There is produce aplenty at the Farmers’ Market in the summertime, making this the perfect season for crisp, fresh salads. But instead of having the same leafy dish meal after meal, it’s important to mix things up and let your salads shine. Whether you want something crunchy, spicy or sweet, there are dozens of healthy additions to help spruce up your salads and make them more filling and delicious! Salads don’t have to be boring. The trick is to make sure you add enough protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates so you end up with a perfectly balanced and very satisfying dish.
Add a little crunch
Wake up those taste buds by adding a crunchy element to your salad. I’m not talking about greasy or fried additions, but naturally crunchy ingredients that can add both flavor and texture. My favorite crunchy raw vegetables to include in a salad are finely chopped celery and broccoli. Consider adding chopped walnuts or sliced almonds for a protein-packed crunch. If you’re craving croutons, try making your own by cubing old bread, misting it with olive oil spray, sprinkling with garlic powder, and baking for three to five minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Freshen up with herbs
One of the easiest ways to add big flavor to your salad is with the addition of fresh herbs. Basil, chives and tarragon are all tasty additions. If you have oregano and thyme on hand, toss those into the bowl too! Or be a bit bolder and try mint. A variety of herbs can add a great depth of flavor to a salad.
Pump up the protein
A salad without protein is like a sandwich without any filling. Your body needs the fuel from protein to power you through the day. Try topping your salad with chopped chicken, strips of lunch meat or a scoop of tuna salad. If you’re not a meat eater, go for vegetarian options like cottage cheese, fresh mozzarella cheese, black beans, or hard-boiled eggs.
Toss in fruit
Fruit salads are typically on the sweet side, but incorporating fresh fruits like watermelon, berries, or oranges can make a savory salad as well. Refreshing and hydrating, adding fruit to your salad is perfect for hot summer days. Paired with fresh herbs, a tangy cheese, olive oil and a squeeze of lime juice, and you’ve got a winning summer salad combination.
Go for the grain
If you can’t stomach the thought of one more forkful of leafy greens, try skipping the lettuce altogether and use a grain like quinoa or couscous as the base of your salad instead. Mix in ingredients like dried fruit, chopped apples, nuts, cubed Gouda and drizzle with a fruity balsamic vinaigrette. I promise it will give you a whole new outlook on healthy salads.
Making your own dressing is a fun way to make over your usual salad. If you normally get your dressing from a bottle, you will be surprised at how easy and delicious homemade salad dressing can be. For a good basic dressing, you’ll need balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Mix equal parts vinegar and oil and add salt and pepper to taste. For more flavor, try adding a dollop of Dijon mustard, a sprinkle of sugar and fresh herbs.
Here is one of my family’s favorite summer salads that is sure to be a hit at your table too! Enjoy!
Watermelon & Grilled Chicken Panzanella
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
INGREDIENTS: *available seasonally at the Farmers’ Market
Neutral-flavored oil (such as safflower or grape seed), as needed
10 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast*
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper; divided
1/8 tsp sea salt
Olive oil cooking spray
8 oz whole-grain crusty bread; cut into 1-inch cubes* (about 4 cups)
1/2 small red onion; sliced very thin* (about 1/3 cup)
3 cups chopped seedless watermelon (1-inch cubes)
2 cups packed baby arugula*
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint leaves* (or basil leaves)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp raw honey*
2 oz goat cheese; crumbled* (about 1/2 cup)
Heat a grill to medium high and lightly oil grates. Season chicken with paprika, 1/4 tsp pepper and salt. Grill chicken, turning 2 or 3 times, until center is no longer pink and internal temperature reaches 165°F on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 16 minutes depending on size. When cool enough to handle, chop into 1/2-inch pieces.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F. Mist a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Add bread and bake, turning halfway, until outside is crisp and light golden brown and inside is still chewy, about 10 minutes.
To a large bowl, add onion, watermelon, arugula, mint, chicken and remaining 1/4 tsp pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar and honey. Add about half the dressing and toss with a large spoon. Add bread and remaining dressing and toss to combine. Divide among plates and sprinkle evenly with cheese.