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The Cookstr 10: Ten Main Course Salads

July 9, 2010

Editor’s Note: This edition of The Cookstr 10 is from June 10, 2010. But salad never goes out of style.

In the summer, salads often feel like the order of the day, literally and figuratively. But you know how sometimes even the prettiest, fluffiest salads leave you feeling peckish–if not downright hungry–an hour or two later? That’s not really what you were looking for, now was it? A perfect main dish salad doesn’t leave you wondering if you’re still hungry, but it also shouldn’t leave you feeling like you just consumed a cheeseburger with fries. (Really, if you wanted to feel like you just ate a cheeseburger with fries, then you would have, right?) No, you were looking for something that felt good and healthy, texturally interesting, attractive to look at, but not lacking in the satisfaction department. We hear you; that’s what we’re looking for in a salad, too.

Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner's Balsamic Beef Salad

Here are ten full-on salads that are summer-friendly, satiating and, most importantly, delicious. Let’s hear it for the salad days.

1. Michael Lomonaco’s Grilled Ginger Chicken Salad. Even though this is a chicken salad, the ginger is really the star; even just a small amount of ginger’s warm, bright flavor can transform a dish. This is a gorgeous salad: picture pieces of grilled chicken gently tossed with tomatoes, radishes, and grapefruit, with slices of bright green avocado peeking out from underneath.

2. Robin Miller’s Beet-Apple Salad with Pistachios and Goat Cheese Dressing. This salad reminds us of an orchestra, with all of the ingredients representing the different but complementary instruments. The beets are like the bass; then the tart apples, yogurt, and crumbly goat cheese come sailing in (maybe they are the string instruments…just bear with us on this metaphor). Finally, high notes from the honey and roasted pistachios bring it all together. Bravo, bravo.

3. Bonnie Tandy Leblang and Joanne Lamb Hayes’ Black Bean, Red Pepper, Corn, and Quinoa Salad. Quinoa, a South American grain from the Andes, has firmly established itself as one of the world’s greatest grains, with its high protein content and serious built-in nutrition. It’s easy to cook, easy to digest, and–even better–really tasty. This multi-hued salad will power you through any kind of day.

4. Linda Zimmerman’s Rare Tuna Salad with Avocado and Daikon Sprouts. Another dazzler of a salad: ruby colored slices of tuna, bright shredded veggies, and a wasabi-spiked, lime-based marinade that is divided to do double-duty as the dressing.

5. Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso’s Shrimp and Grape Salad with Dill. This is the kind of main dish salad that makes us want to find some ladies to lunch with. The preppy pink and green of the shrimp and grapes, the flecks of dill, the creaminess of the dressing…and all served on lettuce leaves, mind you! Well, after a (possibly imaginary) round of golf we’d like to sit down to a plate of this, with a not-so-imaginary glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

6. Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner’s Balsamic Beef Salad. Strips of plush roasted red peppers along with roasted onions and tomatoes stand up to thin slices of perfectly cooked tenderloin. Handfuls of mesclun tip this medley firmly into the salad category, but there’s nothing flimsy about this summery dish.

7. Robin Robertson’s Black Bean and Avocado Rice Salad. This vegetarian main dish salad packs on the Mexican flavors and skimps not one bit on texture or gratification. Zesty lime and lemon, the play of brown sugar against the heat of chiles, the crunch of lettuce, the toothiness of the beans…this, friends, this is a meal.

8. Marie Simmons’ Greek-Style Pasta Salad. Everything you love about Greek salad–salty feta and olives tousling with lots of fresh veggies–is bolstered by cooked pasta shells. Pita bread turns into croutons to add even more crispy substance, and a mixture of herbs–oregano, mint and parsley–blow this out of the Greek diner water.

9. Andrew Chase’s Chicken and Vegetable Salad with Chinese Sesame Sauce. At some point not too long ago, Chinese Chicken Salad became a welcome standard on many restaurant menus, challenging the ubiquitous Chicken Caesar Salad as one of the most popular chicken salads in town. It’s an excellent recipe to keep in mind when leftover chicken appears in the fridge. Multiply this for a striking buffet or potluck offering.

10. Diane Morgan’s Shaved Fennel, Lemon, and Arugula Salad, with Pan-Seared Salmon. The refreshing anise-y flavor of thinly sliced fennel is such a great partner to the richness of salmon. If you’ve usually tossed the fennel tops into the garbage, you’ll be happily surprised to realize that their feathery fronds have a delicate flavor and texture that provide that voilà factor when used as a garnish.

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