Summer salads are the culinary workhorses of picnics, potlucks and patio parties, and pasta versions are more plentiful than mosquitoes.
But isn’t it time to use your noodle ― or rather lose your noodle ― and expand your potluck palette?
There are plenty of great-tasting salads sans pasta that are fresh, light and capture the essence of the season much better than mayo-laden macaroni.
Find inspiration in the fresh bounty at farmers and roadside markets, grocery produce sections or what’s coming up in your backyard.
“The options are so great with all the summer produce,” says Jan Kemp, healthy eating specialist at Whole Foods Market Washtenaw in Ann Arbor, Mich. “We need to take advantage of it because there is lots of variety.”
Many of the salads in Whole Foods’ Health Starts Here program, including today’s Mediterranean Crunch recipe, don’t call for pasta. The program is designed to promote awareness of eating whole foods, plant-based foods, nutrient-dense foods and healthy fats.
“The nice thing about salads without pasta is you can add all sorts of different beans and vegetables,” says Kemp. “You can make beautiful, healthy and delicious salads for your guests, and they might not know it.”
Kemp advises getting creative and tailoring salad recipes to your own tastes.
“If there’s an herb that you don’t like, take it out and add something else,” says Kemp. Do the same with vegetables or beans. “Take out the ones you don’t like and add something else.”
Backyard gardens should soon be awash in vine-ripe tomatoes and cucumbers ― perfectly matched ingredients for today’s Chunky Greek Salad.
And what about all those herbs running rampant in your garden? You can make use of them in just about any of today’s salads. Basil and tarragon are options for Garden Panzanella, which also makes use of day-old bread.
Summer salads should be easy, so don’t work up a sweat by heating up a big pot of water for pasta. Today’s recipes are perfect for any gathering. They make enough for at least eight servings. Except for Garden Panzanella, which should be eaten soon after mixing, all the salads can be made ahead and travel well. You can pack them in sealable plastic bags and place them in a bowl just before serving.
Mediterranean crunch salad is appealing to the eyes and taste buds.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes (plus chilling time)
● 1 can (15 ounces) unsalted garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
● 1 cucumber, chopped
● 1 cup small broccoli florets
● 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
● 1 cup finely sliced kale, tough stems removed
● 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
● 2 tablespoons finely chopped Kalamata olives
● 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
● 1 small garlic clove, minced
● 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
● 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
● In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving.
● From Whole Foods Market, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
● 130 calories (35 percent from fat), 4 grams fat (0 grams sat. fat), 21 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 140 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 grams fiber.
Garden Fresh Chopped Salad with Herb-Ranch Dressing
A fresh summer salad deserves a freshly made dressing. (Detroit Free Press/MCT)
Makes: About 14 cups
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
● 1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
● 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
● 1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
● 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
● 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
● 2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
● 2 green onions, washed, ends removed, minced
● 1/2 teaspoon salt
● 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
● 8 ounce hearts of romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped
● 4 pints red and/or yellow cherry tomatoes, washed, each cut in half
● 2 red, orange and/or yellow peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
● 2 avocados, peeled and cut into chunks
Heat saucepan of water to boiling on high. Add green beans and cook 5 minutes until tender-crisp. Drain beans in colander and rinse under cold running water to stop cooking.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, chives, parsley, green onions, salt and pepper until blended; set dressing aside.
In 4-quart or larger cylindrical glass bowl or trifle dish, place half of lettuce, then half of tomatoes; top with all of green beans, all of peppers, remaining lettuce, then remaining tomatoes. Arrange avocados on top. Spoon dressing over avocados to cover completely. If not serving right away, cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate salad until ready to serve or up to 4 hours.
From “The Great Potluck Cookbook” by Good Housekeeping (Heart Books, $12.95).
Analysis per 1 cup.
185 calories (58 percent from fat), 12 grams fat (2 grams sat. fat), 20 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 265 mg sodium, 4 mg cholesterol, 7 grams fiber.
By Susan M. Selasky, Detroit Free Press
(McClatchy-Tribune Information Services)