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Six Summer Main Dish Salad Recipes

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.


What Are Salad Days?

William Shakespeare wrote of "salad days" as a time of youthful idealism or indiscretion. Well, I'm far from youthful, and idealism was replaced decades ago by mature pessimism.

Indiscrete? Does having the corner piece of the cake (the part that has extra frosting) count as indiscretion?

No, when I speak of salad days, I'm thinking of hot summer days when the last thing anyone wants to do is fire up a stove to prepare the evening meal.

That, I believe, is why God invented main dish salads.

The following are a few family favorites from my recipe file.

Salad can get a bad rap. People think of bland and watery iceberg lettuce, but in fact, salads are an art form, from the simplest rendition to a colorful kitchen-sink approach.

— --Marcus Samuelsson

Warm cioppino salad

Warm cioppino salad

1. Warm Cioppino Salad

Several years ago, I created this dish for Sunset Magazine. The only cooking required is a quick sauté of the fresh shrimp and vegetables—I promise that the amount of time you will need to slave over the stove is 6 minutes.


  • 1/2 pound extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms, 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 2 cups sliced zucchini
  • 1 can (14-ounce) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted black olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon each dried basil, dried oregano, and minced garlic
  • 3 quarts fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 pound cooked crab meat


  1. In a 12-inch skillet over medium heat stir shrimp in oil until pink, about 2 minutes. Lift out and set aside.
  2. Add mushrooms and zucchini to pan; stir often on medium-high heat until zucchini is tender-crisp to bite, about 3 minutes.
  3. Return shrimp to pan; add tomatoes, olives, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, herbs, and garlic; stir often until hot.
  4. Put spinach in a wide bowl; pour hot mixture over greens, top with crab, and mix gently.
Rosemary chicken salad

Rosemary chicken salad

2. Rosemary Chicken Salad

I originally made this as a filling for a cold sandwich (honey oatmeal bread is phenomenal with this!). Or, you can simply serve it as a cold salad on a bed of salad greens. As an added bonus, below the basic recipe, I have provided some suggestions for add-ins and/or changes to the original.


  • 3 cups cooked chicken, diced (I think white meat is best in this recipe)
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced (or substitute fresh tarragon)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise, (I used non-fat)
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cover and chill for at least one hour to allow flavors to blend.


Fruits--Instead of dried cranberriesCrunchy--Instead of diced celerySalty/Savory--Add this for fun

sliced seedless grapes

pumpkin seeds

crumbled cooked bacon

diced apple

minced red onion

shredded Cheddar

fresh pitted cherries, chopped

bean sprouts

chopped smoked almonds

diced bosc pear

sliced napa cabbage

shredded Swiss

Green tastes like life, feels like energy, looks like peacefulness, smells like earth's love, sounds like vibrant health (your body listens well). Eat your greens, go wild for greens, play in green, weave green into your colorful daily existence!

— --Terri Guillemets

3. Updated Cobb Salad

I created this salad because, honestly a Cobb salad as originally designed falls far short of being a healthy option—hard-cooked eggs, crumbled bleu cheese, bacon add up to a whopping 716 calories and 61 grams of fat per serving. My leaner version clocks in at 342 calories and 19 total grams of fat:

Tabbouleh salad

Tabbouleh salad

4. Tabbouleh Salad

I obtained this recipe 36 years ago from the wife of Dr. Steve Malone, University of Washington Seismology Department. She and Steve were group leaders at a "Campus Christian Ministry" marriage preparation workshop. My (then future) husband and I were participants. It was a phenomenal, inspiring weekend filled with humor, fellowship, encouragement, insight, and wonderful food.

As I have said in the past, my mother was a satisfying cook, but not very daring. No "unusual" vegetables, no fish (other than fish sticks or an occasional piece of halibut), and salads were head lettuce, tomatoes, and radishes. I had never heard of tabbouleh, or even bulgur wheat, until that weekend in the Spring of 1981.

What a revelation! Since that time, we have tried to incorporate bulgur wheat into our meals at least once each month. It's a great substitute for rice, orzo, or quinoa.

So what exactly is bulgur wheat? Bulgur is what's left after wheat kernels have been steamed, dried, and crushed. It has been a food staple for years because it offers an inexpensive source of low-fat protein. Bulgur is high in fiber and protein, and low in fat and calories.

This is such a versatile recipe. Below this basic outline, I have provided some ideas for add-ins.


  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 heaping teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 1/2 cup scallions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained


  1. Combine bulgur wheat and boiling water in a large mixing bowl. Let stand for 15–20 minutes, or until all water is absorbed.
  2. Stir in the salt, lemon juice, garlic, scallions, and olive oil. Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate 2–3 hours.
  3. Just before serving stir in the remaining ingredients and mix well.

And you can add these ingredients:

Want to add a bit more crunch, color, flavor, or protein? Here are some suggestions:

  • 1/2 cup olives (black, Kalamata, or mixed)
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1/2 pound cooked shrimp
  • 1 cup shredded cooked chicken (the white meat from a rotisserie chicken would be great here)
  • 4 slices crisp-cooked bacon, crumbled (we love turkey bacon)
  • 1 cup diced zucchini (in place of or in addition to the cucumber)
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or almonds would be a good choice)

5. Turkey Curry Salad


  • 1 tablespoon *curry powder
  • 1/3 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 3 cups diced roast turkey or smoked turkey
  • 2 medium mangoes, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup salted cashews, chopped


  1. Place the curry powder in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat. Toast for 2–3 minutes or until fragrant. Watch carefully so that it doesn't burn. Remove pan from heat and immediately scrape toasted curry powder into a small mixing bowl. When cool, stir in mayonnaise, yogurt, and lime juice. Set aside.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients except for cashews in a large mixing bowl. Add curry-mayonnaise dressing and stir gently to combine. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  3. Add salted cashews just before serving.

*I used McCormick—a blend of coriander, fenugreek, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, bay leaves, celery seed, nutmeg, cloves, onion, red pepper flakes, and ginger

6. Wild Rice Spinach Salad

This recipe will be "no heat" if you pre-cook your wild and brown rice ahead of time. Perhaps in the morning before the heatwave begins? You can also cook rice in advance and freeze it to be used later—like today when you don't want to cook but you want to have this salad!

© 2016 Linda Lum