Salads get a bad rap.
They are sneeringly called rabbit food. They’re what a restaurant server throws at you to gnaw on while waiting endlessly for the food you actually ordered. They’re what your doctor tells you to eat right after he tells you not to eat all the things you do want to eat.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Especially in the summer. Whether you have a garden, shop the farmer’s market or depend on a more conventional store for your food, summer is the time when fresh produce is abundant and the most economical.
It also helps that the definition of salads has expanded from the mid-twentieth century bowl of shredded lettuce and a questionable tomato bathed in copious amounts of creamy dressing to include just about anything that will go in a bowl. The only real constraint should be that the whole thing is cut into bite-size pieces. But even that is not a hard and fast rule. If you want to throw a salmon steak or a chicken breast on top of your salad, it’s still a salad. And salads are usually cold. But that rule too, is made to be broken. Warm potato salad is still a salad. The point is that the space for creativity here is infinite.
Take Grilled Peach, Onion and Bacon Salad, for instance. You sear onions and peaches on the grill and then throw in a pound of bacon cooked in brown sugar and cayenne. Probably not what your cardiologist had in mind when he told you to eat more salads but Doc should have been a little more specific.
But a summer salad can be good, hearty and filling, good for you and economical. White Bean Salad with Tuna and Parsley has two kinds of protein — tuna and cannellini beans — and even with parsley purchased from the grocery store only costs about five dollars to make enough salad to stuff two hungry people or fill up three people with more reasonable appetites.
And it’s delicious. Using lemon juice as the acid in the dressing instead of vinegar is an idea that should be remembered. Fresh, light and fragrant, there’s no reason not to do that all the time. Parsley as a salad green instead of a garnish is an idea whose time has come. Try it. It really is good.
And if none of this seems like it’s going to be adequate to your carnivore needs, make yourself a steak salad. Yes, it’s a thing, and that’s not rabbit food.
White Bean Salad with Tuna and Parsley
The only tedious thing about this salad is snipping the leaves of the parsley off the stems but even so, considering this salad is a whole meal, it still goes fast.
1 can (15.5 oz.) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained well (other white beans will work)
1 can Italian tuna in olive oil (5-6 oz.) (or any tuna packed in oil)
1 bunch curly parsley (washed, spun dry and chopped)
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
black pepper and sea salt to taste
Put beans in colander and rinse well with cold water, until no more foam appears. Let drain. In small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Put the beans into a bowl big enough to hold all the salad ingredients and mix in dressing. Let the beans marinate while you drain the tuna, chop the parsley, and dice or slice the onions. Put the tuna into the same colander you used to drain the beans and let the oil drain off. (Wipe out the colander with a paper towel so the tuna doesn’t get wet.) Chop the parsley and chop red onions. Add chopped parsley, red onion and drained tuna to the marinating beans and gently combine. (Don’t over stir, you want the tuna to stay chunky.) Taste and see if you want a bit more lemon juice. Season to taste with fresh ground black pepper and sea salt and serve. This will stay good in the refrigerator for at least a day or two.
Balsamic Grilled Steak Salad with Peaches
1 lb. skirt steak, trimmed of fat
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 large lemon
6 cups baby arugula
2 peaches, thinly sliced
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese or feta
Add steak to a large Ziploc or baking dish and toss in balsamic vinegar, garlic, and brown sugar. Let marinate 20 minutes at room temperature. Heat a grill or grill pan to high. Rub steak with vegetable oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Grill until desired doneness, 3 minutes per side for medium rare. Let rest 5 minutes, then slice. Meanwhile, make dressing. In a small bowl whisk together olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. In a large serving bowl, add arugula, peaches, blue cheese or feta, and steak. Drizzle with dressing and gently toss. Serve immediately.
BLT Salad with Buttermilk-Parmesan Dressing and Buttery Croutons
2 1/2 cups cubed white bread
3 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. minced shallot
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. sugar
12 ounces romaine lettuce hearts, chopped
1 1/2 pounds assorted fresh tomatoes, sliced
6 slices cooked bacon, chopped
Flat-leaf parsley and torn basil leaves to garnish
Preheat oven to 375°. Toss together bread, melted butter, salt, and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Place on a baking sheet, and bake 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside. Combine shallot and vinegar in a medium mixing bowl, and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk in buttermilk and next 5 ingredients. Arrange romaine lettuce hearts onto a serving platter. Top with sliced tomatoes and chopped bacon, and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of dressing. Add croutons, parsley, and basil. Serve immediately with remaining dressing on the side.
Grilled Peach, Onion and Bacon Salad
The secret to this salad is using big, juicy sweet onions like Vidalias which get nicely charred on the grill.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. mint, chopped
2 tbsp. parsley, chopped
2 tbsp. chives, snipped
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
1 pound thick-sliced bacon
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 pounds Vidalia or other sweet onions, cut into 1-inch-thick slabs
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
4 (large) ripe peaches, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the sour cream, buttermilk, mint, parsley, chives and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the bacon slices on the sheet in a single layer and sprinkle with the brown sugar and cayenne. Bake for about 25 minutes, until caramelized (the bacon will crisp as it cools). Let cool, then cut the bacon into bite-size pieces. Meanwhile, light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the onions with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until softened and browned, 10 minutes. Separate the onions into rings. Brush the peaches with olive oil and grill over moderately high heat until tender, 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. In a large bowl, toss the onions with the peaches and bacon. Add the buttermilk dressing and toss to coat. Serve right away.
Melon and Prosciutto Salad
3 cups (1/2-inch) cubed honeydew melon (about 1/2 medium melon)
3 cups (1/2-inch) cubed cantaloupe (about 1 medium melon)
2 tbsp. thinly sliced fresh mint
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shaved Parmesan cheese
Cracked black pepper (optional)
Mint sprigs (optional)
Combine first 5 ingredients, tossing gently. Arrange melon mixture on a serving platter. Arrange prosciutto evenly over melon mixture; sprinkle with Parmesan. Garnish with cracked black pepper and fresh mint sprigs, if desired.
Asian Green Bean Salad
3 ounces uncooked linguine
1 pound green beans, trimmed
2 cups diagonally sliced celery
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1/2 cup (1/2-inch) slices green onions
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp. dark sesame oil
2 tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped (about 1 tbsp.)
To prepare salad, break linguine in half. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; add beans during last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Place mixture in a large bowl. Stir in celery, bell pepper, onions, and cilantro. To prepare dressing, combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until blended. Add to salad; toss well. Cover and chill.
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Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard.