Produce, not pasta, key to summer salads

Mediterranean crunch salad is appealing to the eyes and taste buds.
Susan Tusa | MCT
Mediterranean crunch salad is appealing to the eyes and taste buds.
Posted July 19, 2011, at 4:05 p.m.
A fresh summer salad deserves a freshly made dressing.
Susan Tusa | MCT
A fresh summer salad deserves a freshly made dressing.
Peas, French-cut green beans and corn are the basis of chilled vegetable salad.
Susan Tusa | MCT
Peas, French-cut green beans and corn are the basis of chilled vegetable salad.
Mediterranean crunch salad is appealing to the eyes and taste buds.
Susan Tusa | MCT
Mediterranean crunch salad is appealing to the eyes and taste buds.
Basil and tarragon are options for garden panzanella, which also makes use of day-old bread.
Susan Tusa | MCT
Basil and tarragon are options for garden panzanella, which also makes use of day-old bread.
Backyard gardens should soon be awash in vine-ripe tomatoes and cucumbers -- perfectly matched ingredients for a chunky Greek salad.
Susan Tusa
Backyard gardens should soon be awash in vine-ripe tomatoes and cucumbers -- perfectly matched ingredients for a chunky Greek salad.

Summer salads are the culinary workhorses of picnics, potlucks and patio parties, and pasta versions are more plentiful than mosquitoes.

But isn’t it time to use your noodle — or rather lose your noodle — and expand your potluck palette?

There are plenty of great-tasting salads sans pasta that are fresh, light and capture the essence of the season much better than mayo-laden macaroni.

Find inspiration in the fresh bounty at farmers and roadside markets, grocery produce sections or what’s coming up in your backyard.

“The options are so great with all the summer produce,” said Jan Kemp, healthy eating specialist at Whole Foods Market Washtenaw in Ann Arbor, Mich. “We need to take advantage of it because there is lots of variety.”

Many of the salads in Whole Foods’ Health Starts Here program, including today’s Mediterranean Crunch recipe, don’t call for pasta. The program is designed to promote awareness of eating whole foods, plant-based foods, nutrient-dense foods and healthy fats.

“The nice thing about salads without pasta is you can add all sorts of different beans and vegetables,” said Kemp. “You can make beautiful, healthy and delicious salads for your guests, and they might not know it. ”

Kemp advises getting creative and tailoring salad recipes to your own tastes.

“If there’s an herb that you don’t like, take it out and add something else,” said Kemp. Do the same with vegetables or beans. “Take out the ones you don’t like and add something else.”

Backyard gardens should soon be awash in vine-ripe tomatoes and cucumbers — perfectly matched ingredients for today’s Chunky Greek Salad.

And what about all those herbs running rampant in your garden? You can make use of them in just about any of today’s salads. Basil and tarragon are options for Garden Panzanella, which also makes use of day-old bread.

Summer salads should be easy, so don’t work up a sweat by heating up a big pot of water for pasta. Today’s recipes are perfect for any gathering. They make enough for at least eight servings; figuring about ½ cup per serving. Except for Garden Panzanella, which should be eaten soon after mixing, all the salads can be made ahead and travel well. You can pack them in sealable plastic bags and place them in a bowl just before serving.

Mediterranean Crunch

Serves 4

1 can (15 ounces) no-salt-added garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 cucumber, chopped

1 cup small broccoli florets

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1 cup finely sliced kale, tough stems removed

½ cup finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped Kalamata olives

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving.

From Whole Foods Market, Ann Arbor, Mich. Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 15 minutes (plus chilling time).

130 calories (35 percent from fat ), 4 grams fat (0 grams sat. fat ), 21 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein , 140 mg sodium , 0 mg cholesterol , 5 grams fiber .

Chilled Vegetable Salad

Makes eight 1 cup servings

1 cup sugar

¾ cup cider vinegar

½ cup vegetable oil

1 medium green bell pepper, washed and chopped

1 medium onion, peeled, chopped

3 celery ribs, sliced

1 jar (7 ounces) diced pimiento, undrained

1 can (15¼ ounces) small sweet green peas, drained, or 1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 can (14½ ounces) French-cut green beans, drained, or 2 cups haricot vert, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 can (11 ounces) white shoepeg corn, drained, or 1 cup fresh yellow corn

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, vinegar and oil. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Remove dressing from heat and cool 30 minutes. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Gently stir in dressing. Cover and chill salad for 8 hours. Serve with a slotted spoon. This salad may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days. Adapted from www.myrecipes.com. Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 30 minutes (plus chilling time)

296 calories (29 percent from fat ), 10 grams fat (1 gram sat. fat ), 50 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein , 242 mg sodium , 0 mg cholesterol , 7 grams fiber .

Chunky Greek Salad

Makes 12 side-dish servings, about 8 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes

1½ hothouse or regular cucumbers, cut into chunks

1 large red pepper, washed, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 green onions, washed and sliced

½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

¼ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves or flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

¾ cup crumbled feta cheese, optional

In a large serving bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, red pepper, green onions, olives and mint. Toss until evenly mixed. Cover and refrigerate up to six hours. Just before serving, sprinkle with the feta cheese, if using. Toss again before serving. Adapted from “The Great Potluck Cookbook” by Good Housekeeping (Heart Books, $12.95). Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 15 minutes (plus chilling time).

45 calories (60 percent from fat ), 3 grams fat (0 grams sat. fat ), 5 grams carbohydrates , 1 gram protein , 195 mg sodium , 0 mg cholesterol , 2 grams fiber .

Garden Panzanella

Serves 12

If you are not using day-old bread, dry the bread slices in a 300-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes. This salad is best served immediately.

Salad

6 medium tomatoes, washed, cut into chunks

½ teaspoon salt

1-pound loaf of thick-crust bread or 1- or 2-day-old French baguette, cut into 1½-inch cubes

1 medium cucumber, peeled if desired, seeded, cut into ½-inch pieces

2 roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped

½ medium red onion, thinly sliced

2 green onions, washed, thinly sliced

⅓ cup fresh chopped herbs such as basil, tarragon or oregano

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Vinaigrette

½ cup olive oil

1 to 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or white vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard or more to taste

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1 garlic clove, pressed

In a large bowl, place the tomato chunks and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt. Set aside for 15 minutes. Place the bread in a large serving bowl. Add the cucumber, red pepper and red and green onions. Add the tomatoes with any juices. Sprinkle salad with herbs and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. In a small bowl, whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients until the mixture emulsifies. Drizzle the vinaigrette lightly over the salad and toss gently to coat. Use only enough vinaigrette to coat all the ingredients. Leftover vinaigrette will keep in the refrigerator for several days. Season the salad with salt and black pepper to taste and serve. Preparation time: 30 minutes / Total time: 45 minutes.

207 calories (44 percent from fat ), 10 grams fat (1 gram sat. fat ), 25 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein , 349 mg sodium , 0 mg cholesterol , 3 grams fiber .

Garden Fresh Chopped Salad with Herb-ranch Dressing

Makes about 14 cups

1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup low-fat buttermilk

⅓ cup low-fat mayonnaise

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

2 green onions, washed, ends removed, minced

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 ounce hearts of romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped

4 pints red and-or yellow cherry tomatoes, washed, each cut in half

2 red, orange and-or yellow peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 avocados, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks

Heat saucepan of water to boiling on high. Add green beans and cook 5 minutes until tender-crisp. Drain beans in colander and rinse under cold running water to stop cooking.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, chives, parsley, green onions, salt and pepper until blended; set dressing aside. In 4-quart or larger cylindrical glass bowl or trifle dish, place half of lettuce, then half of tomatoes; top with all of green beans, all of peppers, remaining lettuce, then remaining tomatoes. Arrange avocados on top. Spoon dressing over avocados to cover completely. If not serving right away, cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate salad until ready to serve or up to 4 hours. From “The Great Potluck Cookbook” by Good Housekeeping (Heart Books, $12.95). Preparation time: 25 minutes / Total time: 25 minutes.

Analysis per 1 cup: 185 calories (58% from fat), 12 grams fat (2 grams sat. fat), 20 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 265 mg sodium, 4 mg cholesterol, 7 grams fiber.

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