Dress Up Your Summer Salad

By Fabiana Santana

By now, you are probably gagging at the thought of eating another salad. Sure, at the start of the season there was all the excitement about seasonal produce and different ways to make vinaigrette. And staying healthy did have its appeal. But halfway through the summer, the last thing any of us want to see is a lettuce leaf unless it is garnishing a meaty burger.

You can still add spark to your summer salad, without OD’ing on greens and without having to overheat your kitchen with a hot oven.

Here are some healthy ways to make the most of your summer meal.

1. Spice Things Up

We know, we know. We’ve got enough heat already! But a little hint of spice can do wonders for a salad’s flavor profile. Add the spice in the salad itself by using Thai seasoned shrimp, chicken or pork, or make a bumped up salad dressing using Tobasco sauce, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Make it a spicy citrus salad by substituting the vinegar with fresh squeezed lemon juice.

2. Get Cheesy

The tang and salt from a good quality cheese can make a simple salad instantly luxurious. Crumbled blue cheeses is an easy topping for a spinach salad and for some extra sweetness that pair perfectly with this bold flavor, add ripe beets or strawberries in with your other veggies. Yes, berries and blue are a great combination. Add candied walnuts or almonds for crunch.

3. Use Your Grain

Quinoa has been heating up the Internet as the next new super food to save our lives. And sometimes you should believe everything you read. Quinoa is an amino acid rich protein seed that is fluffy, creamy, and slightly crunchy at the same time. And while it is technically a grain, quinoa is a distant relative of leafy greens like Swiss chard and spinach so it’s antioxidant p0wers are truly supped up.

4. Shape Shift

Sometimes something as simple as presenting a dish a new way instantly makes it more appealing.

Stacking is an easy option – especially when your ingredients are all the same size. Think slices of tomato layered in between slices of cheese, Portobello mushrooms and herbs. Or a toothpick stacked on either side with half of a cherry tomato and bite size chunks of zucchini, radish, and watermelon.

Rolling a salad is another good idea. Grab the biggest leaf of romaine lettuce you can and stuff it full of shredded carrot, celery, cucumber, tomato and fresh herbs like parsley, basil and a few rogue slivers of fresh onion. Instead of drizzling dressing inside, serve it along side your salad roll-up like a dipping sauce. This is also a great way to use BBQ leftovers. Toss some cold shredded chicken or steak slices in there and you’ve got a hand rolled dinner salad!


5. Fruit Flavors

If you only try one new thing with your salad this season, make it this one: throw in some fruit. Grill pineapple, and peaches for a more intense tropical flavor or simply since up some papaya, mango, raspberries or watermelon to add tangy flavor and color to your dish. Pureeing or smashing a bit of the fruit or using the juice in the dressing is another way to make your old standby interesting.

Caprese Salad With Sticky Balsamic Glaze RecipeTraditional Layered Caprese Salad Recipe

Yields 4 servings

  • 2 large ripe beefsteak tomatoes, or 5 plum tomatoes, or 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces lightly salted mozzarella (preferably fresh)
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Slice the tomatoes 1/3-inch thick and salt them on both sides. Set aside 10 minutes on a baking cooling rack (this helps the water to drain away).
  • Slice the mozzarella 1/3-inch thick to match your tomatoes.

Add a tomato slice to your plate and top with a small pinch of salt and a drop of olive oil. Add a cheese slice and repeat with the salt and oil. Top with a slice of basil. Add more olive oil and a healthy drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Cranberry Nut Quinoa Salad RecipeCranberry Nut Quinoa Salad Recipe

Yields 4 servings

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1/4 cup walnuts or almonds, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cooking quinoa is just like cooking rice. Combine your 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and continue cooking until all water is absorbed.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl dried cranberries, green beans, nuts, and green onions until well mixed. Add the cooked quinoa when it is ready.

In a small bowl, whisk the balsamic vinegar and garlic together and in a slow, stead stream, add the olive oil while continuing to whisk.

Pour the dressing over the quinoa salad and toss until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

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