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Make Salads for Supper

If you can’t take the heat in the kitchen, create fresh salads instead for a cool, healthy summertime meal.

| June/July 2020

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Photo by Getty Images/AleksandarNakic

It used to be that when one of my kids asked, “What’s for dinner?” I’d grab a basket and say, “Let’s see what the garden has to offer.”

Generally, I knew what the garden had to offer, be it beans, tomatoes, zucchini, or salad greens. I could count on my boy to snack on as much as, or more than, what he put in the basket. That was OK by me — better to fill up on green beans than on crackers. But the ritual of going to the garden to harvest supper, well, that’s one of the joys of summer.

What isn’t a joy for me is the heat. I don’t like it. And I don’t like to work in a hot kitchen. So my summer meal planning involves lots of main-dish salads. Often, I’ll cook the protein or grains that round out the salad in advance, before the kitchen heats up in the afternoon sun. Then, supper is simply tossed together or arranged on a platter as a composed salad.



Although a world of dressing choices are available, I tend to go light — meaning high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, and either freshly squeezed lemon juice (never bottled) or a high-quality vinegar. The olive oil doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be extra-virgin, stored in a dark bottle, and bought recently; oil that’s over a year old should be tossed out. Sure, you can make cheesy or creamy dressings, but I prefer those for winter salads. The exception, of course, is a Caesar salad topped with grilled salmon or chicken. That makes a great salad year-round, and you’re likely to find it on the menu of every American bistro you frequent. For most of these salads, I add the oil and lemon juice or vinegar, as well as the herbs, directly to the salad, rather than dirtying an extra bowl to mix them. Cleanup for these recipes should be quick.

For a main-dish salad, start with a base of either greens, pasta, or grains. Greens can be tricky if you’re only thinking in terms of lettuce fresh from the garden, because lettuce will fail you (that is, bolt) in the heat. To extend the harvest, stagger the planting, harvest young, plant in the shade, and choose bolt-resistant lettuces. Many crisphead lettuces and red oak leaf types are bolt-resistant. Consider other greens as well. Baby bok choy works as a lettuce replacement, as do baby kale, radicchio, and baby chard.



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