Loving summer living? Patio dinners, barbeques, salads with friends (with proper social distancing of course!), chilled cocktails, and the freshest food. Summertime is the best time for getting to your local farmer's market and choosing from a wide array of fresh, locally-grown organic produce. Market stalls are brimming with color, texture, and possibilities.
Summer doesn't always mean more time though, and in some cases we're rushed to grab groceries on the way home from work and throw something together for dinner before heading out to another junior league baseball game or swim lesson. That means grabbing the usual salad basics––head lettuce, a few tomatoes, a cucumber, and some pre-made salad dressing. Not a bad addition to dinner, but it certainly could be more interesting.
How Can I Make My Salads More Interesting?
We've included five Monday to Friday recipes here to mix up the salad routine, but also to plant some ideas for ways to make a masterpiece of the mundane salad. Ingredients like toasted nuts and seeds, plant-based cheeses, and ground spices are simple additions. Shredding, zoodling, grating, and smashing are alternative approaches to preparing various ingredients to enhance texture and aesthetic appeal.
One of the most significant ways you can make a salad more interesting is by including different types of leafy greens. Iceberg lettuce is fine, but it gets a bit boring, and it doesn't have close to the nutritional value and phytochemicals that darker, leafy greens do. (See our Greens Guide to learn more about select highly nutritious leafy greens).
We start with an old favorite––classic spinach salad––and end with something slightly less familiar.
Classic Spinach Salad
Serving Size: 4
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
There's only one way to do spinach salads. When something tastes this good, there's no reason to change it. However, the quality of ingredients can either enhance or downgrade the spinach salad experience. We recommend choosing fresh, organic ingredients, tender baby spinach, pasture-raised eggs, and home-cooked bacon.
8 ounces of organic baby spinach leaves (roughly 6-7 handfuls)
2 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and deshelled
8 pieces of thick bacon, cooked and broken into pieces
3 tbsp of red wine vinegar
½ tsp of sugar (brown or white)
½ tsp of dijon mustard
4 large button mushrooms, sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
Salt & pepper
Wash and dry the spinach and place in a large serving bowl.
Add the red onion, mushrooms, and homemade bacon pieces over the spinach and toss.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, sugar, dijon mustard, and salt and pepper.
Pour the dressing over the salad and gently toss.
Slice the cooled hard-boiled egg and arrange decoratively over the salad.
Sweet Potato Salad
Serving Size: 4
Preparation Time: 30-45 minutes
Sweet potatoes have a more impressive nutritional profile than your standard white potatoes. They're high in Vitamin A, and lower on the glycemic index, which makes them more suitable for diabetics or those with high blood sugar. Most people agree they just taste better too because they provide a natural sweetness that your standard russet potato doesn't.
2 large sweet potatoes
1 handful of spinach, torn (or baby spinach leaves)
1 celery stalk, thinly chopped
2 sprigs of green onion, chopped
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
2 tbsp dried cranberries
2 tbsp hemp hearts
Fresh dill weed, chopped
Salt & pepper
For the Dressing
1 tbsp of tahini
Juice from ½ a lemon
2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil (separated)
A pinch of each organic ground spice: ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, mustard
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Peel and chop the sweet potato into bite-sized chunks, then toss in a large bowl with 1 tbsp of the olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.
Bake the sweet potato pieces for about 30 minutes, until slightly golden brown and crispy on the outside, tender within. Allow time for them to cool.
Place the sweet potato pieces in a large bowl and add the celery, green onion, dried cranberries, and hemp hearts.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and spices until creamy. For a slightly runnier dressing add more olive oil and lemon juice, or thicken it up by adding more tahini.
Pour the dressing over the potato salad and toss.
Sprinkle toasted pine nuts and fresh dill over top.
Raw Zoodles with Pesto
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Five easy ingredients makes for one incredibly delicious and healthy salad. To get the most out of this amazing salad, be selective with the zucchini you choose. Ensure you're buying it from a good, organic source for the best flavour. This salad doubles as a cold, raw summer pasta that pairs beautifully with white white and thin slices of toasted seedy bread. If you're not making your own pesto, choose a good brand. Opt for fresh flakes from a high-quality hunk of parmesan rather than the processed packaged varieties.
3 large zucchinis
10 cherry tomatoes, sliced into halves
2-3 tbsp of basil pesto
¼ cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
Toasted pine nuts
Salt & pepper
Wash zucchini and peel into strips using a vegetable peeler, making sure to stack one strip on top of the other.
When all the zucchinis are stripped and stacked, slice into thin “noodles” and put into a large serving bowl.
Add the cherry tomatoes and pesto, and gently toss to ensure even distribution of the pesto. Add more pesto for a saucier salad.
Sprinkle in cheese and toasted pine nuts top with a generous dash of sea salt and pepper.
Plant-Based Caesar Salad
Serving Size: 4
Preparation Time: 20 minutes (plus overnight soaking time)
You can never go wrong with a classic caesar, unless you find out your dinner guest is vegan! This plant-based caesar salad uses meat and egg replacements and whips up so well, you'd never consider it a second-rate stand-in for the real thing. Cashew nuts replace the egg yolk in the luscious dressing and the parmesan garnish, and chopped sundried tomato becomes a highly nutritious bacon alternative. This caesar will be a new family favorite, guaranteed.
1 head of romaine, washed and torn
⅓ cup of sundried tomatoes, chopped
Toasted pumpkin seeds
Crumbled cashew parmesan (vegan specialities stores will carry this)
200 gr of raw, unsalted cashew nuts, soaked overnight
1 small clove of garlic
1 tbsp chia seeds
300 ml of water
Juice from 1 & ½ limes
1 tsp of salt
½ tsp of pepper
To make the caesar dressing, you must first allow the cashew nuts to soak overnight. Then, strain and add the remaining ingredients (garlic, chia, water, lime, salt & pepper) to a blender. Blend on high speed until creamy.
Put the washed and torn romaine and chopped sundried tomatoes into a large serving bowl.
Pour the dressing over the romaine leaves then sprinkle the pumpkin seeds and crumbled cashew parmesan.
Thai Green Papaya Salad
Serving Size: 4
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Shredded under-ripe papaya as a salad base? If it sounds a bit strange to you, it's normal––unless you've been to Thailand, that is! This salad is a staple with locals and tourists alike. You'll find it everywhere in Thailand, from food stalls to high-end restaurants. There are few people that don't love its sweet, sour, salty, spicy blend of flavors. It's crunchy, fragrant, and total nom nom. Turn the spice level up or down by adding more or less bird chilies.
1 large cloves of garlic, peeled
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp dry-roasted salted peanuts, with extra for garnish
2 fresh bird chilies, thinly sliced (more or less depending on your preferred level of spice)
½ tsp coconut or palm sugar
1 tbsp dried shrimp (optional)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 to 2 tbsp fish sauce
2 roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
½ pound long beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1-½ inch pieces
1 carrot, shredded
1 small green (unripe) papaya (see Note)
Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic, salt, peanuts, chilies, sugar, and shrimp into a paste.
Move to a large bowl and add the lime juice and fish sauce.
Using the back of a spoon, gently crush the tomatoes and long beans. Add them to the paste and mix.
Peel the papaya and carrot and shred or grate it - you should have about 6 cups, combined.
Add the papaya and carrot to the mix and toss together.
Sprinkle the peanut garnish and serve.
Do you have a favorite summer salad? Share your recipe with us, and we'll feature it on our blog and Facebook page. We hope you enjoyed these salad recipes for summer!
From our kitchen to yours, happy tossing all summer long!