Summer Salads : 13 Best Ingredients for Summer Salads with over 28 vegetarian recipes and ideas on how to use these ingredients
Salads make the best summer meals. Sorry, I’m not giving you a chance to disagree here 😆.
Here I’m sharing with you 13 of my favourite ingredients to make the best summer salads.
Some of these ingredients are chosen for their inherent cooling effect such as cucumber, yogurt and mint. Some ingredients like tomato and watermelon have in excess of 90% water. They are great for keeping you hydrated. Few of these ingredients are best in summers and salads are all about making the most of seasonal produce. I have also chosen a few pantry ingredients that make cooking a breeze (pun intended) in the summers.
Best ingredients for summer salads
So here’s my list of 13 best ingredients for summer salads with 28+ recipe ideas on how to use them.
That was a predictable no.1 on my list, right? Cucumbers are possibly the best summer food out there, waiting to get into your salad bowl. Instead of doing the regular sliced cucumber salad, try smashing things up a bit. Use a rolling pin or a pestle to break the cucumber into chunks (uneven sized, of course). Combine with salad greens or cherry tomatoes. Use a lemon or yogurt based dressing.
Or try a whole new spin on a cucumber salad like this spicy cucumbers with peanuts from Western India (Khamang Kakdi).
Recipe: Pressed Cucumber Salad
Recipe: Khamang Kakdi
While corn is more of a monsoon ingredient in India, this season coincides with the summer in many other parts of the world, making it a perfect ingredient for salads. Corn is just right for picnic salads because it holds up for more than a few hours without complaining. Grill the corn on cob and used the grilled kernels for maximum flavour. Corn pairs well with avocados, kidney beans or black beans, pineapple and bell peppers.
Recipe: Grilled corn and orzo salad
Most Indians cannot do without yogurt in summer. Be it the spiced buttermilk (chhass) or sweet lassi or raitas, we make the most of yogurt in our daily diet. Yogurt is also great for thick dressings, giving the shove to old-fashioned mayo based dressings. In Turkish cuisine, yogurt is used along with seasonal vegetables and greens, and so can you.
Recipe: Mint and Cucumber Yogurt
Recipe: Labneh (in my cookbook) – to top any roasted / grilled vegetables
You can get back to your summer relationship with watermelon and feta salad, or just serve up thick slices of watermelon topped with some chilli salt. For the latter, grind up some coarse salt with a pinch of chilli flakes in a mortar pestle. Mint leaves and balsamic vinegar also pair well with watermelon.
Recipe: Summer Melon Salad
Recipe: Summer Salad from my garden
A hearty squeeze of a lemon, and almost every dish becomes summer ready. While you use the juice of citrus for making lemonade and salad dressings, don’t forget to use the zest. This is where all the flavour lies. Lemon zest, yogurt and extra virgin olive oil make a luscious dressing to go over cucumbers, chickpeas and almost any Mediterranean or Middle Eastern inspired salad.
Recipe: Spicy Lemon Coconut Sauce – makes a really good dressing over any salad
MINT – just the word is enough to paint a sense of cooling in my head. Mint is not just used as a garnish but a main salad ingredient in many Middle Eastern recipes. Fattoush and Tabbouleh are two such popular mint based salad recipes. This intensely fragrant herb goes well with almost all the other summer salad ingredients list such as cucumber, watermelon, tomatoes, zucchini, yogurt etc. Make your own salad combination with mint using any of these ingredients. Dried mint works very well in salad dressings.
Tomatoes have a water content of almost 94%. Need we say anything more? Slice up a pile of tomatoes. If you get different varieties, then combine all of them. Layer them on a big platter. Sprinkle coarse salt, freshly crushed black pepper and a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. This minimalistic approach does full justice to the seasonal produce. For an added zing to any main dish, try the Parsi kachumber salad.
Recipe: Parsi Kachumber
Recipe: Tomato and sourdough Panzanella (in my cookbook)
Recipe: All-the-Tomatoes and Pasta Salad
Any summer food list is incomplete without a mention of this glorious fruit. While the natural sweetness of mangoes would make it seem like a more dessert-friendly fruit, it is one of my favourite fruits to add to a summer salad. Especially given that I live in India and one of the highlights of our summer is mango. Combine mango with non-sweet ingredients to keep the salad from veering too much to the sweet side. Tender spinach leaves, avocados, blue cheese, grilled paneer – all of these make worthy partners to mango in a summer salad.
Although I did break this rule and combine mangoes with beet in a salad, purely because I loved the colours together.
Recipe: Grilled Paneer and Mango Salad
Recipe: Cold rice salad with mango
Asparagus makes a fleeting appearance during summer (white asparagus even more so with its blink and miss nature). Blanched or grilled asparagus is good enough to be the sole main ingredient in a summer salad. Top with a sharp cheese or chopped hard boiled eggs (or even a runny egg) and a summery herb based dressing. Chopped blanched asparagus is also great for cold pasta salads.
Zucchini grows in abundance in summers. The zoodles (zucchini spiralised into noodles) situation is still strong in the food world. Spiralised zucchini makes for an excellent salad ingredient. If you ask me, a pasta dish made using zoodles would qualify as a salad. My favourite way to use zucchini is to slice it and place the slices on a hot and lightly greased stove top grill pan until you get those beautiful grill marks. Use these grilled medallions along with….and that brings me to my next ingredient
Recipe: Spiralized Summer Salad
Recipe: Zucchini Salad
11. Canned chickpeas
When the temperatures soar, one would rather be cooling off in the pool or under the fan. Canned beans come to the rescue of every summer meal. Toss salad greens with sliced cucumber and chickpeas and you have a substantial salad ready in minutes. Or grab my favourite zucchini salad idea. On a platter, layer the grilled zucchini medallions. Heat olive oil and drop in cumin seeds and dried oregano. Toss drained chickpeas. Top with lemon zest and pile this deliciously flavoured chickpea mix over the zucchini. A meal is ready!
Another very easy ingredient to deal with in the summers is couscous. All it needs is a kettle of boiling water and you have the base ready for a grain-based salad. Add couscous to any salad to turn it into a main meal or a lunchbox filler. Flavour boosting tip: douse couscous in part hot water and part fresh orange juice.
Recipe: 10 minute couscous salad
13. Rice noodles
This is another pantry ingredient that requires no real cooking. Just immerse in boiling hot water for 1-2 minutes, drain and you have a base ready for colourful Asian style salads. Thinly sliced cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, sautéed tofu along with rice noodles, topped with a soy honey dressings and the crunch of roasted peanuts is one of the best ways to celebrate summer in a bowl.
Recipe: Sriracha Rainbow Noodles Salad
Recipe: Vietnamese Noodle Salad
So what is your favourite ingredient for summer salads? Do share it with me in the comments below! If you liked this post, I would love it if you shared on your social networks.
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