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5 Perfect Summer Salads

Jul 11, 2013 01:53AM ● By Erin Frisch

Sultry summer days are just not made for slaving over a hot stove to cook dinner for your hungry family. Grilling is one way to avoid the stove and oven, but many summer days in New England are too humid or rainy even for that. A great alternative for which no appliances are needed is a fresh, tasty salad. Salads are quick, easy, and nutritious. And best of all, most don’t require any heat! Summer is the peak season for many fruits and veggies, giving you the perfect base. It’s easy to incorporate a protein to turn your salad from a side dish into a full meal. Try one of these five great summer salads next time it’s too hot to cook.

Prosciutto and Melon Salad

Melon and prosciutto are a classic Italian pairing. Adding Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese gives the salad a nutty contrast and mixes perfectly with the sweet melon and salty prosciutto. Serve this with bruschetta and sliced salami, cheese, and olives for a complete antipasto feast. Cut up about 3 cups of honeydew melon (cubed) and 3 cups of cantaloupe (cubed); cut about 2 ounces of sliced prosciutto into thin strips. Toss the melon with a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon of black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of thinly sliced fresh mint. Arrange the melon in serving dishes and top with prosciutto. Sprinkle shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano over the salads and top with a little cracked black pepper.

Grilled Chicken, Spinach, and Strawberry Salad

This salad is light and fresh yet still filling. It provides the perfect backdrop for the flavor of ripe summer strawberries. Before you think that grilled chicken means cooking, think again. Pick up a package of precooked sliced chicken breast by Perdue (the honey-roasted variety is perfect here) while you’re grabbing the rest of the ingredients for this delectable salad. Divide washed baby spinach between two plates. Slice half a container of strawberries and half a Granny Smith apple into thin slices and add to the spinach. Divide the grilled chicken between the two plates. Add ¼ cup of candied pecans to each salad. Top each with 2 tablespoons of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese. Serve with a raspberry vinaigrette.

Lemon-Basil Shrimp Salad

This salad uses cooked shrimp, so there’s no need to turn on the stove or grill, but you do need to marinate the shrimp in advance. A fresh basil and lemon-zest marinade keep this salad citrusy, light, and summery, while shrimp add protein to make it filling. For four salads, purchase a pound and a half cooked large shrimp (peeled or unpeeled, based on your preference and whether you have time to peel them). Slice half a large red onion, half a red bell pepper, and half a yellow bell pepper. Combine with shrimp in a large plastic bag that seals. To make the marinade, combine ½ cup each olive oil, red wine vinegar, and fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of grated lemon rind, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of hot sauce, 1 tablespoon of mustard, 1 pressed garlic clove, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Add the marinade to the plastic bag, seal, and chill for 8 hours, turning occasionally. Add ½ cup of chopped fresh basil one hour before serving. Serve over mixed greens with lemon vinaigrette (1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 pressed garlic clove, ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper, and ½ cup olive oil).

Cobb Salad

This is a hearty salad with a homemade, healthy alternative to the blue cheese dressing that normally tops a Cobb salad. Divide mixed greens between two plates. Halve 1 cup of cherry tomatoes and add to plates. Dice 1 avocado and add half to each salad. For protein, use low-sodium sliced turkey from your grocery store’s deli. Slice 4 hard-boiled eggs (prepare in advance) and add two to each salad. Roll 3 slices of turkey into a cylinder, slice into bite-sized pieces, and add to one salad; repeat for the other salad. Top each salad with 1 tablespoon bacon bits and 2 tablespoons of blue cheese crumbles. For the homemade dressing, mix equal parts balsamic vinegar and olive oil and add just enough Dijon mustard to thicken the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste, then top salads with dressing.

Fennel Salad with Chickpeas, Arugula, Dill, and Walnuts

The light flavor of fennel pairs with the peppery flavor of arugula in this vitamin-packed salad. Chickpeas add protein and a honey dressing tops it off. For the dressing, whisk together ¼ cup each lemon juice and olive oil, 1 teaspoon of honey, and ¼ teaspoon of salt, and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine 3 cups of thinly shaved fennel, 1 thinly sliced medium zucchini, 1 and ½ cans of rinsed chickpeas (garbanzo beans), and ⅔ cup coarsely chopped fresh dill. Add the dressing and let sit at room temperature for 20 to 60 minutes. Add 6 cups of arugula to a serving bowl, top with the fennel mixture (including the marinade), and toss to combine. Top with ½ cup chopped walnuts and ⅓ cup feta cheese and serve.

Ready for dessert? Listen for the music of the ice cream truck! What could be better on a sultry summer eve?

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