Too often, salads are underestimated, relegated to the sidelines, and assigned a co-starring role that supports the main attraction. But they do just as well as the star of the show, especially at dinner.
“Salads can be very filling,” says Jeanne Kelley, author of Salad for dinner: complete meals for all seasons and the next Vegetarian salad for dinner. “It really depends on what you put in them. If you are thinking that salad is just a combination of lettuce leaves and a couple of fruits and vegetables, there is a whole world of ingredients to discover.
Warm weather is often the time cooks transition from heavy comfort food to lighter, easier-to-prepare salads. But the truth is, salads can be satisfying enough to be in your meal planning rotation all year long.
Try these three main course salad recipes from food experts who know how to take a bed of vegetables to the next level.
Seared Salmon Salad with Warm Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette
This salad comes from Ivy Manning, a food writer and author of cookbooks including The Adaptive Feast: Satisfying Meals for Vegetarians, Vegans and omnivores at your tableme.
Manning says this recipe is in regular rotation at his house. “I like to make salads as a main dish for dinner because it’s a great way to get some of the ‘five vegetables a day’ that I aim to eat on a daily basis. This one is great for busy weeknights because wild salmon cooks quickly and gives us a healthy dose of heart-healthy omega-3s. Spicy arugula is balanced by the sweetness of quickly sautéed cherry tomatoes that transform into a thick, warm vinaigrette. Toasted pine nuts add a bit of crunch and elegance to what truly is a make-ahead dinner. Due to the richness of the fish and the fact that the vinaigrette is lukewarm, it doesn’t feel like a ‘salad’ in the conventional sense.”
4 servings, Ingredients:
• 4 wild sockeye salmon fillets (6 ounces) skin-on, boneless
• 1 tablespoon of safflower oil
• ½ teaspoon of salt
• ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 6 cups (5 ounces) baby arugula
• ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
Warm cherry tomato vinaigrette
• 1 tablespoon minced shallot
• 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
• 3 tablespoons of safflower oil
• ¼ cup pitted Greek olives, chopped
• 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1. Put the shallot, vinegar and ¼ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Beat the mustard. Gradually add 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the olives and reserve.
2. Sprinkle fish on both sides with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
3. Add fish, skin side down, and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Use a spatula to carefully flip the fillets and cook on the other side until the fish is cooked through, about 4 minutes more. Transfer fish to plate.
4. Wipe skillet clean with a paper towel, add remaining oil, and reheat over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and sauté until softened and beginning to collapse, 4 minutes. Transfer the tomatoes to a vinaigrette bowl and toss to combine.
5. Divide the arugula among four plates and top each with fish fillet. Pour ½ cup vinaigrette over each salad, sprinkle with pine nuts, and serve.
Chicken, Farro, and Arugula Salad with Lemon and Greens
This recipe is courtesy of Jeanne Kelley, who notes that this salad “is especially well-suited to fit what you have in your pantry and garden. Farro can be replaced with quinoa, brown rice, or small pasta. Fresh fennel shaved can substitute radishes or peas; scallions and green garlic would be great in place of green onions; and pistachios and pine nuts and goat or feta cheese would be good substitutes for marcona almonds and Parmesan cheese, respectively.”
For 4 people, Ingredients:
• 1 cup pearl farro, rinsed and drained
• 2 cups shredded cooked chicken, about 1 breast
• 16 asparagus tips, ends trimmed, thinly sliced diagonally
• 4 ounces sweet peas, thinly sliced on the long diagonal
• 8 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
• 1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese, divided
• 3 green onions, thinly sliced
• 6 cups of arugula
• ¾ cup coarsely chopped marcona or other toasted almonds
For the dressing:
• ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
• 6 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
• 1 clove garlic, very finely grated or pressed
• ½ teaspoon of salt
1. Cook farro in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still chewy, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make dressing by whisking olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt in small bowl until well blended.
2. Drain farro well. Transfer to a large shallow bowl and add 2 tablespoons of dressing. Cool completely. (Can be made up to a day in advance. Cover and refrigerate.)
3. Add the chicken, asparagus, peas, radishes, half the Parmesan cheese, green onions, and ⅓ cup of the dressing to the farro and mix well. Divide the arugula among four plates and drizzle the vegetables lightly with the dressing. Top arugula with farro mixture and drizzle with remaining dressing. Sprinkle the salads with the remaining Parmesan, almonds and coarse ground pepper and serve.
James Ransom, reprinted with permission from Food52 Mighty Salads: 60 New Ways to Turn Salad Into Dinner
Steak and Salsa Verde Salad
Courtesy of Emily Connor, whose recipe can be found at Food52 Mighty Salads: 60 new ways to turn a salad into dinner.
Connor notes that this salad uses “herbs and vegetables that are plentiful on farm stands. Salsa verde’s zesty ingredients—herbs, anchovies, garlic, lemon, and capers—are a perfect match for the bold, charred flavors of grilled steak. But instead of mixing the ingredients together to make a green relish, I decided to flip the script and use the herbs as the base of the salad and the other ingredients for a brilliant lemon and anchovy vinaigrette that ties everything together.”
For 4 people, Ingredients:
• 1½ pounds hanger or flank steak
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Olive oil, to brush
• 1 large red onion, cut crosswise into ½-inch circles
• 6 cups loose-leaf watercress and arugula
• ¼ cup fresh loose flat-leaf parsley leaves
• ¼ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, broken if large
• ½ cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
• 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated with a vegetable peeler