The Best Salad Recipes That Use Up Your Summer Veggies

It's time for the summer onslaught of fresh vegetables:

  • Tomatoes
  • Corn on the cob
  • Green beans
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Heirloom tomatoes
  • Basil
  • More tomatoes

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.

Boost protein

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.

Seasonings

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.

Recipes

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.

Simple Corn and Veggies

  • 2 ears cooked corn, kernels sliced off
  • 1 - 2 cups chopped tomato (can use cherry tomatoes, halved)
  • 1 cup cucumber slices (peeled if you prefer)
  • optional: 1/2 cup cheese chunks (feta or fresh mozzarella)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil or cilantro
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

Black Beans and Veggies

  • 1 - 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 ears cooked corn, kernels sliced off
  • 1 minced jalapeno, to taste
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup minced cilantro
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1 ripe avocado, cut into chunks
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: 1/2 cup crumbled feta, goat cheese or queso

Kidney bean succotash

  • 1 - 15 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 ears cooked corn, kernels cut off
  • 1-2 cups cooked green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup raw zucchini slices 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup chunks of fresh mozzarella

Simple Greek Island Salad

  • 2 cups sliced cucumbers
  • 2-3 cups sliced tomatoes
  • 1 cup crumbled feta chunks or goat cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil or oregano, or combination of the two
  • optional: 1 Tbsp minced fresh mint
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Kitchen Sink Salad

  • 2 cups sliced tomatoes
  • 1 cup sliced cucumbers
  • 1 cup sliced zucchini
  • 2-3 cups chopped leftover cooked vegetables: roasted eggplant, steamed green beans, corn, etc.
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh oregano OR 1 Tbsp minced fresh dill
  • juice of one lemon or lime, to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated hard cheese, such as Parmesan or Manchego
  • optional: 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts or pecans

Originally published August 28, 2014
Updated July 28, 2019

Donna P Feldman MS RDN is author of Feed Your Vegetarian Teen and Food Wisdom for Women: nutrition for aging with energy, vitality and health. Donna writes about food and nutrition at Radio Nutrition and is co-host of the Walk Talk Nutrition podcast.
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Foods & Recipes/Fruit & Vegetables Foods & Recipes/Salads

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