Warm Weather Salads Fit to be Meals

By Debra Daniels-Zeller

Hot summer days and salads go naturally together, and just about any ingredient can be incorporated into a salad.

Start with fresh greens and keep flavors on the tart side. Citrus or vinegar can set the tone, along with oil. Not much oil is needed — just enough to make the dressing cling to the salad ingredients. You can cut back on oil by adding more vinegar and water with a small amount of sweetener to balance the tart tones.

Composed or layered salads begin with lettuce or greens and include vegetables, fruit, hearty foods such as tofu or beans, and a garnish. Use an assortment of vegetables and fruits, dry or fresh, and keep it simple. For vibrant colors, layer sliced tomatoes, carrots, peppers, beets, radicchio, or red cabbage. For texture contrasts, try crispy carrots, toasted nuts, or crunchy croutons and soft avocados, marinated tofu, or roasted asparagus.

Serve your salad with crusty bread, or crackers, chips and dip. Vegan cheese, nuts, seeds, marinated tofu, barbecue tempeh, rinsed canned beans, or quinoa can make an infinite variety of salads.

Shiitake Mushroom, Quinoa and Greens with Toasted Cashews

(Serves 6)

Shiitake mushrooms add intriguing texture and deepen the flavor of this salad. You can also use button mushrooms if shiitake are not available.

  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded, caps sliced
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot or small onion, peeled and small diced
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped pickled peppers
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup minced celery
  • 4 cups fresh lettuce or spinach, torn
  • ¼ cup diced vegan cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped toasted cashews

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, stir and cook until the mushrooms soften. (Button mushrooms will release liquid before they are done.)

Pour in olive oil and add shallot or onion. Stir and cook until shallot or onion begins to brown. Add pickled peppers, stir, and cook for a few minutes. Remove from heat. Add quinoa. Stir in balsamic vinegar.

In a large bowl gently mix mushrooms, quinoa, and celery. Gently blend in lettuce. Serve topped with vegan cheese and cashews.

Total calories per serving: 156 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 21 grams Protein: 5 grams
Sodium: 105 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams

Greens with New Potatoes and Kidney Beans

(Serves 6)

The first potatoes of the season, new potatoes are delicate, slightly sweet, and tender. These potatoes are small with thin skins; take care not to overcook them. See the cover of this issue for a photo of this salad.

  • 1 ½ pounds new potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
  • ¼ cup red wine or raspberry vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon vegan aioli spread or vegan mayonnaise with ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3-4 red cherry peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 small red onion, small dice
  • One 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed v
  • 4 cups mixed salad greens
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Steam potatoes just until tender. Do not overcook. While potatoes cook, combine wine or vinegar, olive oil, vegan aioli, and mustard in a small bowl. When potatoes are done, rinse under cold water.

Place potatoes in a large bowl and combine with cherry peppers, onion, kidney beans, and salad greens. Pour dressing over all and gently mix. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Total calories per serving: 226 Fat: 9 grams
Carbohydrates: 31 grams Protein: 7 grams
Sodium: 145 milligrams Fiber: 8 grams

Spinach and Bean Salad with Mustard Croutons

(Serves 6)

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 8 ounces sliced vegan artisan bread, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups chopped spinach
  • ¼ cup sliced green onions
  • 1 ¼ cups canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 Tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • ½ teaspoon agave nectar
  • Salt and fresh pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together olive oil, mustard, pepper, and garlic in a small bowl. Place bread in a medium mixing bowl and pour olive oil and mustard mixture over it. Mix well, then put bread on a baking sheet and toast. Turn once or twice, until golden and dry, 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Gently toss spinach, onions, and kidney beans in a medium-size bowl. In another small bowl, blend vegan mayonnaise, lemon juice, and agave nectar. Whisk in salt and pepper to taste. Toss croutons and salad dressing with beans, onions, and greens before serving.

Total calories per serving: 259 Fat: 13 grams
Carbohydrates: 29 grams Protein: 7 grams
Sodium: 459 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

Lime-Infused Black Bean, Corn, and Tomato Salad

(Serves 5)

No cooking is involved for this easy-to-make whole meal salad. Leave the seeds in the jalapeño for a spicy kick.

  • One 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 ears of shucked corn, or use 1 ½ cups frozen corn
  • 2 medium-size tomatoes, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime, about 3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon organic sugar
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 minced jalapeño, seeds removed (if less heat desired)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (smoked salt works well in this recipe)
  • 3 cups chopped Romaine lettuce or spinach
  • ½ cup chopped avocado (optional)
  • ½ cup crushed tortilla chips

Place black beans, corn, and tomatoes in a medium-size bowl. Whisk together lime juice, vinegar, sugar, olive oil, cumin, garlic, jalapeño, and salt. Pour over bean mixture and stir. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.

Serve over chopped Romaine or spinach. Top with avocado and tortilla chips.

Total calories per serving: 263 Fat: 13 grams
Carbohydrates: 31 grams Protein: 8 grams
Sodium: 465 milligrams Fiber: 9 grams

3-Bean Salad with Sweet Onions and Arugula

(Serves 6)

This version of 3-bean salad contains less sugar than commercial variations. Paired with arugula, this salad is one of the most nutritious salads around. If you can't find arugula, use spinach or chopped baby kale.

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, ends removed and cut into 1-inch lengths or one 15-ounce can green beans, rinsed and drained
  • One 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • One 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
  • 5 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh sweet onions or green onions
  • 1-3 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs, summer savory or basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups chopped arugula

Steam fresh green beans for 10 minutes or until tender. Place garbanzo and kidney beans in a serving bowl. When green beans are tender, rinse with cold water, drain and add them to the garbanzo and kidney beans.

Whisk together mustard, agave nectar, apple cider vinegar, and olive oil until smooth and creamy. Add onions and herbs; then add salt and pepper to taste. Gently blend dressing with beans and arugula.

Total calories per serving: 233 Fat: 11 grams
Carbohydrates: 27 grams Protein: 9 grams
Sodium: 230 milligrams Fiber: 9 grams

Soba Noodles with Marinated Tofu and Baby Kale

(Serves 6)

This salad can be made with marinated tofu from a natural foods store. Dice it, or make your own marinated tofu with the recipe below.

  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
  • 8 ounces soba noodles
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dark sesame oil
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons tamari or reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon organic brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 cup minced celery
  • ½ cup minced red pepper
  • 8 ounces marinated tofu (recipe at right)
  • 2 cups finely chopped baby kale
  • Smoked sea salt (or salt) and pepper to taste

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, stir and cook until they soften. Remove from heat and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook as directed. Drain and rinse when the noodles are slightly underdone.

While noodles cook, combine dark sesame oil, rice vinegar, tamari or soy sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, and crushed red pepper flakes. Whisk until well blended. Gently toss with noodles, red pepper, carrots, celery, marinated tofu, and kale. Season to taste with smoked sea salt and pepper.

Total calories per serving: 241 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 38 grams Protein: 11 grams
Sodium: 765 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams

Marinated Tofu

(Serves 4)

Make any salad more substantial with this marinated tofu.

  • 8 ounces tofu, cubed
  • 1-2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 5 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • ½ teaspoon organic sugar
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon tamari or reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Sauté tofu cubes in a nonstick pan in canola oil over medium heat, and cook for 10-12 minutes or until tofu begins to brown. Turn tofu and cook for 5-10 minutes. Turn again when bottom begins to brown. Remove and drain on a towel.

While tofu cooks, whisk together vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, sugar, chili powder, tamari or soy sauce, and olive oil. Place tofu in a glass bowl with a lid, and pour the marinade over the tofu. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Hint: To infuse the flavors, turn the tofu a few times so all sides are coated with the marinade.

Total calories per serving: 94 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 2 grams Protein: 5 grams
Sodium: 259 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Lemon-Cashew Dressing

(Serves 8)

Make the lemon-cashew dressing in the morning, and serve this green salad as a main dish later. Toast flax seeds in the oven at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes. Chop fresh or leftover veggies to add to this line-up if you want. Toasted seeds add texture and red cabbage brings color.

  • 1 eggplant, sliced
  • 1 medium-size zucchini, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 green, yellow or red pepper, seeded and cut in half
  • 2 Tablespoons vegan vinaigrette
  • 4 cups salad greens of your choice
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • One 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup chopped dill pickles or pickled vegetables
  • Lemon-Cashew dressing (recipe at right)
  • ½ cup toasted flax seeds
  • ½ avocado, thinly sliced (optional)

Preheat grill. Place eggplant, zucchini, and pepper in a grill basket. Baste with vinaigrette. Grill vegetables for about 8 minutes on each side. When peppers are charred on the outside and eggplant and zucchini are done, remove from heat and let cool. Chop vegetables before adding them to the salad.

Combine greens, red cabbage, garbanzo beans, and pickles; toss. Serve by layering with roasted vegetables and 2 Tablespoons dressing per serving. Sprinkle seeds over the top and garnish with avocado slices.

Total calories per serving: 191 Fat: 10 grams
Carbohydrates: 23 grams Protein: 7 grams
Sodium: 233 milligrams Fiber: 9 grams

Lemon-Cashew Dressing

(Makes 1 ¼ cups)

Look for chia seeds in the natural foods section of your supermarket or in natural foods stores.

  • ½ cup cashews
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • 2-3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ teaspoon chia seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 Tablespoon minced sweet onions
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Water to thin, as needed

Soak cashews in apple cider for a few hours or overnight. Place cashews, cider, lemon juice, chia seeds, garlic, onions, and dill in a blender. Purée until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for a few hours. Add water, if needed, to thin.

Calculated as 1 serving = 2 Tablespoons

Total calories per serving: 44 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 4 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 2 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

Salad Greens Primer

  • Arugula
  • Cabbage — red, green Savoy, Napa
  • Dandelion greens
  • Frisée
  • Head lettuce like iceberg
  • Kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Radicchio
  • Romaine
  • Salad Mix
  • Spinach
  • Wild Greens

Note: Add less of bitter and peppery greens like arugula, dandelion, frisée, kale, mustard, and radicchio.

Substantial Salads in a Snap!

Hearty additions easily take green salads to main dishes.

  • Canned beans: garbanzo, black, kidney, white, lima
  • Canned vegetables: corn, beans, beets, pickled vegetables
  • Marinated tofu, bite-size chunks
  • Seeds: toasted flax, pumpkin, sunflower seeds
  • Nuts: toasted cashews, pecans, walnuts, peanuts, pine nuts
  • Cooked grains: quinoa, millet, spelt, wheat berries, buckwheat
  • Grilled veggies: bite-size eggplant, zucchini, onions, peppers
  • Bread: crusty artisan bread in bite-size pieces or homemade Croutons

Garnish It!

Sprinkle just about anything on top of a salad for a garnish. Consider color, flavor, and texture.

  • Avocado slices
  • Asparagus, pickled, grilled or roasted
  • Beets, grated raw or pickled
  • Beans
  • Broccoli florets, chopped
  • Carrots, grated
  • Cauliflower, finely chopped
  • Croutons, bread or tofu
  • Fennel, finely chopped
  • Flowers, edible varieties
  • Olives, whole or chopped
  • Peppers, roasted, grilled, or finally-chopped raw
  • Seeds — sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, flax

Debra Daniels-Zeller is a frequent contributor to Vegetarian Journal and is author of the Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook.