Bored with salad? Bling it up a bit

Try nuts, seeds, herbs and fruit for a fresh take on a summer favorite
2013-06-12T00:00:00Z Bored with salad? Bling it up a bitSharon K. Ghag The Modesto Bee Arizona Daily Star
June 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Turn an "oh" at salad into "Oh, wow" with a little imagination and not much effort.

Even the best-dressed leaves can benefit from a sprinkling of nuts or seeds. Just add them right before serving so they stay nice and crunchy.

Greens served naked or barely dressed in a splash of citrus and olive oil will gain greater appeal with a shake of dried fruit or a generous serving of fresh fruit.

Meat is a great salad topper, but don't overlook beans, wheat germ, granola and canned tuna. Then there's diced or shaved cheese and green or black olives, marinated or stuffed.

Dry ramen noodles sautéed in butter and sprinkled with the accompanying spice package are a nice change of pace from croutons.

Snipped herbs - chives, mint, parsley and dill come to mind - add bold notes. Leftover rice or lentils, meanwhile, can be added with abandon.

Need more ideas? Pile on fresh or grilled vegetables; onions are especially delicious. If going with fresh vegetables, shredding, chopping, slicing and shaving will all add to the texture of the finished salad.

And don't overlook sprouts and shoots.

Finally, remember that it's no crime to double up on salad. Top greens with a creamy macaroni or potato salad and forgo the dressing.

Green Salad With Corn, Peppers and Smoky Red Pepper Dressing

Serves: 4 to 8; dressing makes 1 cup

Dressing:

• 1/4 cup olive oil

• 1/8 cup plus 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

• 2 ounces roasted red peppers (packed in water and drained)

• 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves

• 1 peeled garlic clove

• 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

Salad:

• 8 cups green lettuce, in bite-size pieces

• 1 cup fresh corn kernels

• 1 red bell pepper, small diced

• 1 yellow bell pepper, small diced

• 1 shallot, small diced

In a blender, combine the olive oil, vinegar, roasted peppers, cilantro, garlic, paprika and salt. Purée until the dressing is smooth. Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to five days.

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, corn, red and yellow peppers and shallot and toss to combine. Add 1/2 cup dressing and gently toss everything to coat. Serve immediately.

From "Heather Christo's Generous Table: Easy and Elegant Recipes Through the Seasons" (Kyle Books, $29.95).

Mixed Greens and Strawberry Salad

Serves: 4

Dressing:

• 1/2 cup mayonnaise

• 1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

• 1 tablespoon orange marmalade

Salad:

• 1 small head butter lettuce, washed, chilled

• 3 to 4 ounces mixed baby lettuces, washed, chilled

• 2 cups strawberries, washed, hulled, sliced

• 1/4 cup slivered almonds

• Sea salt, black pepper

In bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and orange juice concentrate. Add the marmalade and whisk again until combined. Refrigerate.

Reserve 4 large lettuce leaves for plating. Tear remaining leaves into bite-size pieces. Spoon 1 tablespoon of dressing into the center of each of 4 serving plates. Place a whole large leaf of butter lettuce off-center on the plate. Scatter a handful of torn lettuce and a handful of baby greens over the entire plate. Scatter 1/2 cup sliced strawberries and 1 tablespoon of sliced almonds over the greens.

Drizzle each salad with additional dressing to taste and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

From "The Artist, the Cook and the Gardener: Recipes Inspired by Painting and the Garden" by Maryjo Koch (Andrews McMeel, $26.99).

Carrot and Citrus Salad

Serves: 3 to 4

Salad:

• 1/3 cup shelled pistachios

• 2 grapefruits, segmented

• 1 large handful watercress

• 2 carrots, shaved on mandoline, placed in ice water

• 1 handful fresh cilantro leaves, picked and roughly torn or chopped

Dressing:

• 2 tablespoons grapefruit juice

• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

• Small squeeze of agave nectar

• Pinch Maldon or other flaky salt

• Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, toast the pistachios until evenly browned, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine grapefruits, watercress, carrots and cilantro in a bowl and toss gently. Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. When ready to serve, add nuts and dressing to the salad.

From "Fresh, Happy, Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes" by Jane Loxwell (William Morrow, $35).

Marinated Cucumber and Chile Salad

Serves: 2 to 3

• 1 cucumber, seeded, quartered lengthwise and finely chopped

• 1/2 habañero chile, seeded, finely chopped

• 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

• Squeeze of agave nectar

• Juice of 1 lemon

• Maldon or other flaky sea salt

• Freshly ground black pepper

Place the cucumber, chile and onion in a glass bowl. Toss with olive oil, agave nectar and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate from 1 hour to up to a day before serving.

From "Fresh, Happy, Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes" by Jane Loxwell (William Morrow, $35).

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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