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El Segundo Eats: Cool Salads for Hot Summer Days

We asked El Segundo-based personal chef Jenifer Antonelli to share some ideas for interesting, different salads. She delivered. Read on for inspiration!

By Jenifer Antonelli

Roasted-beet salad adorned with edible flowers
This gorgeous roasted-beet salad is the perfect hot-weather meal

During the hot summer months, I love nothing more than a healthy and delicious salad for lunch or dinner. It’s filling but not too heavy when we’re getting ready to head off to the beach. My husband’s one requirement? “Don’t make it boring.” Boring salads are banished! Here are some delicious flavor combinations to keep things exciting.

First things, first—you need a good dressing. A basic homemade vinaigrette is so easy to make and tastes much better than the bottled kind: 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot + 2 tablespoons vinegar (Champagne, red wine, sherry, or balsamic, for example) + 6 tablespoons oil (canola or olive). The trick is to let the chopped shallot mellow by letting it sit in the vinegar for about 10 minutes before adding the oil and salt and pepper to taste. A basic vinaigrette works well with mixed green salads, romaine salads, and butter lettuce salads—the vinegar and oil combinations you choose will determine the flavor profile. Some of my other favorite salads, like a kale salad or arugula salad, taste great tossed simply with the juice of one lemon and a drizzle of good olive oil. If the salad tastes a little bitter, as kale salads often can, drizzle on a little honey, too, to balance out the flavor.

Now that we’ve got Dressing 101 out of the way, what exactly are you going to toss within those delicious dressings you just made? Here are some ideas to keep your salads interesting:

Kale + Fruit + Nuts (I like apples or cranberries with dried hazelnuts). The trick with kale is that you have to remove the stems, then massage the chopped leaves in your hands with a little kosher salt and olive oil until they turn dark green. This helps break down the tough fibers, giving the leaves a softer texture and milder flavor.

Arugula, cucumber, watermelon, and feta salad
This arugula, cucumber, and watermelon salad tastes best tossed with citrus juice and olive oil.

Arugula + Cucumbers + Watermelon + Feta Cheese (pictured). Like the kale salad, the peppery arugula tastes best tossed with some citrus (like lemon or orange juice) and olive oil, and plays well with the crunchy cucumbers, juicy watermelon, and salty feta.

Mixed Greens + Roasted Beets + Cherry Tomatoes + Cucumbers + Goat Cheese + Candied Walnuts (pictured). Rinse and wrap the trimmed beets in foil, then roast them on a sheet pan in a 400-degree oven for about an hour or until a butter knife can easily slide through the thickest part. Let them cool before peeling and slicing onto your salad. For a heartier dinner salad, I love to serve this with some grilled steak on top or on the side.

Southwest: Romaine Lettuce + Jimaca + Corn + Red Onion + Black Beans + Tomatoes + Avocado + Grilled Chicken. Also a good choice for a heartier meal, this is delicious with a cilantro-lime vinaigrette (shallot + lime juice + sugar + cilantro + oil).

Italian: Romaine and Iceburg Lettuces + Chopped Fresh Basil Leaves + Cucumbers + Yellow Bell Pepper + Tomatoes + Garbanzo Beans + Sliced Black Olives + Shredded Mozzarella Cheese + Diced Turkey + Diced Salami + Balsamic Vinaigrette. This one is a winner with kids, thanks to the salami!

Greek: Cucumbers + Tomatoes + Green Pepper + Red Onion + Romaine + Feta Cheese + Lemon Juice + Olive Oil + Oregano. Add some grilled shrimp or chicken to make this a more filling salad. This combination is also great tossed with a pound of cooked and cooled orzo if you need a pasta salad for a picnic in the park.

Asian: Mixed Greens + Napa Cabbage + Grated Carrots + Red Bell Pepper + Scallions + Edamame + Sliced Almonds + Shredded Chicken + Asian Dressing (1/4 c. seasoned rice wine vinegar + 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil + 2 tsp. soy sauce + 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger). Top with fried won tons. I just love this dressing! If you don’t have a special ginger grater, use a microplane to grate your peeled, fresh ginger.

Niçoise: Mixed Greens + Blanched and Shocked Green Beans + Roasted Red Peppers + Cooked and Diced Potatoes + Hard Boiled Eggs + Niçoise (or Kalamata) Olives + Seared Ahi Tuna (or Canned Tuna) + Red Wine Vinaigrette. To really feel like you’re in the South of France, serve with a glass of chilled rosé wine.

Spiralized Zucchini + Minced Garlic + Lemon Juice + Olive Oil + Chopped Fresh Dill + Feta Cheese + Toasted Pine Nuts. You won’t believe how refreshing this unexpected salad is, and it’s great served with some grilled chicken or salmon. You can pick up a package of spiralized zucchini noodles at the store or make your own with a julienne peeler or spiralizer. Take the edge off the raw garlic by letting it sit in the lemon juice for a few minutes before tossing with the rest of the ingredients.

For all of these salads, make sure you have a large bowl and tongs to toss the ingredients with your dressing before serving. Be sure to add a little dressing at time, toss, taste, and season accordingly with salt and freshly ground pepper. Nobody likes a soggy salad, so it’s best to hold back at first, then add more dressing as needed if the salad looks and tastes a little dry. With the exception of the massaged-kale salad, which holds up well, it’s also best to wait to dress your salads until just before serving. I hope these combinations help expand your salad horizons this summer!

Jenifer Antonelli is the Owner of Vino and Viand Personal Chef Services. @vinoandviand on Facebook and Instagram.

This story appears in our August 2019 issue.

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