Scrumptious summer salads

Salads make a refreshing meal when the heat is on! Try these tasty ideas and tips next time the temperature rises.

When the summer heat is on, the last thing we want to do is spend long hours in the kitchen. Crisp green leaves, juicy produce and a splash of something savoury can satisfy the appetite and the craving for cool.

Whether you’re entertaining or looking for a fresh meal idea, here are some summery meal-sized salads to try.

Strawberry and Fava Bean Salad with Pecorino

The protein and vitamins in fava beans pack a nutritional punch with paired with strawberries and balsamic vinaigrette.

2 cups shelled fresh fava beans (about 2lbs in pods or 500 mL)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (30 mL)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (30 mL)
2 tbsp lemon juice (30 mL)
2 cups fresh California strawberries, stemmed and quartered (500 mL)
3 cups arugula (750 mL)
pecorino cheese
kosher or sea salt
coarsely ground black pepper

In a large pot over high heat, bring 4 cups (1L) of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and the fava beans. Boil 1 minute; drain and cool fava beans in ice water. Drain fava beans; pinch one end and slip off skins. Discard skins.

Whisk together olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice. In a large bowl, season shelled fava beans and strawberries with salt and pepper. Add arugula and enough dressing to coat salad lightly. Mix gently and spoon onto a platter or 6 salad plates. With a vegetable peeler, shave cheese generously over salad. Grind more pepper on top.

Makes 6 servings.

(Recipe courtesy of California Strawberry Commission. For more information and recipe ideas, please visit www.californiastrawberries.com .)

Asian Chicken Salad

2 tbsp brown sugar (30 mL)
2 tsp soy sauce (10 mL)
1 tbsp sesame oil (optional) (15 mL)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (50 mL)
3 tbsp rice vinegar (45 mL)
1 (8 ounce) package dried rice noodles (often found in rectangle clear packaging)
1 head iceberg lettuce, rinsed, dried and chopped
4 boneless chicken breast halves, cooked and shredded
3 green onions, chopped
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Prepare the dressing 30 minutes ahead of time by combining the brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, salad oil, and rice vinegar in a pourable container.

To prepare the Chinese rice noodles, heat a skillet with a few tablespoons of oil. Break off a little bit of the noodles and add them to the skillet a little bit at a time (they will grow quite a bit) to fry them. As they begin to puff up, remove and drain them on paper towels.

In a large bowl combine the iceberg lettuce, shredded chicken, green onions and toasted sesame seeds. Let chill about 10 minutes, and just before serving add the cooked rice noodles.

Pour the dressing over the top of the salad, toss and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

(Submitted by 50Plus.com user 7katz)

Roasted Grape and Goat Cheese Salad

This elegant first course salad presents a new way to enjoy juicy, California table grapes. Roasting the grapes with balsamic vinegar creates a sweet’n'savoury vinaigrette to spoon over a simple salad for effortless entertaining.

2 cups California red seedless table grapes, halved (500 mL)
2 tbsp Each good quality balsamic vinegar and vegetable oil (30 mL)
1/2 tsp Freshly ground black pepper (approx.) (2 mL)
Pinch of salt
8 cups Mesclun mix or mixed baby greens (2 L)
3 California kiwifruit, peeled and cut into wedges
4 oz Goat cheese, crumbled (125 g)
1/4 cup Toasted California walnuts, coarsely chopped (50 mL)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Toss grapes with the vinegar, olive oil, black pepper and salt in an 8-inch (2 L) baking dish. Roast for 30 minutes or until shriveled and juices are released; cool slightly. (Grapes can be made ahead and reheated gently before serving.)

Meanwhile, divide greens and kiwifruit between four serving plates. Sprinkle evenly with goat cheese and walnuts. Spoon the warm grape mixture, along with juices, over the salads.

Makes 4 servings.

Tips: Add sliced grilled chicken, pork or salmon to serve as a main course salad. Or, spoon the warm grape mixture over Brie or Camembert cheese and serve with crackers as an appetizer or as part of a cheese coarse.

(Source: News Canada)

California Style Salad

A little of this, a little of that makes an easy summer salad — for less than you’d pay in a restaurant.

Makes 4 servings as a meal.

8 cups salad greens (e.g. mesclun mix or spinach and romaine lettuce)
2 large, cooked chicken breasts, shredded or thinly sliced (or the equivalent of beef, turkey or shrimp)
3/4 cup grated carrot
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup cashew pieces
1/2 cup raisins (golden or sultana)
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 cup cucumber, quartered and sliced
1/2 cup peas (if using frozen, rinse in cool water to thaw)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese
1/2 to 2/3 cup of your favourite oil and vinegar based salad dressing

(Note: measurements are approximate. You can adjust them according to your preferences.)

Wash and drain greens and spread evenly among plates. Top with chicken and grated carrot. Divide and sprinkle remaining ingredients across the four plates, adding them in the order listed so that the cheese is last.

Top with your favourite homemade or store bought salad dressing, such as sweet onion, Catalina, Italian, citrus or balsamic.

Tips:

- To make a meatless version, substitute the meat with extra nuts or seeds, tofu, lentils or chickpeas.

- To keep the sodium quotient low, choose raw seeds and nuts and toast them yourself.

- Most vegetables will work well in this salad — try adding asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower. You can also try different fresh or dried fruits, like dried cranberries, mandarin orange slices or kiwi.

(Developed by E. Rogers.)

Summer salad prep tips

A word of caution about entrée salads: it can be easy to heap on the calories, sugar and fats without realizing it. Here are some tips to keep those salads healthy:

- Go for dark, colourful greens. For instance, spinach has more antioxidants than iceberg lettuce, and Napa cabbage works well in Oriental flavoured salads.

- Heap on the veggies. They’re packed with nutrients and low in calories. Vary how you cut them to add visual interest — like using a “crinkle” cutter on the cucumber and grating the carrot.

- Choose fresh fruit over dried. Per volume, it has less sugar and more water to help keep you satisfied. Blueberries and pomegranate seeds are particularly high in anti-oxidants.

- Include healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocadoes. Opt for raw nuts and seeds to avoid added sodium, fat and sugars. (You can toast them at home.)

- Be mindful of your dressings — they can be high in sugar, fat and salt. You don’t have to shun them, but do exercise portion control and read the labels. A simple oil and vinegar dressing cuts down on the extras, and apple cider vinegar or lemon juice can go solo.

- Finely grate or shave the cheese. It’s all about surface area that hits your tongue — and you get more of it when the cheese is finely grated. (It also goes farther too, helping to keep costs and calories down.)

- Skip the store bought croutons. They’re usually made from refined grains and contain added salt or artificial flavourings. Try serving a piece of whole grain bread on the side, or add cooked grains like buckwheat, rice, millet or quinoa.

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Photoanatomy

    More salad ideas:
    Avocado and Shrimp Salad
    Healthy Peaches and Greens
    Sweet and colourful tomato summer salad
    Oven Roasted Mushroom and Vegetable Salad
    Blue Cheese Watermelon Walnut Salad

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