Food

Salad for Dinner

Salad for dinner

“I could eat like this every night…”

…to me that’s the highest compliment someone can give when I cook for them. I’m telling you this because lately I’ve been hearing the line way more than usual at my dinner table, usually from my husband, but now even from my two teenagers. And I know why: It’s because it’s the end of August — peak season for corn, tomatoes, beans, greens, beets, cabbage. All I have to do for dinner is throw any combination of them in a bowl, add a protein — a can of tuna, some marinated lentils or beans, a hunk of fresh lump crab meat for the truly blessed —  and toss with a vinaigrette. It’s Salad for Dinner and I could totally eat like that every night! Above is basically a modified Niçoise (minus the olives): Boiled red potatoes, greens, pickled radishes and carrots (leftover from here), minced red onions, snap peas, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, and a can of olive-oil-packed tuna.

Salad for dinner

This was green beans, yellow and red tomatoes, marinated white beans (1 14-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained, then marinated in olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and fresh basil for an hour), and some torn fresh mozzarella…

Salad for dinner

…This one was a little more substantial: Radishes, pickled onions, shredded lettuce, feta, cucumbers, then boiled potatoes that I tossed with a little olive oil and lemon juice while they were still warm. (Why do I not always do that?) Not shown: Grilled steak splayed across the top! With so much veg action in the salad, though, we only needed to add a small amount of meat — less than a pound of a strip for four of us, sliced on the bias to be precise. Grilled chicken would be great here, too.

Salad for dinner

And anyone who has known me for even a minute knows that no summer salad post would be complete without our Salmon Salad. It is by far the most popular dinner in my house. My daughter is leaving for college next week and I’ll bet you can guess what she requested for her send-off meal?

What about you guys? What are your best Salads for Dinner?

P.S. The 10 best things to do with tomatoes and a five-ingredient Niçoise.

  1. Lin says...

    The salads looks delicious — I especially want to try to salmon one as it’s new to me. However — sincere question here for everyone. Does your family accept a salad, however hearty, as “dinner”? My husband and teens are hungry people, and would think it was the appetizer!
    Do you eat it with bread? Does everyone snack afterwards? Or are your family just light eaters? I really want to know!!

    • Sarah says...

      I always include a bread option when I do dinner salads. My crew gets HUNGRY. I like to do a pizza crust brushed with oil/garlic and topped with cheese. Everyone eats the salad and the teens aren’t back in the kitchen 30 minutes later scrounging for food!

  2. Martha Patterson says...

    Roasted kale salad with a fried egg..delish!
    I LOVE Cobb salads…no chicken, but extra bacon, blue cheese, green onion, tomatoes, avocado and hard boiled egg.
    Roasted garbanzo and kale salad…A-mazing.
    A local restaruant does a grilled seafood Greek salad…traditional Greek…greens, feta, olives and red onion…with grilled salmon, prawns and halibut on top. Delish!

  3. Emily says...

    Made the salmon salad tonight after reading your post. I did it “deconstructed” for the 1 and 4 year old, and everyone was happy! Yay for a healthy family meal!

  4. Jen Forrest says...

    I’m eating your salmon salad as I read this! Salad for dinner is the best.

  5. Julie says...

    These are my favourite types of meals. A variety that changed depending on my mood and the season. Simple dressings of olive or avocado oil, lemon and salt and pepper is usually all that’s required.

  6. Rusty says...

    Mmmmmm!
    Looks a lot like a big poke bowl of salad!
    Poke bowls are great and we have a variety of them in Summer.
    Fresh, tasty, healthy and fun to decide just which tasty morsel I’ll poke n pop in my mouth next!

  7. Kim says...

    I’d forgot about that salmon salad recipe, but when I made it before the whole family loved it. So glad to see this reminder! Adding it to our dinner plans for next week.

  8. Agnès says...

    For my family here is what works: ingredients should, by no means, be mixed, but nicely lined up, and the dressing, apart ;-)
    Now if I could have a similar strategy so that my son could be dressed on time for school, that would be a relief (French reader here, our 6 y old went back to school on tuesday, it is such a relief. Thinking of you all.).

  9. Jen says...

    Jenny, you buried the lead with the bit about your kiddo going off to school. ; ). Hope all will be well with her on her new adventures. She’s sure to miss these summer send-off salads. Wishing you all the best with this milestone.

  10. Morgan says...

    These look amazing! Chicken salad is my new go-to (amazing for dinner but even better as leftovers the next day). Here’s my rough recipe:

    Salad Ingredients⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Chicken (Cooked and chopped – I prefer thighs but any type of chicken will do)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Red Onion⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Cabbage (I used a mix of purple and green)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Parsley⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Basil⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Grapes, Halved⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Raisins⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Sea Salt⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Dressing Ingredients⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Juice from 1 lemon⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Olive Oil ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Tahini (I used around 1/4 cup)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Apple Cider Vinegar (Just a splash)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Dried Oregano⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Celtic Sea Salt⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Basil⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Instructions⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    1. Chop all ingredients to bite size (dice herbs and onions).⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    2. Combine all dressing ingredients and mix thoroughly. Use an immersion mixer if desired. Taste and add honey/ ACV/ additional salt if needed.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    3. Mix salad ingredients together, sprinkle with sea salt and then add dressing and toss!

  11. Laura says...

    I’ve been loving using additions like Costco’s tortilla chip shreds and bacon bits to jazz up taco salads

  12. Sarah says...

    Call me nuts, but I’ve been really into salad for breakfast!! With a couple of fried eggs and a sausage. Even some toast to soak up what’s left! Definitely feels luxurious but keeps me full forever!!

  13. Grace says...

    I am definitely going to make that salmon salad! When is your vegetarian cookbook coming out?

  14. Jenny says...

    Any tips on how to prep the beans? Do you blanche or just slice them raw? This is a new one for me!

  15. Erin says...

    Pickled onion and radish? YES.

    Salad bar nights are a go-to dinner for our family of five. With three kids, there’s no meal that wins all hearts. But with salad bar, they can all make a plate that is healthy and acceptable-to-them-and-their-awful-parents. One kid may have hard boiled egg and bacon with a minimum of vegetables, while another had mostly lettuce with a glass of soy milk, yet only one dinner was made!

    We often make garlic bread using leftover hamburger buns, part of another meal that works for everyone.

  16. Whitney says...

    Salad for dinner is MY JAM. Fortunately my three young kids love a good salad. My trick is LOTS of textures and variety. Homemade croutons, toasted walnuts, lightly pickled red onion, chopped cucumber, leftover steamed corn, lentils (my 6 year old claims they are her favorite), diced hard boiled egg. Often I dress with oil and vinegar. Sometimes I’ll make a creamy dressing – 1/2 c Mayo, 2 tbsp Apple cider vinegar, a pinch of sugar, salt & pepper.
    Seriously, my 8, 6, and 3 year old love salads for dinner.

  17. Lola says...

    I can’t stop eating vegetarian taco salads. It’s basically romaine, pinto beans, red bell pepper, green olives, red onion, cilantro, cotija cheese with crumbled Chica’s chips (these chips are the best!). Then I make a homemade avocado dressing in the blender: one avocado, a splash of olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and water. The dressing is creamy and really brings the salad together.

    On days that I want to splurge, I take all of these ingredients and make nachos, and top with some shredded cheese then pop in the oven for 10 minutes and finish with drizzling the avocado dressing on top.

  18. Joanna says...

    Hurray, dinner sorted and I haven’t even hit the 3pm decision-dread breakpoint yet! Thank you!!

  19. Meredith says...

    We make a “Pittsburgh” salad frequently, it’s my favorite meal: salad greens, thinly sliced red onion, tomatoes, peas/carrots/radish/any and all veg you want, shaved Parmesan or any crumbly cheese, avocado, chicken tenders, french fries, and topped with ranch dressing. It’s truly amazing.

  20. Bb says...

    That salmon salad is the absolute best.

  21. Audrey says...

    All these combos look so good! This is basically what I make my husband and I for lunch everyday! My salad tips are: always season your salad, dress w/ lemon/olive oil/balsamic vinegar, and add something crunchy like homemade croutons or cucumber. I’ve been really into buying pre-smoked salmon and adding that for the protein.

  22. Hilary says...

    Love these ideas! It’s way too hot for much else these days. A few in our rotation:

    – Kale and wild rice salad with honey balsamic vinegar
    https://iowagirleats.com/kale-and-wild-rice-bowls-with-honey-balsamic-vinaigrette/

    – Big Greek salad + scoop of hummus and some naan or pita on the side.

    Both of these make excellent leftovers, too! Excited to scroll through and read some other ideas.

  23. Agnes says...

    Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbooks have amazing dressings. Seriously, so good and great variety, and I always get lots of compliments when I make them. I’ve used them for years.

  24. jdp says...

    YUM.

  25. Nicole says...

    Yumm!
    We have taco salad (ground beef or shredded rotisserie chicken, some kinda bean – black or pinto usually, taco seasoning, mixed greens, tomatoes, avocado, salsa, and whatever else you want) or kale salad (garlic/olive oil/red pepper flakes, sauteed with kale, add bacon, parmesan, toasted nuts of some kind, squeeze of lemon, and a protein – salmon/steak/chicken) on repeat in our house.
    We’ve made the salmon salad a couple of times now but it hasn’t reached second nature/repeat level yet (but I am diligently working to make that happen!!!)

  26. Ramona says...

    I have been known to have a salad for breakfast (no not a fruit salad..) Avocado and salmon is a bonus on just about any salad! ????

  27. Ana D says...

    I am starry eyed at your salad ideas and triumphs. Thank you, Jenny!

  28. Kari T. says...

    Thanks for this Jenny, I was sitting at my desk craving a salad and up came your post. A virtual salad will have to do for now, but these all look delicious and satisfying.

  29. Claire says...

    Thanks for this inspiration- I am getting pretty lazy and indifferent about meals, but salads like this are my absolute favorite thing to eat. I don’t know why I’ve started to think it’s too much trouble- it doesn’t make any sense because it takes little effort and are deeply satisfying to eat.

  30. Jordan G says...

    These look so good! I will definitely try them. We are very into salad kits at this house because we aren’t very good or enthusiastic chefs. Earlier in the pandemic my husband prepared a “meatball salad.” I was SKEPTICAL but it turned out to be delicious, and now we eat it once a week. Easiest meal ever. One bag of Dole sunflower crunch salad mix combined with baked Italian meatballs – we like the frozen brand from Costco. Anything that my 4-year old twins and husband will both eat is a win.

  31. K says...

    My husband and I are on this great salad lunch kick — it’s spinach (separate container), quinoa with carrots, beets, goat cheese, chickpeas, and slivered almonds. The dressing is — cilantro, apple cider vinegar, mustards, salt and pepper. Everything is pre-made in separate containers and we combine everything except the spinach in the morning and it’s delicious and healthy (and filling). I’m also a fan of our version of the nicoise (inspired by an earlier COJ post) — boiled potatoes, green beans, tuna, olive oil, and a hard boiled egg.

  32. Mouse says...

    When snap peas came in I made a salad with mixed greens–I always included bitter greens, arugula and radicchio–chunks of smoked chicken, sliced snap peas, radishes. I put in small chunks of soft goat cheese which melted into the lettuces when I dressed it with tarragon vinaigrette. It tasted like summer…..

  33. Maire says...

    I make a Big Mac salad. You brown a pound of ground turkey (you could also use beef or a Beyond meat type product too I’m sure) with an onion. Then add ketchup to coat the meat and onion. Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, slice dill pickle chips into smaller chunks, add some shredded cheese. Add in the meat and then toss w/ a spoonful or two of mayo. SO GOOD, tastes just like a Big Mac without the bun.

  34. kath says...

    What are your go-to dressings?

    • soph says...

      My very favorite dressing is one I’m always sure to have a jar of in the fridge:

      equal-ish parts evoo and sherry vinegar (good oil and vin is key here)
      a few cloves minced garlic
      one minced shallot
      a couple heaping tbsp of good dijon, to taste
      maybe a tsp or so of honey (or maple syrup)
      salt and pepper

      Combine everything in a mason jar and shake it up, adjust to taste.

      You can also experiment with different vinegar and mustard to change the flavor.

    • Erin says...

      My husband has used some of the recipes and ideas in Salt Fat Acid Heat. It’s an awesome book.

      Usually he makes them up on the fly, with the main issue being that if we love it, he can’t re-create it.

  35. Pam says...

    Thanks for the ideas! My beloved salad is inspired by the ‘Mexican Cobb Salad’ at the old Sojourner in Santa Barbara (RIP) – greens arranged with black beans, hominy, pepitas, cojita or feta, tomatoes, guac, pico, and a tahini dressing. Eaten with tortilla chips.

    • Mj says...

      When we moved to SB it was the first place we ever had dinner.

  36. Tracy says...

    I can’t recommend the Dinner: A Love Story cookbook enough! I turn to it weekly and love all the simple recipes for families on the go (and her children were much younger then so a lot of the meals cater to “delicate” palates. Thanks Jenny!!

  37. katie says...

    I love everything about this post! I wish people who are members of my CSA would read it. The farm made this statement in our weekly newsletter:

    “Eating seasonally may seem repetitive at times. We include items like green beans and sweetcorn, sometimes too often some would think. Remember there is only 10 weeks a year that you can actually eat these crops locally. The other 42 weeks you go without. Take advantage, freeze a few. Soon these summer crops will be history and we will be eating the hardy fall crops for many months. You will long for some corn or beans. That is how people have eaten for thousands of years.”

    There are certain vegetables I won’t buy in the store. Corn on the cob, tomatoes, asparagus, green beans, strawberries and a handful of others. I absolutely live for the spring and summer months when I can find and eat locally grown crops. So right now, I’m living my best food life and next week, I will use my overabundance of green beans to make some salads! And maybe even pickle a few for bloody mary’s.

    • liz says...

      thanks for sharing this! Eating seasonally is not only good for the environment, but your health (ayurveda follower here!)

    • Jenny (another of the many Jennys) says...

      Jenny, your little Birkenstock toes peepin’ out from under that gorgeous enamelware bowl full of salad miracles is my style inspiration for my life going forward! These meals are BEAUTIFUL. I’m trying to follow these templates with what I’ve got on hand in CSA and pantry— I hope they turn out half as gorgeous as these salads. Good luck to your daughter at college!

    • Sarah says...

      I agree with this 100%, but I also have a hard time following it! Can you share any resources that might help determine what’s really seasonal/local? Even in my CSA, I still get some out-of-season produce (with stickers on them!), so I’m not sure how to approach it.

    • SB says...

      Sarah – I have been looking for the same thing! I lived in the border region between France and Switzerland for several years and once I was visiting a friend and her parents in the countryside and their grandmother had a handwritten list on their fridge with allll the fruits/veg you could think of and which month(s) they were locally fresh/available in. I was like OMG THIS! Everyone needs this! I took a photo of it! Sadly, I don’t live there anymore so it’s not applicable, but I am always on the lookout for the same resource!

  38. Chiara says...

    I’ve taken to frying up some day old breadcrumbs with olive oil and garlic to sprinkle on top of my salads. So good! Or making that carrot dressing you get at Japanese restaurants. It’s kind of substantial with the carrots but also light.

    • soph says...

      Yes! Deb at Smitten Kitchen has a great carrot-ginger dressing recipe.

  39. Heather says...

    Love this! I would love to try pickling vegetables – specifically onions – do you have a process you recommend?

    • Claire says...

      Heather – onions are super easy. I used to do this all the time, and really loved having them on hand, but got out of the habit. I used a Deborah Madison technique, slicing them thinly, putting them in a colander, pouring boiling water over them and then putting them in a bowl with equal parts white wine vinegar and water, a little sugar, several pinches of salt, bay leaf, crushed peppercorns (or just ground pepper), and whatever herbs- thyme or marjoram work ok. Let them marinate for about 15 minutes and they are ready to eat. Here are 2 other even easier recipes I’ve got on my radar: https://leitesculinaria.com/100375/recipes-pickled-red-onions.html and this one : https://nocrumbsleft.net/2017/03/18/marinated-red-onions/

    • soph says...

      Quick pickling! Slice a red or white onion very thinly, throw them in a jar and cover them with half water half red wine vinegar, and a tsp of sugar. They’ll be ready within 30 minutes to an hour and you can save any extra in the jar in the fridge. We make these a few times a week for tacos, salads, spring rolls, etc.

    • Kaitlin says...

      If you want to be SUPER easy about it- save the brine from your next finished jar of pickles when finished. Then slice up some red onion and dunk her in! They need a minimum of 30 min to pickle, and last for around 5-7 days that way. We put them on everything and eat them straight from the jar :) We go through a jar of pickles every week or two here which is maybe/probably more than most, but this method is just so easy and awesome.

    • Heather says...

      Oh goodness thank you so much for all the recommendations! Maybe this can be a weekend project to help me feel accomplished and get something delicious out of it!

  40. Heidi says...

    My favorite basic easy salad- a big pile of baby spinach leaves, red grapes cut in half, crumbly salad cheese of choice (I like gorgonzola but feta is also great here) and some slivered almonds. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar a few times around the plate or bowl. Add pepper. Done.

  41. Stephanie says...

    They all look so delicious! It saddens me to say that I’m the only one in my family who would eat them. My husband thinks that salads should be greens-only, and my 88-year-old dad, who lives with us, won’t touch them. Every now and again I make something like this for myself, when I’m alone, which is almost never! By the way, the suggestions in your first cookbook about how to feed people who all have different food preferences apply to families with octogenarians and picky husbands, too.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      I hear that a lot, that’s so funny. You should try the deconstructed trick from that book on them!

  42. celeste says...

    I will try the Salmon Salad!

    Rachel Hollis’ cookbook, Real Life Dinners, has a Cobb and a Cowboy (steak & potatoes) salads we really like.

  43. Michelle says...

    This looks delicious, and the colours are wonderful. Thanks for the recipe ideas!