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Easy dinner recipes: Keep it light with flavorful salads

Too much Halloween candy Thursday night? Keep it light for dinner tonight with these simple, flavorful salads:

Clementine salad: Salad is a perfect way to highlight these sweet little mandarin oranges. This one combines the orange segments with fresh shaved fennel, mixed baby greens, crystallized ginger and toasted salted cashews. The salad is tossed with a wonderfully sweet and fragrant five-spice dressing. The whole thing comes together in 30 minutes.

Green apple chicken salad: Chicken salad is a deliciously simple dish. It combines diced chicken with a little red onion, celery, currants and apple for a nice crunch, great color and a wonderfully fresh combination of flavors not unlike a classic Waldorf. And it’s just as easy to prepare.

RECIPES: 99 easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

Pasta salad: Sweet cherry tomatoes and vibrant zucchini strips lend bright colors to this pasta salad, and the fresh lemon zest adds a nice zing. The pasta salad comes together in minutes, the flavors rounded out with fresh chopped basil and rich Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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You can find all of the recipes below.

And for more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

MORE RECIPES: 99 ADDITIONAL easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

NAGE’S CLEMENTINE SALAD

Total time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4

Note: Adapted from Nage Restaurant in Washington, D.C. Sichuan peppercorns, star anise and candied ginger are available at cooking and select gourmet stores, as well as online. For this salad, the restaurant calls for one head each of red petite oak, green petite gem and red petite tango lettuces; we substituted a romaine mix.

Five-spice dressing

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1 cinnamon stick

8 fennel seeds

2 cloves

4 Sichuan peppercorns

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1 star anise

1/2 teaspoon clementine zest

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 ½ tablespoons sugar

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1 shallot, minced

1/4 teaspoon minced thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

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1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves, peppercorns and star anise on a sheet pan and toast until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the spices with the clementine zest, red wine vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil over low heat, then remove from heat. Strain the vinegar into a medium mixing bowl, discarding the spices.

3. Whisk in the shallot, thyme and salt. Slowly whisk in the vegetable and olive oils to emulsify and form the dressing. This makes about two-thirds cup dressing, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The dressing will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 4 days.

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Salad

5 cups mixed greens, such as a romaine mix

1 fennel bulb, shaved using a mandoline or by hand (no thicker than 1/8-inch)

1 ½ tablespoons crystallized ginger, julienned

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1/4 cup toasted and salted cashews

4 clementines, peeled and supremed, or segmented

1/4 cup five-spice dressing, or to taste

In a large bowl, combine the mixed greens, shaved fennel, crystallized ginger, cashews, clementine segments and dressing, gently tossing to mix. This makes about 8 cups salad. Serve immediately.

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Each serving: 218 calories; 3 grams protein; 22 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams fiber; 14 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 11 grams sugar; 146 mg sodium.

LUNCH’S GREEN APPLE CHICKEN SALAD

Total time: 25 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

Note: Adapted from Lunch

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 cooked boneless and skinless chicken breasts, diced (a generous 2 cups)

2 small celery stalks, cut into small dice

1/2 red onion, cut into very small dice

1/2 green apple, cored and cut into medium dice

1/3 cup currants (raisins may be substituted)

Salt and pepper, if desired

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, cider vinegar and Dijon mustard to form a dressing.

2. To the bowl, add the chicken, celery, onion, apple and currants. Toss everything together, taste and adjust the seasoning if desired. Chill before serving. This makes about 1 quart chicken salad.

Each of 6 servings: 188 calories; 12 grams protein; 10 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 11 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 39 mg cholesterol; 7 grams sugar; 163 mg sodium.

WOLFE’S MARKET’S SHELL PASTA SALAD WITH LEMON ZEST

Total time: 30 minutes

Servings: Makes 5 quarts

Note: Adapted from Wolfe’s Market in Claremont.

1 pound shell pasta

Zest of 2 lemons

1 1/2 cups petite peas

3 zucchini, cut into matchsticks

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1/2 bunch (1/3 ounce) fresh basil, leaves finely chopped

8 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

3 to 4 tablespoons best-quality olive oil

1. Cook the shell pasta to al dente according to the manufacturer’s directions, then rinse under cold running water to cool completely.

2. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, lemon zest, thawed peas, cut zucchini, tomatoes, basil and Parmesan. Drizzle over olive oil to coat and toss gently. The salad will keep up to 2 days, covered and refrigerated.

Each cup: 170 calories; 4 grams protein; 20 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 6 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 9 mg cholesterol; 2 grams sugar; 93 mg sodium.
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