Salad is perfect when it's just too darned hot to cook. Garden-fresh greens topped with vegetables and a glass of crisp, fruity white wine answer the call for dinner.
For inspiration, you need only check out area farmers markets. From crunchy romaine to tender Bibb and peppery arugula, the offerings are hard to resist. And we know that veggies and leafy greens — the darker the leaf, the better — are good for us because they are nutrient-rich.
In addition to grilled or raw vegetables, you can add grilled meats or seafood — even a fried egg — to a salad.
Figure about 2 cups of loosely packed greens per serving. After you've washed the greens, pat them dry or give them a whirl in the salad spinner. Once washed, salad greens will keep several days in the vegetable crisper.
Recently, I was inspired by the ideas in Tasha De Serio's aptly titled "Salad for Dinner: Simple Recipes for Salads That Make a Meal" (Taunton, $19.95). The book covers all types of salads, from ones with greens to vegetable and fruit salads and those with grains, beans and pasta.
"Leafy greens are the quintessential staple in salads, and they add flavor, texture and color," De Serio writes. She recommends pairing tender greens with other tender greens and hearty ones with their hearty cousins.
Throughout the book, there are tips and suggestions for ways to "add substance" to salads. And if the yummy-sounding recipes don't inspire you, the many beautiful color photos will.
Serves: 4 to 6 (main-dish salads) Preparation time: 15 minutes Total time: 40 minutes
Add rolled or folded thin slices of prosciutto and hard-cooked egg quarters to this salad if desired.
3/4 pound thin green beans, stem ends trimmed
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 1/2 tablespoons sherry or red-wine vinegar, or more as needed
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup blanched slivered almonds
3/4 pound sweet red or orange peppers, halved, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh marjoram
Fresh ground black pepper
4 large handfuls frisee (pale center leaves) washed and dried, or favorite salad greens
Bring a pot of water to boil and season generously with salt.
Have a baking sheet lined with parchment ready. Add the beans to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain the beans, spread them on the baking sheet and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, combine the garlic and vinegar; let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Then whisk in 1/2 cup olive oil. Using a green bean, taste the vinaigrette and adjust with more vinegar or salt if necessary. Set aside.
Put the red onion in a small bowl and cover with ice water to crisp and remove some of its hotness. Set aside.
Warm a small saute pan over medium heat and add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and the slivered almonds. Fry the almonds, tossing or stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt.
Drain the onion well.
Put the green beans, onion, peppers and herbs in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Gently but thoroughly toss the salad with just enough vinaigrette (you might not use it all) to lightly coat the vegetables. Taste and add more salt or vinegar if necessary. Add the frisee and almonds to the bowl, seasoning lightly with salt, and toss again, adding just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Taste once more for salt and acid. Transfer the salad to a platter or individual serving plates.
Adapted from "Salad for Dinner: Simple Recipes for Salads That Make a Meal" by Tasha De Serio (Taunton, $19.95).
Analysis based on 4 generous servings.
397 calories (73 percent from fat), 35 grams fat (4 grams sat. fat), 19 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 315 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 9 grams fiber.