Salads for Dinner

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As the weather becomes warmer and our thoughts turn to summer, we often lighten up our diets.

This may be a result of smaller appetites as the weather heats up and we are not in “hibernation mode,” or it may be out of concern for summer wardrobes, swimsuits and undoing winter weight gains.

Either way, we have been consuming more salad-based meals, reducing my beloved carbs and, admittedly, it does work. But we don’t have to suffer — salads can be filling, flavorful, varied and delicious. Last week, we had salad with a protein four nights running, and it never felt monotonous due to the use of different dressings, varied ingredients and some creative rearranging of the same chicken.

In the end, effort for the cook was pretty minimal, so that’s a bonus.

Honey Mustard Chicken Salad

Serves 2 with extra chicken

This salad offers a delicious sweet and tangy flavor while delivering a healthy blast of protein, fiber and a variety of textures and tastes. Best of all, I doubled the chicken and the surplus made a wonderful chicken salad for a meal later in the week.

For the chicken:

  • 1 pound thinly sliced boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

In a large Ziploc bag or Tupperware, mix the garlic, lemon (juice plus rind) olive oil, salt, pepper and soy sauce.

Place the chicken in the marinade and mix it to coat thoroughly. Refrigerate for 2-24 hours. Bring the chicken to room temperature before cooking.

Broil or grill the chicken until done, about 4 minutes per side. Let it rest for 5 minutes and, when ready to serve, cut it into bite-sized pieces.

For the salad:

  • 6 cups mixed greens, rinsed, spun and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 apple, cut into small chunks
  • ¼ cup salted almonds
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Pinch of salt, sprinkle of pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

In a blender or mini Cuisinart, mix the oil, mustard, honey, salt, garlic, vinegar and pepper until creamy and smooth.

Place the greens, apple and almonds in a large, shallow bowl. Toss the dressing over the salad and mix well until all the ingredients are lightly coated with dressing.

Arrange the chicken pieces over the top of the salad. Serve immediately.

Smoked Pastrami Salmon “Niçoise” Salad

Serves 2

This salad, a riff on niçoise salad, delivers a briny, salty deliciousness; the savory ingredients offer a sophisticated mix of tastes and textures. If you can’t find pastrami-smoked salmon, any well-flavored smoked fish will do; just don’t use lox. I source mine from Ashbell’s, which sells at many farmers markets and is also available online.

  • 8 ounces smoked pastrami salmon or the smoked fish of your choice, cut in two pieces
  • 6 cups mixed greens
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 large or 2 medium potatoes, cut in chunks
  • 1 cup green beans, stemmed
  • ½ cup pitted oil-cured black olives
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar

In a blender or mini Cuisinart, make the dressing: Puree the garlic, oil, salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar. Set aside.

In a saucepan, place the potatoes in salted water and boil until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain and chill.

In a saucepan, place the beans in salted water and boil until just cooked, about 1 minute. Drain and chill.

Place the greens, potatoes, green beans, tomatoes and olives in a large, shallow bowl.

Toss with dressing until it’s thoroughly distributed.

Place the salmon pieces on top of the salad and serve.

Traditional Chicken Salad

Serves two

This beauty came to be as a result of the extra chicken I had prepared earlier in the week. By chopping it up and blending it with traditional chicken salad ingredients (parsley, mayonnaise, celery), I created a lovely new dish from leftovers, and no one was the wiser. I set the scoop of chicken salad on a simple bed of baby arugula, and it hit the spot.

  • 1½ cups chopped cooked chicken (about 3 pieces)

    Traditional chicken salad.
    Traditional chicken salad.
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Generous sprinkle of salt and pepper, plus more for dressing
  • 6 cups arugula
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Generous sprinkle of salt, pepper and garlic powder

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the chicken, mayonnaise, celery, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a salad bowl, place the arugula and sprinkle it with salt, pepper, garlic powder vinegar and oil. Toss well.

Plate the salad: In shallow serving bowls, place equal parts greens, and then place a scoop of chicken salad on each.

Tofu Soy Ginger Salad

Serves 2

This vegan salad pulled the flavors of Asia to my table. If you are not a fan of tofu, you could create this with chicken; just cook the chicken cubes longer to ensure they are fully done. The marinade/sauté liquid forms a dressing, and the hot/cold temperatures work well.

  • 1 block tofu, cut in cubes
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 6 cups mixed greens
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped, if desired

In a shallow dish, mix the soy sauce, ginger, garlic and sesame oil. Place the tofu cubes in the dish and mix. Allow it to marinate for an hour.

Heat a skillet on medium, and pour the tofu mixture into pan. Stir the mixture until the tofu is cooked on all sides and is beginning to brown on the edges.

While the tofu cooks, place the greens in a large, shallow bowl. Add the carrots and cucumbers.

When the tofu is done, pour it and the cooking liquid over the salad. Toss well, garnish with cilantro, if using, and serve immediately.

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