At the peak of summer when the garden is in full bloom, there is no better way to celebrate the season than to incorporate your favorite summer vegetables into a festive salad. As well, come summer, most of us prefer to spend our time outside enjoying the weather, instead of being stuck in the kitchen. Accordingly, salads are quick and easy to prepare so you can enjoy those sunny summer days.
However, there are salads and then there are salads. Take the classic French Provençal Salade Niçoise, a combination of ingredients such as vine-ripened summer tomatoes, cucumber, young lima beans, artichokes, fennel, green peppers, onion, radishes, hard-boiled eggs, anchovy ﬁllets, croutons, and basil dressed simply with an olive oil-red wine vinaigrette. It’s a quintessential Mediterranean salad that features layers and depth of ingredients and ﬂavors.
While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to building a summer salad, there are deﬁnitely ways you can up your salad IQ by incorporating some of the following:
Greens and herbs: Swap out iceberg or romaine lettuce for any number of leafy greens, from spicy arugula; to bitter chicories such as dandelions, escarole, endive and/or radicchio; to milder lettuces such as red- or green-leaf or mache; to chard; spinach, etc. Add herbs, anything from basil to parsley to mint. For example, the well-known tabbouleh salad is comprised of bulgur wheat mixed with a good amount of freshly chopped parsley and tomatoes, and dressed with olive oil and lots of lemon juice.
Eat the rainbow: Utilize a variety of vegetables — raw, roasted, grilled, or pickled — for added texture and ﬂavor. Grilled bell peppers, corn, eggplant, summer squash, or zucchini will add a roasty-smoky element to your salad bowl. A quick pickle of onion, cucumber, or carrot will liven up a summer salad with a punch of acidity. Of course, any article regarding summer salads would be incomplete without a shout out to tomatoes in all their glorious shapes, sizes, and colors. A summer salad can be as simple as a Greek horiatiki salad of ripe tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, onion, Kalamata olives, and oregano topped with a big slab of tangy Greek feta and dressed liberally with olive oil. Or, an Italian caprese salad highlighting perfectly ripe, sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil drizzled with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
Add some crunch: Toast any number of nuts or seeds in a dry skillet or sheet pan until golden brown, to lend a pleasant aroma (and obvious crunch) to any salad. Or, roast chickpeas lightly tossed with olive oil and spices until browned and crunchy. In addition to crunch, nuts, seeds and legumes (such as chickpeas) bring a nutrition boost to your summer salad.
Add a protein: Beyond nuts, seeds, and legumes, other proteins — anything from poached, soft- or hard-boiled eggs to canned ﬁsh (tuna, sardines, or anchovies) or grilled chicken — will add sustenance and staying power to your favorite salad.
Make your own dressing: Lastly, any good salad requires a dressing to tie all of its components together. A dressing can be as simple as a good quality extra virgin olive oil and vinegar (red wine, white wine, champagne, or balsamic), salt, and black pepper. From there, you can get creative by incorporating whole-grain mustard, raw or roasted garlic, a squeeze of citrus (e.g., lemon, lime, or orange), and/or any number of fresh or dried herbs. Just whisk until emulsiﬁed and voila, you just made your own tasty dressing.
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