These summer salads are in constant rotation in my kitchen in the warmer months. Some of these are appropriate during winter and fall, several can be made ahead and are great for parties and cookouts, and some are gluten free or vegan.
They take advantage of the glorious bounty of produce that is available during the warmer months, and they are all welcome on a hot day.
I know it’s easy to get burned out making the same green salad over and over again, and sometimes figuring out how to add more fresh vegetables to your diet day after day feels like a chore. But honestly, a great salad is a thing of beauty.
Great salads have a few things in common. And my first piece of advice is always to step away from the pre-bottled dressing. Seriously. It’s easy.
You can do something as simple as squeezing some fresh lemon juice and drizzling on some extra virgin olive oil and sprinkling on a little flaky sea salt.
Or you can whisk up a simple red wine vinaigrette with a ratio of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil (you can tweak the ratio to your liking, but this is a good place to start).
If you want to get fancy with it, add in some finely minced shallot and let it sit with the vinegar for 10 minutes, and then, if you like, add in a little bit of Dijon mustard which brings some savoriness, heat and emulsifying power to the mix.
If something creamier is more your style, you go for a buttermilk dressing, like the one I use on this sugarsnap pea and farro bowl. Or you can go crazy and make your own caesar salad dressing. Or go a vegan-friendly route with a miso-ginger dressing.
If you are making a leafy salad, it’s also important to dress your salad lightly and with care.
Put the washed greens in a big salad bowl, add a little bit of dressing and stick your impeccably clean hands in that bowl and toss the greens gently to coat them with the dressing. (Your hands are seriously the best tool for this job–tongs and forks will just bruise tender lettuces and won’t give you the same control.)
Other than taking a few minutes to make your own dressing. It’s helpful to think about building a salad that has a variety of textures–especially something with a nice crunch–which can be anything from a wedge of iceberg lettuce to some shaved fennel to a slice of cucumber to a crouton.
It’s also good to include something savory. That can be a bit of cheese, some beautifully ripe tomatoes, a bit of bacon, or some miso or anchovies in the dressing.
It can be nice for your salad to have a rich component, which might be the same as your savory component, like a bit a cheese, but it could also some sliced avocado or a sprinkling of Marcona almonds.
And make sure you add some salt! If you’re using salty components like feta or olives or anchovies or miso, you probably don’t need to add extra salt, but if you want the flavor of a tomato or a slice of cucumber to really sing, sprinkle on some salt!
Grilled Cabbage Salad with Peanuts and Mint
This grilled cabbage salad is dressed with the components of a basic Vietnamese nuoc cham--fish sauce, sugar, and lime. The red onion spends a little time soaking in lime juice which takes away the oniony bite while retaining the crunch. The cabbage gets grilled in big wedges until it has gorgeous charred spots. This is one of those rare salads that can be made ahead of time and is still crunchy and delicious the next day. You'll want this one all the time.
Spicy Summer Bean and Chickpea Salad
This salad gets visual interest from the different colored beans, but it can be made with all green or all yellow beans if that’s what you have. It's a perfect, kicky summer salad that happens to be naturally vegan and gluten free and also holds up well for hours or even days!
Tomato, Roquefort and Red Onion Salad
This is a bold flavored salad for people who love both tomatoes and blue cheese. The red onion here provides a wonderful crunch, and after soaking in ice water and getting squeezed with lemon, it gets noticeably mellower than a typical raw onion. The vinaigrette gets its flavor from both red wine and balsamic vinegars, garlic and fresh oregano, and olive oil.
Citrus Avocado and Shaved Fennel Salad
This salad has blood oranges and grapefruit and I love the color and mix of sweet and bitter they bring, but feel free to swap in your favorite mix or oranges or pomelos if you like. The shaved fennel brings crunch and the avocado brings richness, and the sesame soy dressing brings salty depth with a sriracha kick for some heat. It's a celebration of citrus that feels so refreshing in summer!
Carrot Chickpea Quinoa Bowl with Poblano Yogurt Sauce
This is a great light meal or side dish. It's colorful and crunchy and creamy and kicky. The poblano yogurt sauce is delightful, the shaved carrots are crunchy, and the chickpeas make it hearty. This is a great make ahead salad. It keeps beautifully for days.
Tomato Cucumber Salad with Basil Vinaigrette
The basil vinaigrette is the star of the show here. The cucumbers make it cool and crunchy and refreshing, and the tomatoes bring in bright acidity and a celebration of summer. Feta cheese makes this one rich, but you can leave it out if you're looking for something lighter.
Lentil Arugula Salad with Feta and Red Wine Shallot Vinaigrette
This lentil salad is creamy, tangy, salty, and earthy, with bright acidity. I love the interplay of feta cheese with this sharp red wine vinaigrette. The lentils make it a substantial side dish. I also love it alongside chicken or with an egg on top.
Cara Cara Orange and Avocado Salad with Mixed Chicories
This salad is a great one for citrus. I like to use cara cara oranges, which have pinkish flesh and a sweet flavor. You could substitute other oranges or tangerines or clementines if you prefer. Here, I use a mix of escarole, radicchio, and endive for the leafy part of the salad for a good mix of color and texture.
Shaved Fennel, Carrot, and Avocado Salad wtih Crispy Quinoa
This salad manages to be crispy and crunchy and creamy–a textural trifecta. It’s bright and fresh and flavorful and light. It has a lovely soy-sesame-lime dressing and delightful crispy bits of quinoa. It's so light and lovely!