Salad Days


 For decades, you could count on finding a head of lettuce in my refrigerator. But I got bored with eating a tossed salad every night.

Then came the rise of the mesclum mix. These medleys of baby lettuces made life so convenient. What could be easier than purchasing leaves in bite-sized pieces, avoiding a lot of cutting and chopping while preparing a meal?

But the downside of the mesclum mix is that it must be consumed almost immediately. If you forget you bought this colorful, petal-like assortment or go out for dinner a couple of nights in a row, you end up with a wilted, and sometimes gooky, pile of darkening leaves.

Because I've often started to make a salad only to find that the mesclum mix, or even an aging head of lettuce, has gone south, I started reinventing the salad genre by drawing inspiration from the marinated vegetables I often see on restaurant menus.

With summer produce so delectable, I scout around farmer's markets for all the vegetables, grains, nuts, grated cheese, beans and fruit I can find. I wing it by snubbing the very leaves that used to form the foundation of my salads.

Each night, I present a salad du jour, filling a large wooden bowl with creative combinations that could go on endlessly without repetition.

Although I sometimes feel nostalgic for the great tossed salad, on hot summer days, I much prefer serving an eclectic mixture of crunch and flavor. After soaking up the dressing, these vegetable-, and sometimes fruit-, based salads turn into flavorful leftovers, whereas lettuce-based ones tend to droop almost immediately and end up in the trash.

Initially, I worried that my family would clamor for a traditional salad, but I find they're so tired of lettuce, they don't miss it at all.

A Light Vinaigrette


1 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. red-wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. mustard powder

Place ingredients into a jar and cover it. Shake well until combined.

Cover and refrigerate until dressing a salad.

Use only as much as you need at a time and return the remainder to the refrigerator.

Broccoli Salad


This easy salad must be prepared at least a day in advance of serving.

1 egg
1 bunch broccoli, about 2 stems, rinsed and shaken dry
1 carrot
1/3 cup pitted black olives (canned are fine)
1/2 of a small red onion, sliced fine into rings
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, rinsed and chopped
kosher salt to taste
1/8 tsp. garlic powder

Boil the egg and cool before assembling the remaining ingredients.

Cut the broccoli into florets, about 11/2 inches long. Slice larger florets in half. Move to a large mixing bowl.

Scrape off the outer layer off carrot. Rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Into the bowl, scrape the carrot until only a nub is left. The scrapings will appear ribbon-like.

If using canned olives, drain them. Add the olives to the bowl, along with the red onion, parsley, salt and garlic powder.

Slice the egg and add to the broccoli mixture.

Dress the salad with as much of the vinaigrette as needed (recipe above) to moisten the broccoli, about 1/3 to 1/2 cup. Toss the salad well.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving at room temperature.

Toss the salad again and place in an attractive salad bowl.

Serves 6.

Tomato, Avocado and Bean Salad


1/2 cup canned cannellini beans
1 ripe avocado
1 large beefsteak tomato
2 Tbsps. red onion, chopped
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
kosher salt to taste

Place the beans in a colander and rinse under cold water. Let drain while assembling the remaining ingredients.

Cut the avocado in half and discard the pit. Spoon out the flesh and dice it. Place avocado pieces in a large mixing bowl.

Cut the tomato into 6 to 8 wedges. With a knife point, pick out and discard the seeds. Dice tomato and place it in the mixing bowl, along with the remaining ingredients, including the beans.

Dress the salad with as much of of the vinaigrette as needed (recipe above).

Serve immediately, or refrigerate and serve within 2 hours.

Serves 6.

Fruit-and-Couscous Salad


1 cup cooked plain couscous (can be prepared from packaged couscous, using the directions on the box)
1/3 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup watermelon, seeded and diced
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
2/3 cup feta cheese, or more, if desired
3 Tbsps. chopped pecans
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Mix all of the ingredients in a large salad bowl and dress with as much of the vinaigrette (recipe above) as needed.

Serve within 2 hours.

Serves 6.

Black Bean and Corn Salad

3-4 ears of corn, or a 10-oz. package of frozen corn, defrosted
1 can (15.5 oz.) black beans
6 scallions
1/2 green pepper, cleaned, cored, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch dice
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. chili powder
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. dried crushed red peppers
kosher salt to taste

If using fresh corn, steam it until just tender. Remove corn from steam with tongs and bring to room temperature.

With a sharp knife, strip corn from the cob and place into a large bowl. If using frozen corn, defrost it, either in a microwave or on the kitchen counter. Place the defrosted corn on paper towels to drain dry.

Place the beans in a colander and rinse under cold water, until the starch runs off and the water turns from black to clear. Let drain while assembling remaining ingredients.

Rinse the scallions under cold water. Cut off the scallion roots. Chop the white ends. Remove a couple of the tough outer leaves and chop the tender green parts above where the white was removed. Add to the bowl.

Place the remaining ingredients in the bowl. Pour in as much of the vinaigrette as needed (recipe above), and toss until dressing seeps between all the corn and beans.

Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate until the next day.

Serves 6.

Linda Morel is a writer based in New York City. E-mail her at:


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