Hot Weather Meals: Give Them a Toss

If there’s one food that really captures the essence of summer, it’s salad. All kinds of beautiful, ripe produce are overflowing from gardens and orchards. When fruits and vegetables are at the peak of their season, there’s no need to do anything fancy. Just tumble them into a salad bowl and enjoy in their raw, natural glory.

If you don’t grow your own produce, make it a point to stop at farmers markets and roadside produce stands all summer long. Let the vivid, fragrant rows of lettuces, squash, berries, corn, cucumbers, peppers, peas, stone fruits, melons, and, of course, tomatoes, tempt you, and take home everything that looks good. Don’t worry about how you’re going to use it all — you only need a salad bowl and an appetite!

The One-Bowl Meal
Turn that salad from a side dish to an entree by adding some protein. This will turn it into a nutritionally balanced meal and keep your tummy from growling again an hour after dinner. A salad is the perfect way to use up that chicken or steak left from last night’s barbecue. Any kind of lunchmeat is good, too — smoked turkey, ham, tuna, salami, corned beef and prosciutto are all great on salads. If you want to keep it meatless, just open up a can of beans — kidney, cannellini, garbanzo and black beans all make tasty, satisfying salad toppers.

Try a New Dressing
When your same bowl of lettuce begins to make you feel like you’re in a salad slump, try a different dressing! Salad dressings are something that we’re used to pouring out of a bottle in the refrigerator door, but they are unbelievably easy to make from scratch, and one taste of homemade dressing will make you fall in love with salad all over again.

Tempting Toppings
Fresh, raw sweet corn adds crunch when cut off the cob and sprinkled into a salad. Sprinkle plump, fresh berries into your next salad. You’ll be surprised at how delicious that touch of tart sweetness is in an otherwise savory salad. Use toasted nuts, all the rage in fancy restaurant salads, and make a little gourmet magic of your own. Tossing some pecans, walnuts, almonds or pine nuts into a skillet and stirring over medium heat until the nuts turn a shade darker and give off an enticing aroma.

Using your Head — or Not!
It doesn’t need to be leafy and green to be called a salad! Some of our favorite summertime salads have never been near a head of lettuce.. Try a Greek salad of tomato wedges, sliced cucumber, white onions, bell peppers, tart olives and tangy feta mixed with a simply delicious dressing of lemon juice, olive oil and chopped oregano.

Another spectacular salad for the peak of tomato season is the Insalata Caprese. This one is a gorgeous presentation consisting of rounds of garden-fresh tomatoes and sweet, creamy fresh mozzarella cheese layered on a platter underneath a crown of torn basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.

Don’t forget to explore the world of grain and bean salads, too! Try tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern favorite with nutty, chewy bulgur wheat flecked with refreshing cucumber, tomato, green onions, and fresh mint and parsley.

Combine ingredients you have; if they sound good together, try them. The only limit to your salads is your imagination.

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