101 Simple Salads for the Season
By MARK BITTMAN
SUMMER may not be the best time to cook, but it’s certainly among the best times to eat. Toss watermelon and peaches with some ingredients you have lying around already, and you can produce a salad that’s delicious, unusual, fast and perfectly seasonal.
That’s the idea behind the 101 ideas found in this section. In theory, each salad takes 20 minutes or less. Honestly, some may take you a little longer. But most minimize work at the stove and capitalize on the season, when tomatoes, eggplant, herbs, fruit, greens and more are plentiful and excellent.
This last point is important. Not everything needs to be farmers’ market quality, but it’s not too much to expect ripe fruit, fragrant herbs and juicy greens.
Salt, to taste, is a given in all of these recipes. Pepper, too (if I want you to use a lot of pepper, I say so).
Herein, then, are enough salad ideas to tide you over until the weather cools down.
MOSTLY VEGAN SALADS
1. Cube watermelon and combine with tomato chunks, basil and basic vinaigrette. You can substitute peach for the watermelon or the tomato (but not both, O.K.?). You can also add bacon or feta, but there goes the vegan-ness.
2. Mix wedges of tomatoes and peaches, add slivers of red onion, a few red-pepper flakes and cilantro. Dress with olive oil and lime or lemon juice. Astonishing.
3. A nice cucumber salad: Slice cucumbers thin (if they’re fat and old, peel and seed them first), toss with red onions and salt, then let sit for 20 to 60 minutes. Rinse, dry, dress with cider vinegar mixed with Dijon mustard; no oil necessary.
4. Shave raw asparagus stalks with a vegetable peeler. Discard the tough first pass of the peeler — i.e., the peel — but do use the tips, whole. Dress with lemon vinaigrette and coarse salt. (Chopped hard-boiled eggs optional but good.)
5. Grate or very thinly slice Jerusalem artichokes; mix with pitted and chopped oil-cured olives, olive oil, lemon juice and a sprinkling of coarsely ground cumin. Unusual and wonderful.
6. Sichuan slaw: Toss bean sprouts, shredded carrots and celery, minced fresh chili, soy sauce, sesame oil and a bit of sugar. Top with chopped peanuts and chopped basil, mint and/or cilantro. (The full trio is best.)
7. Grate carrots, toast some sunflower seeds, and toss with blueberries, olive oil, lemon juice and plenty of black pepper. Sweet, sour, crunchy, soft.
8. Chop or slice radishes (or jicama, or the ever-surprising kohlrabi) and combine with chopped or sliced unripe (i.e., still crunchy) mango, lime juice and mint or cilantro.
9. Chop or slice jicama (or radishes or kohlrabi) and mango and mix with coconut milk, lime juice, curry powder and cilantro or mint.
10. Cook whole grape tomatoes in olive oil over high heat until they brown lightly, sprinkling with curry powder. Cool a bit, then toss with chopped arugula, loads of chopped mint and lime juice.
11. Chop and steam baby or grown-up bok choy until crisp-tender, then shock it in ice water. Drain, then toss with halved cherry tomatoes, capers, olive oil and lemon juice.
12. Combine sliced fennel and prune plums; serve with vinaigrette spiked with minced ginger. Nice pairing.
13. A red salad: Combine tomato wedges with halved strawberries, basil leaves, shaved Parmesan and balsamic vinegar.
14. A classic Moroccan thing: Thinly slice carrots, or grate or shred them (the food processor makes quick work of this). Toss with toasted cumin seeds, olive oil, lemon juice and cilantro. Raisins are good in here, too. There is no better use of raw carrots.
15. Cut cherry or grape tomatoes in half; toss with soy sauce, a bit of dark sesame oil and basil or cilantro. I love this — the tomato juice-soy thing is incredible.
16. Slice fennel and crisp apple about the same thickness (your choice). Combine, then dress with mustardy vinaigrette and chopped parsley. Come fall, this will be even better.
17. With thanks to Szechuan Gourmet restaurant: Finely chop celery and mix with a roughly equal amount of pressed or smoked tofu, chopped. Dress with peanut oil warmed with chili flakes and Sichuan peppercorns, then mixed with soy sauce.
18. Roughly chop cooked or canned chickpeas (you can pulse them, carefully, in a food processor) and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, lots of chopped fresh parsley and mint, and a few chopped tomatoes. Call this chickpea tabbouleh.
19. Mix cooked cannellini or other white beans, chopped cherry or grape tomatoes and arugula or baby spinach. Lightly toast sliced garlic in olive oil with rosemary and red pepper flakes; cool slightly, add lemon zest or juice or both, then pour over beans.
20. Shred Napa cabbage and radishes. The dressing is roasted peanuts, lime juice, peanut or other oil, cilantro and fresh or dried chili, all whizzed in a blender. Deliciousness belies ease.
21. Dice cucumbers (if they’re fat and old, peel and seed them first) and toss with cubes of avocado, a little mirin (or honey, but then it’s not vegan), rice vinegar and soy sauce. (You could mix in a little lump crab meat, really not vegan, even rice, and call it a California roll salad.)
22. Thinly slice button mushrooms; toss with finely chopped carrots and celery and mix with mung bean sprouts. Finish with peanut or olive oil, sherry vinegar, a little soy sauce and minced ginger. (This is a super vinaigrette, by the way.)
23. Thinly slice some cucumbers (if they’re fat and old, peel and seed them first), red onions, radishes and fresh chili pepper. Soak for a few minutes in equal amounts vinegar and water, with some salt and sugar. When they taste lightly pickled, drain and serve, alone or over rice.
24. Blanch spinach, then drain and shock in ice water. Squeeze it dry, chop it and toss it with toasted pine nuts, raisins, olive oil and a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar. Capers are good, too. Quite elegant, actually.
25. Combine chopped bell peppers, tomatoes, red onion, chilies and cilantro, then toss with corn tortilla strips, toasted in a 350-degree oven until crisp (or yes, use packaged chips; why not?). Dust with chili powder and lots of lime juice.
26. Combine mushroom caps and thinly sliced red onions with olive oil; broil gently until tender and browned. Toss with a lot of chopped fresh parsley or basil (or both) and a simple vinaigrette. Some chopped escarole, arugula or watercress is good, too.
27. Cook whole, unpeeled eggplant in a dry, hot skillet or on a grill, turning occasionally, until completely collapsed and soft. Chop and toss with toasted pita, toasted pine nuts, cooked white beans and halved cherry tomatoes. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice and lots of black pepper. Or a (non-vegan) yogurt dressing is good, especially one laced with tahini.
28. Toss mâche or another soft green with toasted slivered almonds and roughly chopped fresh figs. Thin some almond butter with water and sherry vinegar to taste and use as a dressing. Some will like this with fresh goat cheese.
29. Pit and halve cherries (or halve and pit cherries), then cook gently with olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar until they break down. Toss with chopped radicchio, endive, escarole or a combination, some toasted hazelnuts and more oil and vinegar, if necessary.
30. Fast, grown-up potato salad: Boil bite-size red potatoes. While still warm, dress them with olive oil, lemon juice, whole grain mustard, capers and parsley. Chopped shallots, bell peppers, etc., all welcome, too.
31. Roast beets whole (or buy them precooked), then slice or cube and toss with a little chopped garlic (or a lot of roasted garlic), toasted walnuts, orange juice and olive oil.
32. Same deal with the beets, but toss with cooked corn, arugula, olive oil, sherry vinegar and chopped shallots.
33. The real five-bean: Chickpeas, cannellini or other white beans, kidney or other red beans, steamed string beans and steamed yellow wax beans. Toss with vinaigrette, chopped scallions or red onion, and parsley.
34. Grill quartered romaine hearts, radicchio and/or endive. Drizzle with olive oil and sherry vinegar, and add dill and chopped shallots. Teeny-tiny croutons are great on this.
35. Combine cooked or canned black beans with shredded cabbage and this vinaigrette: olive oil, fresh orange juice, not much sherry vinegar, ground cumin.
36. Mix cooked or canned chickpeas with toasted coconut, shredded carrots, chopped celery, curry powder, olive oil, lime juice and cilantro.
37. Cube smoked tofu, then brush it with a mixture of honey and orange juice; broil until browned. Toss with chopped cucumbers, radishes and peas or pea shoots; drizzle with soy sauce and lime juice.
38. Cube watermelon; combine with roughly chopped mint, crumbled feta, sliced red onion and chopped Kalamata olives. Dress lightly with olive oil and lemon juice. Despite saltiness of feta and olives, this may need salt.
39. Yucatecan street food as salad: Roast fresh corn kernels in a pan with a little oil; toss with cayenne or minced chilis, lime juice and a little queso fresco. Cherry tomatoes are optional.
40. Slice cucumber and top with capers, olive oil, lots of pepper and little dollops of fresh ricotta. Note: cucumbers, ricotta and oil must all be really good.
41. Halve avocados and scoop out some but not all of their flesh. Roughly chop and toss with black beans, queso fresco, cilantro, chopped tomatillos and lime juice. Serve in the meaty avocado shells.
42. Trim crusts if necessary from day-or-two-old bread (or even three-day-old bread), cube and marinate in black olive tapenade thinned with more olive oil. Add chopped capers and toss with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. (Anchovies optional.)
43. Grate raw beets (use the food processor to avoid ruining everything within spattering distance) and toss with watercress or arugula. Top with sherry vinaigrette and a little goat cheese. Especially obvious, perhaps, but also especially popular.
44. Make a crisp grilled cheese sandwich, with good bread and not too much good cheese. Let it cool, then cut into croutons. Put them on anything, but especially tomato and basil salad. This you will do forever.
45. Halve or quarter cooked artichoke hearts (the best are fresh and grilled, but you can use canned or frozen) and combine with cherry tomatoes, bits of feta or Parmesan or both, olive oil and lemon juice.
46. Sauté mushrooms and shallots in olive oil. Add a lot of spinach, chopped unless the leaves are small. When it wilts, stir in parsley and crumbled blue cheese. Feels like a steakhouse side-dish salad.
47. Thinly slice raw button mushrooms; combine with sliced or shaved Parmesan, parsley and a vinaigrette of olive oil, sherry vinegar and shallots.
48. Toss roughly chopped dandelion greens (or arugula or watercress) with chopped preserved lemon, chickpeas, crumbled feta and olive oil. (Before you start cursing me out, here’s a quick way to make preserved lemons: chop whole lemons and put in a bowl with the juice of another lemon or two, sprinkle with a fair amount of salt and let sit for an hour or so.)
49. Toss greens with walnuts, blue cheese and raspberries; drizzle with a simple vinaigrette. Sell for $14 a serving.
50. It’s puttanesca-ish: Egg salad with pitted black olives, chopped tomatoes, capers, anchovies (optional), a tiny bit of garlic and some red onion; mayonnaise as needed.
51. Arrange sliced ripe tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs on a platter; scatter a handful of chopped pitted green olives on top. Drizzle with a dressing made with olive oil, sherry vinegar and a teaspoon of pimentón.
52. Chop hard-boiled eggs and mix with just enough mayonnaise to bind; spoon into endive leaves. Top each with a small canned sardine and drizzle with a vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon juice and mustard.
53. Peel beets and grate them in a food processor. Mix equal parts plain yogurt and tahini, and toss with the beets along with lemon juice and za’atar (a mixture of toasted sesame seeds, dried green herbs and ground sumac; you can make it yourself using dried thyme).
54. Slice roasted red peppers (if you must use canned, try to find piquillos) and fresh mozzarella. Toss with cooked white beans, olive oil, red wine vinegar, a chopped shallot and fresh rosemary or parsley.
SALADS WITH SEAFOOD
55. Mix watercress with chopped smoked salmon, avocado, red onion and capers. Make a vinaigrette with olive oil, sherry vinegar and mustard powder.
56. Salade niçoise, sort of: On or around a bed of greens, make mounds of olives, cooked new potatoes and green beans (warm or at room temperature), good tomatoes, capers, fennel slivers, hard-cooked eggs and good quality Italian canned tuna. None of these is crucial; you get the idea. Serve with vinaigrette or aioli.
57. Toss cubes of day-or-more-old good bread with soy sauce, chopped sautéed shrimp, chopped radishes and cilantro. Like a weird shrimp toast panzanella.
58. Sear tuna until rare (for that matter, you could leave it raw) and cut it into small cubes. Toss with shredded jicama or radish and shredded Napa cabbage; season with mirin, soy sauce and cilantro. Avocado and/or wasabi paste are great with this, too.
59. Sear tuna, or use good canned tuna. Chop it up and mix with chopped olives, capers, tomatoes, parsley and olive oil.
60. Ditto on the tuna. Mix with chopped apples, halved seedless grapes, chopped red onion, olive oil, a bit of cumin and black pepper.
61. Mix canned salmon (sockeye, or use cooked fresh) with capers, chopped celery, yogurt or mayonnaise, and lemon juice. Serve on greens or in endive leaves.
62. Dust shrimp with chili powder. Sauté in butter or oil (or a combination) with fresh corn kernels and flavorful cooking greens (bok choy is good, as is watercress). Add halved cherry tomatoes and lime juice at the last minute.
63. Sunday brunch salad: Mix diced cucumbers, chopped tomato, minced red onion and capers with bits of smoked salmon. Dress with lemon juice (you won’t need much oil, if any). Take a step further by adding croutons of cubed toasted bagels.
64. Alternative Sunday brunch: Shred or chop cucumbers (if they’re fat and old, peel and seed them first), then toss with flaked smoked trout or whitefish, capers, dill, lemon juice and olive oil.
65. In a hot pan, flash-cook cut-up squid in a little olive oil for no more than two minutes. Toss with cooked or canned chickpeas, chopped bell peppers, lemon juice, a little more oil and parsley.
66. In a hot pan, sear sea scallops for a minute or two on each side, depending on size. Slice or chop, then toss with thinly sliced fennel and lemon or orange vinaigrette and some chopped fennel fronds.
67. Bread salad for anchovy lovers: Chop together many anchovies, a few capers, lemon juice and olive oil (or anchovy oil). Toss with cubes of toasted bread and chopped tomatoes or halved cherry or grape tomatoes.
68. Mix crab meat with pan-roasted corn, chopped avocado, halved cherry or grape tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice and perhaps a bit of cilantro and crumbled ancho chili.
69. Stir-fry small or chopped shrimp in olive or peanut oil with lots of ginger; while still warm, combine with tomato wedges, chopped romaine, cilantro, scallions and lots of lime juice. Good in pita.
SALADS WITH MEAT
70. Shred brussels sprouts in the food processor, preferably with the slicing disk. Toss with vinaigrette and crumbled bacon.
71. Combine sliced green tomatoes and sliced fresh mozzarella; top with roughly chopped basil, olive oil, black pepper and crumbled bacon.
72. Sort-of carpaccio salad: Broil or grill skirt or sirloin steak very rare and slice very thin. Arrange on a plate with tomato wedges, lettuce and lemon juice.
73. Hawaiitalian: Combine pineapple chunks with bits of any cured pork product — cooked guanciale is ideal, or any ham — and a not-too-subtle chili vinaigrette.
74. Julienne red, yellow and orange bell peppers; mix with thinly sliced red onion, olive oil and cooked crumbled sausage or chopped salami.
75. The Little Italy salad: Chop or julienne salami and prosciutto, then toss with cubed mozzarella, chopped tomato, pepperoncini, oil and wine vinegar.
76. Slice fresh figs — many, if you live where they grow — and top with crumbled bacon, balsamic vinegar (the best you have) and crumbled blue cheese.
77. Combine shredded cabbage or lettuce with bits of good turkey, Swiss cheese and rye croutons. Top with good old Russian dressing, call it a turkey sandwich salad and don’t knock it until you try it.
78. What happens when your Chicago hot dog falls apart: Toss together tomato wedges, chopped pickles, hot peppers, shredded lettuce and a few slices of broiled or grilled hot dog. Dress with a vinaigrette made with mustard (should be yellow for authenticity, but ...) and celery salt. (You could throw in freshly made croutons; inauthentic, but better than a hot dog bun.)
79. Sear a steak and move it to a cutting board (don’t wash the pan); wait a minute or two, then slice. Cut kale (preferably black, also known as Tuscan, or dino kale) into thin ribbons and toss in the pan over high heat for a minute. Turn off the heat, add chopped black olives, olive oil and sherry vinegar. Serve kale with steak on top.
80. Sort-of-Cobb salad: Choose any combination of hard-cooked eggs, chopped prosciutto, cooked chicken, crumbled Gorgonzola, chopped tomatoes, chickpeas or white beans, sliced red onion, olives. Make vinaigrette with capers and anchovies.
81. Soak sliced prune plums or figs in balsamic vinegar for a few minutes, then add olive oil, chopped celery and red onion, shreds of roasted or grilled chicken, chopped fresh marjoram or oregano and chopped almonds. Serve on top of or toss with greens. So good.
82. Cut pancetta into matchsticks and crisp in a skillet with some oil, then caramelize onions in the fat. Toss both with chopped bitter greens — radicchio, escarole or endive, for example — toasted pine nuts and halved cherry or grape tomatoes.
83. Toss thinly sliced Vidalia or other sweet onions with olive oil and red wine vinegar. Sear a skirt steak and let sit a minute; slice it thin. Toss salad greens with the onions, roasted red peppers, and steak; add a little more oil and vinegar if necessary.
SALADS WITH NOODLES
84. Spring rolls, unrolled: One at a time, soften a few sheets of rice paper in warm water. Drain, pat dry, cut into strips and toss with chopped cucumber, grated carrots, chopped cilantro, bean sprouts, chili flakes and chopped roasted peanuts. Dress with toasted sesame oil, fish sauce or soy sauce, and rice vinegar or lime juice. A few shrimp are a nice addition.
85. Mix lots of arugula with somewhat less cold whole wheat penne, lemon zest, olive oil and Parmesan. The idea is an arugula salad with pasta, not a pasta salad with arugula.
86. Toss chilled cooked soba noodles with diced cucumber (if they’re fat and old, peel and seed them first), a small amount of hijiki reconstituted with water, toasted sesame seeds and a vinaigrette laced with soy sauce and miso.
87. Cold not-sesame noodles: Combine about a half-cup peanut butter with a tablespoon soy sauce and enough coconut milk to make the mixture creamy (about a half cup), along with garlic and chili flakes in a blender or food processor. Toss sauce with cooked and cooled noodles, a load of mint, Thai basil, and/or cilantro, and lime juice. Shredded cucumber and carrots optional.
88. Toss cooked pasta with roasted red peppers, toasted walnuts, fresh goat cheese, basil and olive oil. Corny, but still good.
89. Soak or cook rice noodles, drain and rinse; toss with cubed unripe mango, chopped peanuts, shredded carrot and minced scallion. Make a dressing of rice vinegar, fish sauce, lime juice, chili and a bit of sugar.
90. Sort of classic pasta salad: Pasta, artichoke hearts, sliced prosciutto or salami, chopped plum tomato. Dress with olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar, perhaps with some mustard.
91. Cereal for grown-ups: Start with puffed brown rice; toss with chopped tomatoes, scallions, a minced chili, cooked or canned chickpeas and toasted unsweetened coconut. Dress with coconut milk and lime juice.
92. Simmer a cup of bulgur and some roughly chopped cauliflower florets until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Toss with chopped tarragon, roughly chopped hazelnuts, minced garlic, Dijon mustard, olive oil and lemon juice.
93. Mix leftover rice with lemon or lime juice, soy sauce and a combination of sesame and peanut oils. Microwave if necessary to soften the rice, then serve at room temperature, tossed with sprouts, shredded radishes, chopped scallions, bits of cooked meat or fish if you like and more soy sauce.
94. Cook and cool quinoa. Toss with olive oil, loads of lemon juice, tons of parsley, some chopped tomatoes and, if you like, toasted pine nuts. Call it quinoa tabbouleh.
95. Mix cooked couscous or quinoa with orange zest and juice, olive oil, maybe honey, sliced oranges, raisins or dried cranberries, chopped red onion and chopped almonds. Serve over greens, or not.
96. Cook short-grain white rice in watered-down coconut milk (be careful that it doesn’t burn) and a few cardamom pods. While warm, toss with peas (they can be raw if they’re fresh and tender), chopped cashews or pistachios, a pinch of chili flakes and chopped raw spinach.
97. Toss cooked, cooled farro, wheat berries, barley or other chewy grain with chopped-up grapes. Add olive oil, lemon juice and thinly sliced romaine lettuce; toss again, with ricotta salata or feta if you want.
98. Toss cooked bulgur with cooked chickpeas, quartered cherry or grape tomatoes, a little cumin, lots of chopped parsley, and lemon juice.
99. Toss cooked quinoa with fresh sliced apricots, cherries, pecans, and enough lemon and black pepper to make the whole thing savory.
100. Mash a canned chipotle with some of its adobo and stir with olive oil and lime juice. Toss with drained canned hominy, fresh corn cut from the cob (or drained pinto beans), cilantro and green onions.
101. Cook a pot of short-grain rice. While it’s still hot, toss with raw grated zucchini, fermented black beans, sriracha, sesame oil, sake and a touch of rice vinegar. Add bits of leftover roast chicken or pork if you have it, and pass soy sauce at the table.