How To Create The Perfect Summer Salad

perfect summer salad

As the temperature rises, and you become more and more picky about food – heavy, wintry comfort food won’t do anymore – the best healthful option is the Perfect Summer Salad. The useful thing about this is that you can have it for lunch or dinner – or even as a light snack. The magical thing about this is that it can be made out of a plethora of different ingredients, depending on your preferences. Want more crunch and less zing? Or more creamy bits than hard pieces? Want the dressing to make its presence felt? Or hide in the aftertaste along with the salt?

Salad making can be an art form. You can make a salad out of two ingredients, or 20. It’s all about the combinations, the textures, the interplay of tastes and flavors. 

Is this complicating it too much? But, hey – if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you definitely eat a lot of salad. Isn’t it a good thing to make it as delicious as possible? Instead of the boring lettuce + croutons + tomato + vinaigrette combination that we all end up with on a dull Thursday evening?

Components of the Perfect Summer Salad

components of the perfect summer salad
Photo by Anna Pelzer via Unsplash.

So, let’s go over some of the key parts of a good salad, and figure out how to effortlessly replicate that in every salad of ours.

INGREDIENTS

The common go-to formula for salad is usually lettuce or spinach + veggies such as tomato, zucchini and bell pepper, drenched with salad dressing. 

Instead, let’s consider the various types of ingredients and their contribution to the nutrition value of your salad: 

Leafy Greens: It’s not just spinach; leafy greens include arugula, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, Swiss chard, and more. These as healthy as heck, with cancer-fighting phytochemicals. But they also carry food-borne illnesses, and so it is prudent to wash them well before adding to your salad. Especially since you aren’t cooking the germs out.

Sturdy Greens: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, artichoke. What most salad naysayers love to hate. I love these, but I also boil and lightly salt them before including in my salad. Maybe try that next time? Because they’re tasty and super healthful – and some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. According to the USDA, 1 cup of chopped broccoli contains 43 grams of Calcium, 81 grams of Vitamin C and 288 grams of Potassium. Perfect especially for vegans;)



Lettuces: Lettuce don’t really add much in terms of nutrients, but they do make up the fiber portion of your salad meal, apart from adding in some essential vitamins. Also, lettuce has no fat or cholesterol. In addition, most lettuces contain phytonutrients that function as antioxidants to help you fight illness. 

Vegetables: Summer is when veggies such as tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplants and chilies perform at their best. They are all rich in nutrients – vitamins as well as fiber. These taste the best when had at their ripe stage (duh). If they’re too crinkly or yellowing (or smell bad), then don’t use them.

the Perfect Summer Salad for a light meal

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Fruits: These guys, along with vegetables, are nutrient-rich superheroes. They can lower the risk factor for several chronic diseases, such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancers, and obesity. Experts reckon you should eat 2 cups of fruit a day to enjoy a host of health benefits. 

In the summer months, add a lot of water-loaded fruits and veggies: watermelon,  musk melon, cucumber. They’ll cool you down like whoa.

Roots & Tubers: Potatoes, beets, parsnips, sunchokes. My favorites to add in my salad are sweet potatoes and beets (boiled or baked). They offer very few calories, no fat, a bit of fiber, and quite a bit of nutrients (remember to eat the skin as well). Plus, they add the bulk to the salad, keeping you feeling full for longer. A common myth is regarding the starch content of potatoes, and whether it can affect blood sugar. Short answer: potatoes are good for you.

Perfect Summer Salad

Legumes, Nuts, Chickpeas: Ah, the protein powerhouses. Beans and lentils contain protein, good carbs, fiber, and micronutrients. Nuts, in addition, contain good fats. They, once cooked, can be added to the salad for an additional dose of nutrients as well as to mix up the texture.  

Grains & Rice: Pasta or red rice in the salad? Go ahead! This kinda stretches the core definition of salad, but who cares? As long as it’s delicious. But remember to eat whole grains and brown rice (instead of processed white) to get the maximum benefits out of this nutrient-dense food.

Perfect Summer Salad

TEXTURE

Crunchy, crispy, creamy. Smoked, toasted, baked. We love texture. And playing with the various textures to make your salad come alive – is an art form by itself. 

COLOR

Don’t we all eat with our eyes first? Haven’t we also all heard of the rule Eat the Rainbow? It’s a useful rule of thumb when it comes to salads. Add in all the colors you want – go nuts. Orange bell peppers, red tomatoes, green romaine lettuce, purple eggplant, deep red beets, yellow corn. The more, the merrier. 

MIX UP THE FRUITS AND VEGGIES

Add in pomegranate to your veggie salad, toss in some apple pieces, or ripe mango cubes. Sometime, vegetables can blend together to taste flat. Adding a delicious fruit, with a zesty, sweet taste, can provide a nice spiky contrast to each mouthful. Who made rules about having only fruits or only vegetables in your salad? Mix ‘em up, and create some A-grade salad combos.

SEEDS

Add in the seeds for an extra extra dose of protein and good fats, and some subtle richness and flavor. Pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds. If you’re following the seed cycling therapy to regulate your hormones (I am), add in the seeds to your daily salad.

Perfect Summer Salad

DRESSING

Dressing are the icing on the (salad) cake. They add intensity and flavor, and good dressings, like a good leader, can rally and bring out the best in the team. Good dressings are strong, provide balance when added, and can’t really be eaten alone. But once mixed in with the other ingredients, it can elevate the salad to sublime levels. Try eating a salad without any dressing and then with your favorite dressing, and see the difference.

The best bet is to make your own salad dressing – or so I’ve been told. I don’t make my own salad dressing, mostly because I don’t have the time (and when I do have the time, I’m just too lazy). There are tons of vegan salad dressings available in the market, made with organic ingredients. So, I’m not missing out on anything. But dressing is another area where you can experiment with the flavors and intensities. Give it a shot, and maybe you’ll make a unique dressing that people would die for.

SALT: TO ADD OR NOT TO ADD?

This can be a controversial question. Some say excess salt can increase blood pressure, which can lead to much more serious consequences. But this depends on what you mean by “excess salt.” Ultimately, a balanced intake of all required nutrients in adequate quantities (along with sufficient intake of water) should, ideally, not bring any such problems. Do read up on what salt can do to your body, and decide for yourself how much salt you want to include in your overall diet, not just in salads.

Adding salt (and how much salt) for taste, though, ultimately depends on your taste buds. I used to add relatively generous amounts of salt to my salads. But lately, I’ve been skipping the salt, and letting the natural taste of the ingredients shine through. I might switch back to adding salt in a few months – who knows. The point is, do what’s right for you.

Perfect Summer Salad

Final Notes

  1. Always use fresh produce. It’s what Nature intended. Raw and uncooked is preferable, but not necessary. And eat up your salad within a day of making it. Don’t let it sit in the fridge for five days and then eat it along with the bacteria growth.
  2. Use good cutting tools. Cutting veggies for a salad is one of my favorite activities (yup, really), and I would hate it if my knife was not up to the task. Also, keep the knife’s edge sharp. More fingers are cut by blunt edges than sharp ones!
  3. Experiment. It’s the only way to achieve mastery over salad making (or anything else).
  4. Plan for the week, and shop for your ingredients accordingly. Stock up on your favorite ingredients, the non-perishables, and the salad dressings. 
  5. Salad making results in a lot of organic kitchen waste. Yay! Use it all in your compost bin to make compost for your plants. Save the seeds and plant them also. Go wild.

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Some Amazing Summer Salad Recipes

Perfect Summer Salad

Celery Root & Apple Salad

Dijon Potato Salad

Roasted Persimmon & Pomegranate Quinoa Salad

Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad with Dill Dressing

Arugula and Sweet Potato Salad with Mint Yoghurt Dressing

Mango Nectarine Salad and Raspberry Dressing

Smoked Tofu Salad with Dried Apricots

Summer Salad with Pickled Peaches and Blueberries

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Mixed Lemon Rice

Vegan Coconut Rice

Sticky, Chewy Vegan Brownies

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Vegetarian / vegan summer salads are unbeatable. Check out these vegan gluten dairy free salad rules! #salad #summer #vegan #PerfectSalad

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE DETAILS.



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