I don't know about you but when it's close to deathly hot outside (at least that's how it is here in sunny AZ) the only thing I crave are cold foods ALL THE TIME so that means LOTS and LOTS of salads! Even though I make them every single day at work you'd think I'd get tired of them and have nightmares about them but I don't! I'm always trying to find new and AWESOME recipes and below you'll find some pretty great and possibly some different ideas for summer salad combinations! BON APPETIT!!!
1. Arugula Grape and Sunflower Seed Salad: There's a bit of bitterness that comes with the arugula kind of like a peppery taste which pairs so well with the sweetness of the grapes. A sweet honey mustard vinaigrette would pair really well and you get a lot of Vitamin E from the sunflower seeds. For an easy protein topper add tuna or even pan-seared or grilled salmon.
2. Tuna Garbanzo Salad: This is kind of a Mediterranean inspired salad that uses arugula or spinach and you can add fresh, steamed green beans and hearty canned garbanzo beans and is topped with a good quality tuna preferably an oil packed tuna. Dress it with light lemon juice and olive oil or you can even use Mediterranean hummus as your dressing. Add feta cheese for a salty touch!!!
3. Melon and Prosciutto Salad with Parmigiano-Reggiano: Combine cantaloupe and honeydew that you can either chop or use a melon baller and add torn or julienned pieces of prosciutto. Finish with a chiffonade (finely shredded) pieces of mint and basil and top with lemon juice, a good quality olive oil, salt, freshly cracked black pepper and shaved pieces of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. (Splurge for the good quality stuff at an Italian market or A.J.'s! It's well worth it!) This is a perfect centerpiece served with bruschetta and an assortment of olives, cheeses and slices of salami or ham.
4. Heirloom Tomato Salad: One of my favorite easy, go-to salads that takes no time at all utilizes locally grown heirloom tomatoes. I slice big slices of different colored heirloom tomatoes (you can find them at Sprouts, A.J.'s, or Whole Foods), top with an aged Balsamic Vinaigrette and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil , a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, kosher salt, freshly cracked pepper and a sprinkle of fresh basil. You can easily add fresh mozzarella cheese to the mix as well or even roasted red peppers for an added pop!
6. Grilled Sirloin Salad: I'm not a huge fan of steak in my salad but I do enjoy it on a hot summer day and if the steak is grilled perfectly and sliced thin. In this combo I like to pair thinly sliced grilled sirloin or tri-tip with spinach, grilled corn (cut off the cob), fresh, julienned bell peppers and caramelized onions. Bleu cheese is a perfect cheese pairing with this salad and a red wine vinaigrette is a great dressing to use. The mixture of the hot steak, the caramelized onions, and the fresh vegetables is the perfect contrast and adds a nice crunch.
7. Chicken Orzo Salad: I've gotten to the point that I L-O-V-E orzo in salads as a variation to a traditional pasta salad. So in this pairing combine cooked orzo, with cooked chicken, bell peppers, green or red onions, cherry tomatoes, arugula and basil. Add goat cheese for an added creaminess and pair with your favorite dressing combo. You can also add prepared pesto for a different variation.
8. Grilled Vegetable Salad: During the summer it seems like we're always at the grill BBQ'ing so why not make a delicious grilled veggie salad for a change. Pick your favorite vegetables such as zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, Portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, etc... Make sure to rub all of the veggies with olive oil and coat generously with salt and pepper or your favorite seasonings. Remember it only takes a small amount of time for vegetables on the grill so prepare accordingly. I like to cut large slices and grill them, and then at the end cut them into large cubes or you can keep them in slices. Because of all the natural juices that are emitted from each veggie they don't need much seasoning other than olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add your favorite herbs such as basil or dill and you can even top with a nice Feta cheese or shaved Parmesan.
9. Grilled Potato Salad: I like this variation of potato salad because grilling the potatoes really adds a nice smokiness to the potato salad. Use either red or white potatoes and par-boil them before putting them on the grill. You can make your go-to potato salad recipe but my staples always include green onions, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, dill pickle relish, fresh dill and a honey mustard dressing. I also like to add fresh lemon zest for an added zing.
10. Southwestern Bean Salad: Use canned pinto, black and kidney beans that have been drained and rinsed well. Add grilled corn, jalapenos, cilantro, tomatoes, onions, avocado and lime juice. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin (depending on your hotness level) and for dressing add blended chipotle peppers and prepared salsa. This is a perfect side dish for a Mexican BBQ!