The Best Salad Recipes That Use Up Your Summer Veggies
3 Minutes Read
So many summer vegetables, so little time. If you're tired of plain steamed green beans or corn on the cob, check out some of these recipes!
It's time for the summer onslaught of fresh vegetables:
Corn on the cob
All of them are great in their simplest form: raw or cooked. But after a couple of weeks, plain vegetables can get old, even if they're fresh from the garden. What to do? Make salad! Hearty salads of mixed chunky vegetables, perhaps with a high protein ingredient like cheese or chicken. Serve them as a side dish, or as a main dish. Make extra, so you have leftovers. Unlike lettuce salads, these work well the next day.
Use up leftover cooked vegetables
Some vegetables like corn, green beans and eggplant have to be cooked. Save leftovers, or cook the vegetables ahead of salad-preparation time. Slice corn off the cob and break the pieces up a bit. Green beans can be cut into 2-3 pieces. Eggplant should be chunked up, depending on how you cook it. Steamed or sautéed zucchini cut into slices also works well in salads.
If you're using one or more of your vegetable salads as a main dish, boost the protein content with high protein ingredients.
Cheese: grated or chunked. Hard cheeses work well for grating. If you're not going to grate the cheese, try feta, fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, gorgonzola, or other softer cheeses.
Leftover cooked meat: chicken, beef and turkey all work well.
Cooked fish: Many white-fleshed ocean fish just flake apart and probably won't work well for vegetable salad. And many fish - sardines, mackerel, herring -- have a strong and distinctive flavor that might not work with your vegetables. Salmon, shrimp and tuna are all possibilities.
Tofu: Truly it's not my favorite choice, being very bland and soft. But some people like it. You might prefer leftover chunks of fried tofu, which adds flavor but also calories.
Nuts: The texture and flavor of pecans, walnuts and cashews works well with vegetable salads. Almonds might be too hard, and peanuts too small. Toasting brings out the flavor.
Legumes (dried beans): Canned beans are my go-to high protein ingredient. The flavors and texture blend well with fresh vegetables. Plus they're ridiculously easy. Store cans of beans in the refrigerator, so they're cold and ready when you decide to make a chunky vegetable salad. Drain the beans and rinse briefly in cold water before mixing into the vegetables. No cooking, grating or chopping involved. By the way, frozen shelled edamame (green soybeans) also works well.
One of the best things about summer vegetable salads: you don't need to fuss with seasonings if you don't want to. If fact, less is definitely more. Let the flavors of the vegetables shine. Simple salt and pepper is usually sufficient.
Add Some Acidic Flavor: An acidic flavor ingredient usually helps brighten the taste of your salad, especially if you're using canned beans. I prefer fresh lime juice. In most cases, the juice of 1/2 lime is sufficient for 2-3 cups of salad, but you might prefer more. Other possibilities: lemon juice, cider vinegar, rice vinegar and in some situations balsamic vinegar or an infused vinegar.
Calorie Saving Secret: I almost never use any oil or mayonnaise whatsoever on these salads. Again, let the flavors of the vegetables shine. Who needs oil? Without added fat, the calories are reduced.
Fresh Herbs: Since it's late summer, fresh herbs, particularly basil, are widely available. Some chopped fresh basil, dill or cilantro work very well on many vegetable combinations. But if you don't have those, your salad will turn out fine with just lime juice, salt and pepper.
Here are some vegetable combination ideas. Of course, you can switch them up depending on what vegetables you've got available. Simply mix the ingredients, chill ahead if you like, and serve.