Sensational Summer Salads

Celebrate May's National Salad Month with a dish for every occasion!

The weather is FINALLY warming up (yes, even here in Minnesota!), gardens are growing, and produce is becoming plentiful. Be they starters, sides, or main-dish meals, salads are one of the most versatile foods going. They can be fresh and light or warm and comforting; crisp and traditional or savory and exotic. Have them on Meatless Monday, make a meaty main course, or even have them as dessert!

Want to REALLY make your meal from scratch? Check out this month's slideshow feature on crafty container gardening and get some inspiration on how you can grow your own "salad starters," as well!

You Betcha It's the Best Broccoli Salad

Simple, savory, and absolutely perfect for potlucks, summer BBQs, or any time at all, this classic salad has it all...fruits, nuts, veggies, and BACON. You can never go wrong with bacon. Cook's tip: If you'd like to toast your own almonds instead of using store-bought roasted ones, it's easy! Place raw slivered almonds on a large baking sheet and bake at 350F for 3-5 minutes stirring in between. Monitor while cooking so they do not burn. The almonds are toasted when they turn light brown. 

• 1 cup light mayonnaise
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
• 1 tsp celery seed
• 2 heads broccoli broken down into small florets
• 12 oz bacon, cooked and chopped into small pieces (pre-packaged works, too!)
• 1/2 cup roasted/toasted almonds, sliced or slivered
• 2 green onions, thinly sliced
• 1 cup chopped celery 
• 1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes, halved

1. Whisk together mayonnaise, sugar, red wine vinegar, and celery seed in a small bowl. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

2. Combine broccoli, bacon, toasted almonds, green onions, celery and grapes in a large serving dish. 

3. Toss the dressing with the rest of the salad ingredients. Serve immediately.


Adapted from Mom on Timeout 


Red-White-and-Blue Potato Salad

Take a break from the heavy, ultra-rich potato salads with this colorful, light vinagrette-style version. It pairs exceptionally well with pork or fish done in a balsamic marinade or glaze. As pretty as it is delicious, its color scheme also makes it great for July 4 or Memorial Day BBQs!

• 1 pound mixed red, white and blue new potatoes
• 1 medium jarred roasted red pepper, drained and patted dry
• 1/2 cup fresh mint, chiffonade
• 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
• 1 teaspoon honey
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 3 Tablespoons olive oil

1. Put the potatoes in a large pot and add cold water to cover by an inch. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, and cook for about 10 minutes before checking for doneness. 

2. Using a paring knife, pierce the smallest potatoes first, and when the knife enters easily transfer the potato to a colander to drain. Continue checking the potatoes every few minutes. 3. When all the potatoes are done, drain and let cool. Slice the potatoes in half, or quarters if large, and place in a large bowl.

3. Chop the pepper and add to the bowl, then add the mint. In a cup, whisk the vinegar, honey, salt and pepper, then add the olive oil and whisk to combine. 

4. Pour over the potatoes and toss to mix. Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate for up to three days before serving.


Recipe adapted from and image courtesy of Co+op, Welcome to the Table



Easy Caeser Grilled Romaine

If you have never grilled romaine lettuce are missing out! You can truly top them with anything--this recipe is Caeser-salad inspired, but you can do BLT with ranch and blue cheese, or honey mustard and chicken strips, or whatever combo strikes your fancy. Cook's tip: swap out the diced tomatoes with cherry tomatoes (home-grown or otherwise). Take it to the next level by tossing those cherry tomatoes in balsamic vinagrette and grill them, as well!

• 3 hearts of romaine lettuce
• Olive oil
• Sea salt
• Coarse-ground or cracked black pepper
• Garlic powder
• 1/2 cup crumbled bacon (recipe pieces work great!)
• 1/2 to 1 cup tomatoes, chopped
• Shredded or shaved parmesan cheese
• Caeser dressing

1. Wash/rinse the lettuce hearts. Remove and discard outer leaves. Pat dry lettuce and cut in half lengthwise with sharp kitchen knife. 

2. Preheat grill to medium-high to high.

3. While grill is preheating, chop tomatoes and cook/chop bacon (if not using recipe pieces). Set aside.

4. Place lettuce cut-side down and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Flip lettuce over and repeat on other side.

5. Place romaine lettuce face down on the grill. Grill for 2-4 minutes, until a light marking occurs (it will go quickly). Flip and repeat.

6. Remove from heat and place on a platter cut side up.

7. Drizzle dressing over lettuce and top with tomatoes, bacon, and cheese.

8. Serve as a side or add protein on top to make it into a meal!

Note:Try switching it up and making BLT romaines with ranch instead...or, use a balsamic vinagrette drizzle and roasted tomatoes. Get creative!



Easy-Peasy Caprese

The quintessential summer salad! Light and refreshing, this makes a great side or a wonderful light lunch on a hot day. Try it with home-grown basil and tomatoes and you will be spoiled forever!

• 16-ounce fresh mozzarella log, sliced
• 2 tomatoes, sliced 
• 1 cup basil leaves, fresh
• 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Layer fresh mozzarella and tomato slices on plate.

2. Garnish each slice with a basil leaf.

3. Drizzle with olive oil.

4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Zesty Watermelon Tomato Salad

Oh...the flavors in this salad! It's sweet. It's spicy. It's tangy. It's savory. It''s ALL the things right now, expecially if you make it with all those homegrown peppers, basil, and heirloom tomatoes you have in your garden or find at the farmer's market. (But even if you don't, it's still fabulous.) If you want it extra spicy, add in a scotch bonnet or other habanero-type pepper. Want to cool it down? Add less. The super unique flavor profile really hits the spot on a warm summer day!

For the dressing: 
• 1 Tablespoon tamari
• 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
• 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
• 1 small garlic clove, minced
• ½ teaspoon minced ginger

For the salad:
• 3 heirloom tomatoes, sliced into wedges
• 5 cups cut watermelon (about 2-inch triangles)
• 1 thinly sliced jalapeño and/or a few Thai chiles
• 2 Tablespoons Thai basil or regular basil
• 2 Tablespoons toasted cashews
• ½ avocado, diced
• Sea salt, to taste, if desired
• Lime wedges, for serving

1. Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the tamari, lime juice, vinegar, garlic, and ginger.

2. Arrange the tomatoes, watermelon, and jalapeños/chiles on a platter or in a shallow bowl. (Depth of bowl is important--a shallow bowl keeps the juices on the fruits and veggies.)

3. Drizzle with the dressing and top with the basil, cashews, and avocado. 

4. Season to taste and serve with lime wedges.

Image courtesy of and recipe adapted from Love and Lemons


Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Now, some of you non-Midwesterners are raising an eyebrow at us. We get it. "That's a dessert," you say. Perhaps. But it is ALSO a salad. Go with it. Salty meets sweet with three deliciously distinct layers of creamy and crunchy goodness. Try it at your next potluck or picnic (and we won't judge if you make an extra batch to keep at home in case you want to have salad for dinner)!

• 2 cups crushed thin salted pretzels
• 3/4 cup butter, melted
• 3 Tablespoons sugar
• 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 (8-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
• 1 (6-ounce) package strawberry Jell-O
• 2 cups boiling water
• 2 cups thinly sliced fresh strawberries (frozen may be substituted)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together crushed pretzels, butter, and 3 tablespoons sugar. Press into a lightly greased 9X13-inch pan. Bake for 8 minutes and cool completely.

3. Use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese and 1 cup sugar until smooth. Fold in whipped topping using a rubber spatula. 

4. Spread over cooled pretzel crust being sure cream cheese mixture completely covers and seals the crust. This will help keep the jello layer from seeping down and will keep crunch in your pretzels. 

5. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes--you can also refrigerate it overnight at this point.

6. In a bowl, whisk together jello and boiling water until jello is completely dissolved. Add the strawberries. Refrigerate for 5 minutes and then pour on top of cream cheese layer. Refrigerate until firm.

Adapted from Spicy Southern Kitchen


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