It's hot outside, and that means no one wants to turn on the oven or cook a hot meal, especially if you've been spending some time outside. Salads make a great dinner option — they're cool, and you can dress them up with just about anything. Plus, during the summer, there are tons of in-season fruits and vegetables, so you can get your hands on the freshest ingredients.
If you're going to be enjoying a lot of salads this summer, try investing in a local farmer's co-op. You pay a flat price at the beginning of the season, and periodically through the end of harvest, you'll receive a box of fresh fruits and vegetables that are all grown locally. If you're eating a lot of produce, it will end up being more cost-effective overall than buying from the grocery store every week.
Making salads doesn't have to be something that excludes your kids from the kitchen — get them involved. Older children can start practicing their knife skills on fruits or vegetables — under supervision, of course.
Younger children can still get involved, too. For example, put them to work washing vegetables or shredding greens. Lettuce and other greens tend to brown if you cut them with a knife, and little hands are the perfect size to tear all those greens into bite-sized pieces.
If you're not sure where to start, here are five simple salad ideas to help you plan your menu for the warm summer months.
You don't have to have greens to make a good salad. Sometimes, all you need is some asparagus, radishes and snap peas!
• 2 pounds of asparagus
• 1 teaspoon lemon zest
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
• 3 teaspoons honey
• 8 ounces of feta cheese
• 8 ounces of snap peas
• 1 bunch of radishes
• Salt and pepper to taste
Boil the asparagus until crisp but tender — usually three to four minutes. Whisk together your lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, thyme and two teaspoons of honey. Season it with salt and pepper. Wrap your gets in foil, drizzle it with olive oil, thyme and the remaining honey and bake until it’s warm — about 15 minutes. Crumble the feta, then toss it with your asparagus, radishes, snap peas and vinaigrette.
It never hurts to add a little bit of protein to your salads, plus it's the perfect way to put fresh corn and tomatoes to use.
• 2 lemons
• 3 cloves of crushed garlic
• 3 sprigs of thyme
• 3 bay leaves
• 1//2 cup olive oil
• 4 teaspoons za'atar
• 5 ears of fresh corn
• 4 skinless salmon filets
• 2 medium tomatoes
• 1/2 a red onion, sliced thin
• Your favorite baby greens — arugula, spinach, etc.
1. Salt a large pot of water and add half a lemon to the water along with your garlic, bay leaves and thyme. Let it boil at least three minutes before adding the corn. Whisk together oil, lemon juice, the za'atar and salt. Set aside.
2. Remove the corn from the boiling water and set aside. Reduce the heat on your pot of water and use the same flavored water to poach your salmon. Slice the corn from the cob and toss it in a large bowl with the salmon, tomatoes, onion and dressing. Serve over your favorite baby greens.
Everyone loves sausage, and it works beautifully as a component of nearly any salad.
• 4 Sweet Italian Sausage links
• 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 clove of crushed garlic
• 1 tablespoon of capers
• 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper
• 4 cups baby spinach leaves
• 1 cup fresh raspberries
• 1/4 cup basil leaves
• 2 tablespoons dried currants
• 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
• Parmesan cheese
Grill your sausage for 15 to 20 minutes over medium heat. Remove from heat and keep warm. Mix and warm your vinaigrette ingredients — vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, lemon zest and pepper – in a saucepan until well-mixed and heated through. Divide spinach between plates and sprinkle with raspberries, currants, basil and pine nuts. Place one sausage on each pile, then top with dressing and parmesan cheese as garnish if desired.
Salads don't have to be all about the vegetables — fruit salads are delicious, too!
• 2/3 cup fresh orange juice
• 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
• 1/3 cup brown sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
• 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 cups pineapple, cubed
• 2 cups strawberries
• 3 kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced
• 3 bananas, sliced
• 2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
• 1 cup grapes
• 2 cups blueberries
Combine the juices, the brown sugar, both zests and the vanilla extract in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until it’s slightly thickened, then remove from heat and set it aside to cool. Layer your fruit in a large glass bowl, starting with the pineapples and working your way up to the blueberries. Pour the cooled sauce over the fruit and refrigerate for a few hours before serving.
You can never go wrong with cucumber and tomatoes, especially when it's hot outside and you pair it with some fantastic, flavorful feta!
• 6 cups chopped Persian cucumbers
• 2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
• 1 bunch of scallions, chopped
• 1 cup assorted pitted olives, halved
• 1 package feta cheese, crumbled
• 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
• 6 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
• Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk oil and lemon juice in a small bowl, then season with salt and pepper. Combine your cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions and half the feta cheese, then pour the dressing over it and toss to coat. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top and serve.
Salads are a fantastic way to stay cool during the summer — not to mention that they're good for you. Hopefully, these recipes give you an excellent place to start. And don't forget to get the kids involved!
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