Freedom! Freedom from fuss. Freedom from extra work. Freedom from complicated cooking. That's what summer means and that's what summer suppers demand.
What we have here is the freedom to act like a guest in your own kitchen and just drop in for a few minutes. When I'm thinking about what to make for supper on a broiling-hot day, I gravitate toward a salad full of flavorful summer produce--our Vegetarian Taco Salad, perhaps (pictured; see recipe below), featuring fresh corn and ripe tomatoes. With a chop-chop here and a little assembly there, dinner for 6 is ready in 40 minutes.
Here are 5 recipes for summer dinner salads that will cap off a lovely summer day easily and deliciously. They are easy to double if you need to feed a crowd--and they'll help your crowd fill up on plenty of in-season summer veggies.
Thai-Style Melon & Beef Salad: We give this Thai-style beef salad a sweet twist by adding thin matchsticks of melon to the mix. Firm orange- or pale green-fleshed melon is equally good. The saltiness of the fish sauce helps to balance the sweetness of the melon.
Prep Tip: A lime at room temperature gives the most juice (1 1/2-2 tablespoons). Before juicing, roll the lime on the counter, pressing down with your hand.
Chinese Chicken & Noodle Salad: This delicious Chinese-inspired salad is crisp, crunchy and cool with shredded cabbage, carrots and chicken breast tossed with toasted ramen noodles and slivered almonds. The dressing is an addictive orange, sesame, ginger and soy combination--you may want to double the dressing and save some for a salad the next day.
Prep Tip: Refrigerate the vegetables, toasted noodle mixture, chicken and dressing in separate containers for up to 1 day. Toss together just before serving.
Smoked Turkey & Farro Salad: This whole-grain farro salad recipe is studded with lean turkey, plenty of crunchy bell pepper, celery, smoked cheese and avocado--a perfect summer salad recipe to serve on a hot summer night.
Prep Tip: Look for farro--a quick-cooking high-fiber whole grain--in the bulk section or near other grains in natural-foods stores. Or add cooked barley as a substitute for the farro.
Feta, Corn & Chicken Salad with Smoky Tomato Dressing: Sure, grill your basic chicken to top a salad, but why stop there? This hearty chicken salad recipe is full of grilled sweet corn, scallions, escarole and spicy chicken, all of which only improve with the kiss of smoke and fire. Smoked paprika gives the tomato dressing a bacon-like flavor and salty feta and pine nuts top everything off with a savory finish.
Prep Tip: To remove corn kernels from the cob, stand an ear of corn on one end and slice the kernels off with a sharp knife.
Vegetarian Taco Salad: Taco salads have become all the rage, but they have a dark secret: some chain-restaurant versions can pack as much fat as a stick of butter--no kidding. This healthy take on the crowd-pleaser is built on a foundation of crunchy lettuce, fresh corn, chopped tomatoes, ready-to-use canned beans and whole-grain brown rice. Tossed with fresh herbs and spices, along with convenient jarred salsa, this meal-in-a-salad bowl won't disappoint. Nobody will miss the meat.
Prep Tip: The rice and bean mixture can be made ahead and the salad quickly assembled at mealtime.
Makes: 6 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each
Active time: 40 minutes | Total: 40 minutes | To make ahead: Prepare through Step 1, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days; reheat slightly before serving.
Cost per serving: under $2
Recipe by Nancy Baggett for EatingWell.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (see Tip) or frozen, thawed
4 large tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cooked long-grain brown rice (see Tip)
1 15-ounce can black, kidney or pinto beans, rinsed
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup prepared salsa
2 cups shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce
1 cup shredded pepper Jack cheese
2 1/2 cups coarsely crumbled tortilla chips
Lime wedges for garnish
1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and corn; cook, stirring, until the onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Coarsely chop 1 tomato. Add it to the pan along with rice, beans, chili powder, 1 teaspoon oregano and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato cooks down, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly.
2. Coarsely chop the remaining 3 tomatoes. Combine with cilantro, salsa and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon oregano in a medium bowl.
3. Toss lettuce in a large bowl with the bean mixture, half the fresh salsa and 2/3 cup cheese. Serve sprinkled with tortilla chips and the remaining cheese, passing lime wedges and the remaining fresh salsa at the table.
Per serving: 395 calories; 17 g fat (5 g sat, 5 g mono); 20 mg cholesterol; 52 g carbohydrate; 0 g added sugars; 14 g protein; 9 g fiber; 459 mg sodium; 774 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A & Vitamin C (38% daily value), Calcium & Folate (23% dv), Potassium (22% dv), Magnesium (21% dv), Calcium (23% dv), Iron (15% dv).
Kitchen Tips: To remove corn kernels from the cob, stand an ear of corn on its stem end and slice the kernels off with a sharp knife.
To cook rice, bring 1 cup water and 1/2 cup long-grain brown rice to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer at the lowest bubble until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Makes 1 1/2 cups.
What easy supper do you make when you have to feed a summertime crowd?
By Wendy Ruopp
Wendy Ruopp has been the managing editor of EatingWell for most of her adult life. Although she writes about food for the Weeknights column of EatingWell Magazine, her husband does the cooking at home.
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