easy alternative on hot days.
Tacos are a go-to meal in my house, but sometimes the wrap is a bit much. This is where chopping some extra lettuce and making a salad using the same ingredients can switch things up. I usually have tortilla chips, salsa and sour cream in the house, which also makes this a bit easier. Plus, ground beef is an inexpensive option for your protein.
If you can plan ahead there are boats and shells in the grocery store you can use as well. Doritos make it extra fun!
For dressing, I either mix 1 part sour cream to 2 parts salsa or make the vinaigrette from Janet (above).
CHICKEN AND EDAMAME GREEK SALAD
On my menu for dinner tonight is a tossed Greek salad with chicken and edamame. I like to keep components in prep bowls in case someone doesn’t like something. For instance, my younger daughter won’t eat the feta or the olives, but she’ll add extra edamame for sure.