Quick and easy to prepare, these salads will help you keep your cool on hot summer days
With temperatures now hovering in the high 80s, salads come to mind. Leafy greens and other fresh, seasonal vegetables tossed with grains, pasta, cheese or leftover (or made for the occasion) meats make a delicious, substantial, healthy meal.
When composing salads, bear the following in mind. Make it colorful: A variety of vegetables looks enticing and “eating the rainbow” supplies a broad array of nutrients. Keep the flavors vibrant: Cut in fresh herbs and use an acid in the dressing; experiment with different citrus juices and vinegars. Include a mix of textures: Chewy grains and pasta, cheese and toasted nuts and seeds provide contrast to crisp, crunchy veggies. Add heft with a grain, legumes or pasta. For more protein, add cooked meats, fish or tofu.
For a little sweetness to counter the savory, add some fruit — fresh or dried. Essentially, you can compose a salad from almost anything you have in your produce drawer and whatever else you may want to repurpose, which is how both the Caesar salad and the Cobb salad came to be. If you’d rather have someone else do the thinking for you, we have more than 400 salads in our recipe database. Here are 10 reader favorites.
Prepare the components in advance but wait until the last minute to dress Andy Baraghani’s fresh Fennel Salad with Spicy Green Olives and Crushed Pistachios. You want the fennel to retain its gratifying crunch to counter the satisfying squish of chunky olives and the almost-meaty chew of the pistachios. Put a spotlight on summertime local or homegrown tomatoes with Noel Carter’s Grilled Avocado With Marinated Tomato Salad. The rich brightness of sherry vinegar complements the smokiness of the avocados and the sweet tomatoes. The avocados grill up easily and if you don’t feel like firing up the barbecue, use very ripe avocados or leave them out altogether. The tomato salad stands up fine on its own.
Sugar snap peas and fresh cucumber give Ben Mims’ Crunchy and Spicy Green Potato Salad a more robust crunch factor than most potato salads while the zhoug-inspired dressing lends the dish a dimension of heat and distinctive flavor. Rodney Scott’s more traditional Potato Salad features the familiar sweet-spicy-sour interplay of sweet relish, mustard and mayonnaise and the delicate crunch of finely chopped celery and red onion to contrast with the softness of the potatoes. Somewhere between the two, Spring Potato Salad With Green Garlic Dressing relies on leafy greens and fresh herbs for contrasting texture and to delicately flavor the gently boiled potatoes. If you can’t find green garlic or garlic scapes for the green dressing of the spring potato salad, a few scallions and a small clove of garlic will lend a similar flavor.
One great thing about pasta salads is that you can usually prepare the other components while waiting for the water to boil and then for the pasta to cook, which means that you can likely prepare that meal in 30 minutes or less. If tahini is one of your new favorite condiments, check out Ali Slagle’s Tahini-Herb Pasta Salad, which uses it as a base for the dressing. Teeming with fresh herbs and tangy from freshly squeezed lemon juice, this is a quick, easy, flavor-packed dish. Quick-cooking orzo pasta allows Ben Mims’ Kale Pasta Salad With Parm And Smoked Almonds to come together in a mere 20 minutes. The hearty kale, speckled with tomatoes, radishes and cucumbers is a great backdrop for leftover meats or other vegetables that need repurposing. And feel free to substitute goat cheese or feta for the Parm.
Russ Parsons’ Summer Salad With Israeli Couscous is like a riff on tabbouleh. It uses the small, rounded pasta in place of bulgar with the same lemony, minty flavors and similar vegetables as in a classic tabbouleh, though here they are cut slightly larger. It gets some extra tang from feta.
Quinoa adds plant-based protein to La Grande Orange Cafe’s Kale And Quinoa Salad. Preserved lemons add extra zing to the flavors already brightened by a Champagne vinaigrette.
If you are feeding someone who wants more than mostly (raw) vegetables for dinner and you don’t have leftovers on hand, Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken With Bread Salad will have them requesting “salad” for dinner more often. It does call for roasting a chicken, including dry-brining the poultry for a few days in the fridge, but the whole process is pretty hands off and the result will be one of the tenderest, tastiest chickens you will ever have roasted. (And yes, you can buy a rotisserie chicken instead — just be sure to save those juices from its container — you’ll drizzle them over the salad). Hunks of bread are toasted, dressed and seasoned before being mixed with some greens (bitter ones like arugula, frisee or mustard greens work well) and laid out as a bed for the cooked chicken. The bread soaks up the savory juice and becomes chewy and rich with chicken flavor.
Oh, and the chicken itself is divine, too.
Spiced fatty green olives add richness to a briny, crisp shaved fennel salad.
Loads of green chiles add heat to this fresh spring potato salad lightened with cucumbers and sugar snap peas.
Time45 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling
Tahini forms the creamy base for a chickpea pasta teeming with fresh herbs.
Subtly sweet green garlic flavors the dressing for this spring potato salad, teeming with scallions, chives and arugula.
YieldsServes 6 to 8
Dark green julienned strips of kale are tossed with nutty quinoa and sunflower seeds, colorful bell pepper and red grapes, then dressed with a bright Champagne vinaigrette.
YieldsServes 2 to 4
Israeli couscous adds heft to this Mediterranean salad, a chunkier take on tabbouleh.
Grilled avocado halves are topped with cherry tomatoes marinated in a piquant vinaigrette of olive oil, Dijon mustard and sherry vinegar, onion, basil, capers and garlic.
Lots of vinegar and lemon juice brighten this traditional picnic side dish full of creamy potatoes and topped with piquant dry spice rub.
YieldsServes 8 to 10
The flavor of this chicken is full and deep. It's not salty at all, but has a profound chicken taste. The meat is moist and tender; the texture buttery.
Time1 hour 10 minutes
YieldsServes 2 to 4
Pasta salad gets a tasty upgrade thanks to kale, Parmesan, lots of crunchy vegetables, almonds, and an assertive dressing. An easy side dish for picnics, BBQs, and summer parties.
YieldsServes 2 to 4