Not all salads are created equal. While some are skimpy heaps of rabbit greens, others are bountiful, beautiful offerings, substantial enough for the main event for lunches or dinners. Here are some classics amped up with hearty, lean proteins and crunchy, sweet and savory goodies to kick off the summer season.
Hail Caesar: America’s beloved Caesar salad, popularly prepared tableside at upscale eateries is actually the serendipitous creation of Italian born Caesar Cardini at his Tijuana restaurant in 1924. According to his daughter Rosa, her father whipped up the concoction to feed his famished friends who visited his establishment after a July 4th flurry of patrons left a shortage in the kitchen.
He tossed the remaining ingredients, including Romaine leaves, croutons, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon and coddled eggs (boiled in the shell gently for one minute) at his guests’ table for culinary showmanship. Today the eggs are usually omitted in the preparation of a Caesar salad to prevent foodborne illnesses.
To transform this classic into a full-on meal, top with a grilled chicken breast. An occasional seafood Caesar with wild caught jumbo shrimps or lobster can be an enjoyable change-up.
That’s Greek to Me: The original rustic Greek salad called horiatiki, which translates to “peasant salad” is a blend of Kalamata olives, tomatoes, feta cheese, cucumbers and onions dressed in an herb-infused olive oil. The American version adds chopped lettuce leaves, bell pepper rings, and caper berries in a red wine vinaigrette. Add grilled Alaskan halibut, deep-sea scallops, or a lemon garlic-marinated chicken breast to create an abundant plate.
So Nice: The traditional Salade Nicoise from Nice is a Mediterranean treat showcasing fresh market produce, and herbs and spices from the Cote d’Azur. While there are regional variations, a popular version blends butter lettuce with fingerling potatoes, French green beans, black olives, ripe tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and a grilled tuna fillet dressed in a mustard vinaigrette. While tuna is typically high in mercury, you can swap it out for safer fish like wild caught salmon, herring, sardines or anchovies.
A Yen for Asian: Toss some protein-rich buckwheat or soba noodles with edamame, shredded cucumber, and daikon radish in a sesame soy dressing for a light yet satisfying Japanese salad. For carnivorous cravings add teriyaki flat iron or skirt steak strips (grass-fed and organic, where possible).
Best Thing Since Sliced Bread: The Panzanella from Tuscany transforms stale bread into a delightful summer salad by blending cubes of unsalted Italian bread soaked in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with tomatoes, fresh basil, red onions, and cucumbers. Or dial up this classic with chunks of Parmesan cheese or buffalo mozzarella, capers, olives, and choice seafood from crab claws to calamari.
Can’t Top That: For an extra crunch and dose of protein add a handful of roasted walnuts, pecans or almonds to assorted salads; for sweet notes and an oomph of Vitamin C toss in some grilled peach slices, pineapple spears, mango chunks or fresh figs; and for finishing touches sprinkle sesame or pumpkin seeds along with dried cherries or cranberries on top.
More the Berrier: In honor of the recent Berry Good Food Foundation’s annual summer soiree at the jaw-dropping La Jolla estate of founder Michelle Lerach, where a group of dedicated food activists, goat breeders, organic farmers and chefs, restaurateurs and purveyors rubbed elbows and broke bread together—add some antioxidant-rich berries of all varieties to your summer salads.
Cobb Up: The traditional Cobb salad created in 1926 by Bob Cobb, owner of the legendary Brown Derby in Los Angeles who threw in everything but the kitchen sink – leftover avocados, tomatoes, chicken, bacon, onions, Romaine lettuce, hard-boiled eggs and blue cheese arranged meticulously on a plate. You can tweak this classic and substitute grilled salmon for the turkey or chicken, turkey bacon for oink bacon, crumbled goat cheese instead of the Roquefort, and an olive oil vinaigrette rather than the blue cheese dressing.
The Kitchen Shrink’s Salmon Cobb Salad
1 head Romaine lettuce (cut into strips)
1 head watercress, torn into bite-size pieces
1 pound grilled wild, skinless salmon, crumbled (marinated in virgin olive oil, lemon juice and desired spices)
1/4 pound cooked turkey bacon, crumbled
1 vine-ripened tomato, diced
1 avocado, diced
3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
1/4 pound goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 red onion, diced
1/4 cup vinaigrette dressing
1/4 cup vinegar (champagne, red wine or balsamic)
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons spicy mustard
Blend vinegar with mustard. Whisk in oil and seasonings. Toss with the lettuces and goat cheese. Place the mixture on a large platter. Decorate with the remaining ingredients making mounds or strips across the greens. —For additional recipes e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org