Salad greens and beets

The heat is on. Much of the country is battling record high temps—killing appetites and certainly any inclination towards knobbing on the stove. Fulfilling meals need not elude you though. There’s one rule of thumb when it comes to salads: There are no rules. From greens and grains to beans and berries, everything’s got a place in a well-balanced salad (well, maybe skip the Cheetos).

Greens

Greens are the heart of any great salad. Ditch those suffocating in pre-packaged plastic bags and pick a variety of leafy greens. Red and green leaf, Bibb and romaine, are all perfect bases. Mix in watercress, arugula, mache, mezuna and spinach to add flavor and texture. If you want to use hardier greens—like any of the kales—you can use them raw, but massage them with salt first until slightly sweaty and wilted.

The Mixins

While a simply-dressed salad can actually be quite fulfilling, there’s no reason not to incorporate the season’s best offerings. Try some of these combos:

  • Beets, whether purples or goldens, make an excellent iron-rich addition to salads raw or cooked. Try them with lightly toasted walnuts, thinly sliced strawberries and thin, crunchy strips of fennel bulbs and carrot.
  • Avocados make a salad a rich filling meal and pair wonderfully with sliced grapefruit, peaches, nectarines or tomatoes. Roasted fresh corn and/or peppers add a nice smoky flavor. Thin slices of crunchy celery balance the soft fruits and celery seed makes an aromatic addition to a lime, olive oil vinaigrette atop.
  • Chunks of fresh cucumber, toasted almonds, ripe black olives and a dollop of hummus topped with your favorite sprouts is a classic Mediterranean inspired salad.
  • Add leftovers to any salad like roasted vegetables, baked tofu, coleslaw, chunked baked potatoes, cold noodles, frozen peas (although, skip the peas if you’re adding beans), even a handful of your favorite trail mix can transform a bed of lettuce.

How to Dress

Salad dressing is probably the biggest rip-off in the supermarket! You can make them all better, cheaper and in no time.

Basic Vinaigrette: Mix olive, hemp or flax oil (or a bit of each) with balsamic or apple cider vinegar in a ration of 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, juice of half of lemon or lime, salt and pepper. Variations: A big spoonful of grainy mustard and a squeeze of honey, or a tablespoon of tahini, chopped fresh parsley, and a few dashes of ground cumin.

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Photo: ralph and jenny