Help me, world. It’s tough enough to find the time to cook in summer. Who wants the heat, too?
Add the other things I want every day — something fast, something healthful, something affordable — and weeknight dinners can become daunting. Did I mention that I want it to taste good, too?
I wanted to combine fresh food with a few high-quality, high-flavor shortcuts. With that in mind, I set to work to come up with six really good dinner salads. I wanted the kind that can be full meals. And I didn’t want the kind that are glopped up with too much creamy dressing.
At the end of the day, I realized that I had hit on something good here. These salads aren’t deprivation dinners, they’re delicious. They’re recipes I’ll keep in my weeknight dinner rotation from now on — even when it isn’t summer anymore.
Greek Chicken Salad With Feta Dressing: Purée ½ cup feta cheese, 3 tablespoons water and ¼ cup oil in a blender. Toss with 2 cups diced cooked chicken, 4 to 6 cups chopped romaine, 2 cored and diced tomatoes, and ¼ cup pitted kalamata olives. Just before serving, toss with 2 cups crushed pita chips.
Sort-of-Niçoise Lentil Salad: Place ½ cup bottled Italian dressing in a mixing bowl. Whisk in 1 tablespoon honey and 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil. Add cooked green lentils (1 package Trader Joe’s steamed lentils or 3 cups cooked green or Le Puy lentils). Stir in 1 cup grated carrot (1 large shredded carrot, or salad-bar carrots) and about 2 tablespoons minced onion (red, yellow or shallot). Line a serving platter with lettuce and pile the lentils over it. Flake a can of drained, oil-packed tuna over the top.
Shrimp Salad With Green Curry Dressing: Empty a 1-pound bag of frozen cooked shrimp (any size will work, although I like at least 41- to 50-count) into a colander and rinse under cold running water to thaw. In a salad bowl, whisk together ¼ cup fresh lime juice (2 to 3 limes; zap them in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds to yield more juice), ¼ cup canola oil and 2 tablespoons green curry paste.
Add the thawed shrimp, about 6 cups shredded romaine lettuce and ¼ cup each chopped fresh cilantro and mint. Top with roasted peanuts. Find green curry paste with the Asian ingredients in most supermarkets.
Adapted from “Market Math: 50 Ingredients x 4 Recipes = 200 Simple, Creative Dishes,” by the editors of Food & Wine.
Mediterranean Chicken and Chickpea Salad: In a serving bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and ½ teaspoon each Dijon mustard, honey and dried oregano. Whisk in 3 tablespoons olive oil. Stir in 3 tablespoons chopped pitted kalamata olives and about 3 tablespoons diced red onion. Add 4 to 6 cups chopped romaine or other sturdy salad greens, 1 cored and diced tomato and 2 (15-ounce) cans rinsed/drained chickpeas. Top with ¼ cup crumbled feta and about 2 cups diced, cooked chicken.
Adapted from “Dinner A.S.A.P,” by the editors of Cooking Light.
Layered Antipasto Salad and Pastrami & Rye Panzanella Salad.