Refreshing, Colorful Salads for Summer
Salads don’t need to consist of a few limp lettuce leaves and whatever you have left over in the fridge from last week. Summer provides lots of fresh produce that’s often available at local farm stands and markets, perfect for tasty and creative salads. Check out the produce guide and recipes below to whip up plenty of refreshing, colorful, nutritious salads.
What’s in Season?
Tomatoes are rich in a carotenoid called lycopene. Research suggests lycopene may reduce the risk of some cancers – specifically, prostate cancer.1 Test whether tomatoes are ripe by giving them a gentle squeeze; if they are soft and brightly colored, they’re ready to eat.
Berries, including strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, are in season during the summer months. Not only are berries more cost-effective during the summer months, they also taste better and last longer than when purchased in the winter. They are rich in many vitamins and phytochemicals and add sweetness to salads.2
Avocados are a rich source of monounsaturated fats, which are healthy fats that can help lower cholesterol levels.3 Half a medium avocado contains around 130 calories, so it may be best to eat in moderation.
Stone fruits, which include nectarines, peaches, and plums, are super tasty during the summer. Test to see if they are ripe by gently squeezing them: They should feel firm, but give slightly under the pressure. They ripen nicely in a fruit bowl, so it’s okay to buy them slightly under-ripe. Stone fruits contain beta-carotene, which can be converted to vitamin A in the body.
Summer squash, including zucchini, pattypan, and cousa, are all in season in summer. Unlike winter squash, summer varieties have a soft, thin skin, which is edible and great for grilling. Add them either raw or cooked to salad. They are rich in carotenoids, which act as antioxidants in the body. Most of the carotenoids are concentrated near the skin, so it’s a good idea to leave them on.
All colors of sweet peppers are in season during the summer. Each variety is a good source of vitamin C. Red peppers are high in beta-carotene, vitamin K, and folate. When peppers are ripe, they will feel firm. When they become soft and wrinkled, they are overripe. Peppers are a fabulously versatile vegetable; they can be eaten raw or cooked and are a healthier alternative to chips when served with dip.
Lettuce, watercress, and arugula are all in season during the summer. They serve as a great base for salads and provide high levels of folate, a B vitamin that helps prevent neural defects during pregnancy as well as a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia. Arugula has a strong, peppery flavor that adds zest to any salad. It contains a host of vitamins and minerals, including folate, calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K. Look for leafy greens that are vibrant in color. If greens wilt or turn yellow, they are probably a little past their prime. If you have a head of lettuce that starts to wilt, cut off the bottom and place the leaves in a bowl of water for 30 minutes.
Melons, including honeydew, watermelon, and cantaloupe, have a lovely smell when ripe. To test for ripeness, smell melons. With a watermelon, tap it – if it sounds hollow, it’s ripe. Melons add a nice sweetness to salads without loading on the calories (a half-cup of cantaloupe, for instance, has just 60 calories). They taste really good in salads that contain prosciutto and similar salty meats.
Super Summer Salad Recipes
This salad features some key Mediterranean staples, including tomatoes, feta cheese, capers, and olives. The main bioactive compounds in olives, which include oleuropein, have been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and certain cancers.4
The star of this salad? The goat cheese croutons. To prepare, cut a goat cheese log into rounds. Press each round on a baking sheet until they are ½-inch thick, and then freeze for 20 minutes. This process helps the rounds keep their shape and not ooze out of the breading while frying.
This salad is warm, satisfying, and spicy, with Serrano chile and fresh-grated ginger. Serve as a starter or light main meal.
Unlike most plant food sources, quinoa is a nutritionally complete protein, which makes this salad great for everyone, including vegans and vegetarians.
The almonds in this dish add a great crunchy consistency, which helps you feel satisfied.5
Salads aren’t limited to veggies. This one features sweet stone fruits and quinoa, which is a great source of fiber and protein.
The pickled beets in this salad add color and tang. Additionally, beetroot may help lower blood pressure because it’s high in nitrate, compounds that produce a gas called nitric oxide in the blood. Nitric oxide helps widen blood vessels and, therefore, lowers blood pressure.6
This is a super quick recipe that contains all your food groups in one tasty meal. Couscous is a wheat-based grain that’s common throughout North Africa. It makes a great lighter alternative to rice and other grains.
This is a healthier (and most likely tastier) version of your usual mayonnaise-laden potato salad. It’s the perfect side to take along on BBQs and picnics.
Remember that tomatoes come in different colors, so choose different varieties to increase the aesthetics of the dish and provide different nutrients. Yellow tomatoes contain beta-carotene, which is made into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for your immune system, eye health, and skin health.
Low in calories and high in protein, this makes an excellent and quick midweek dinner choice. It contains cherry tomatoes, red peppers, zucchini, and baby spinach – all of which are in season during the summer months.
The crunch from the broccoli in this salad complements the softer eggplant and avocado. Broccoli may help protect from and slow down the progression of osteoarthritis. Sulforaphane, which occurs naturally in broccoli, helps slow down the destruction of cartilage in joints.7
While all varieties of lentils contain a lot of nutrients, brown or green ones have twice as much fiber and roughly one-third more potassium, phosphorus, iron, and copper than red ones. This recipe is an easy way to cram plenty of vitamins, minerals, and protein into one dish.
Melon, tomatoes, and cucumber are not your typical combination of ingredients, but this dish is as refreshing as it is colorful.
Just because it’s hot outside doesn’t mean you have to serve your salads cold. This one melds an array of summer veggies and farro, a type of wheat that retains its crunchiness when cooked.
Light and Tasty Dressing Tips
- Balsamic vinegar and balsamic glaze make perfect salad dressings and are both very low in calories and fat. Balsamic vinegar has a strong, tangy taste. The longer it’s aged, the better the quality and flavor
- Reduce the calories and fat in your homemade dressing by using a low-calorie liquid in place of some of the oil. Try fat-free sour cream, natural yogurt, fruit or vegetable juice, or low-salt chicken broth
- Chutneys are a great option if you fancy something a little different with your salad. This tomato and zucchini chutney is super easy to make and lasts for months. It also contains a lot less sugar than most store-bought versions
Salads are a great way to enjoy a variety of summer fruits and vegetables. Ditch the iceberg, cucumber, and tomato salads and opt for something more colorful and creative. Often, the more interesting, colorful, and unusual the ingredients, the wider the range of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Start thinking outside the salad box with these delicious summer salad recipes.
Source: Fix.com Blog