Last week, I talked about my new favorite recipe for chicken and mentioned how amazing this recipe is over a bright summer salad and in the pretty constant scorching heat of LA, most nights a salad is the only thing I want. I’ve written a lot in the past about how great veggies are for your skin as well as your health and I’m on a budget so eating out is rarely an option and again cooking just increases the temperature inside the house.
The key I’ve found to making a bright summer salad is color.
I love a bright mix a greens to start off – I’m a baby spinach, arugula and baby kale (this is a much less work intensive kale!) girl. The positives of this mix is the major influx of vitamins A and C. They also have a nice balance of bitter and sweeter greens. There are times I go for iceberg or romaine lettuce but this is really just when I go out – dinner salads really don’t give you much choice – not when I make my own as the nutritional value is pretty much nill.
I pile on some a lot of veggies -recently this has been diced tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, diced cauliflower, corn, peas, mushrooms, avocado and pretty much any other veggie I can find in my fridge. Mostly I look for whatever color I can find – veg is a whole lot of green but that gets boring. I love baby sweet peppers because you get a whole lot of reds, oranges and yellows without throwing off any balance. I also love the mix of textures that these veggies give.
Then I top this off with some feta and/or blue cheese crumbles. You can pretty much add any cheese to salad and have it tastes delicious but they can seriously take away any benefits you gain from choosing a salad over a burger (or alongside your burger!). I lean toward these cheese because they have a sharpness and distinctness that makes it hard to over do them without throwing it all off so overindulging isn’t an issue! I know a lot of people go for fruit – a bit of pear or apple but be careful about sugars (fruit has a lot more than any vegetables).
For some protein I add in my chicken (or sometimes diced lunch meat/cold cuts for a quick lunch version) and/or some nuts or seeds. Last night I did two variations n my chicken – one garlic barbecue and the other a garlic pesto which have both been great hot and cold. Again, lunch meat and cold cuts are amazing when they are good quality without the chicken preparation time. Pumpkin seeds have been my absolute favorite and I really lean toward on type at a time – again it’s a balancing act!
What really makes or breaks a salad, however, is the dressing. I’m as big of a fan as anyone of salad dressing – I’ve grown up eating Ranch – but having this on the regular in the amounts we all put on our salads pretty much makes as much sense as only eating cheesy pizza.
So instead of topping my salads with extra sugars, added fats and salts, and everything else that is stuffed into store bought dressings, I have made a variety of my own. Most recently my summer go-to has been a splash of apple cider vinegar (ACV) with a pinch of pepper. The vinegar has tons of health benefits but the best part is the extra brightness it brings out of the greens and veggie mix which most other dressings just overpower.
For an arugula based salad, a mix of olive oil and lemon juice is great for balancing the greens bite and if I have a thick protein base – a turkey patty or chicken breast for example – and for a stronger flavor, I throw ACV in with some pesto and mix before adding to the salad.
Again, I love making these salads either as a side or as a main dish especially in summer. My final bit of advice is to build your salad in a large lidded bowl or Tupperware – this is the easiest way of mixing your salad.
- Taylor Gallagher