Salads are great all year long, but they’re especially lovely in the summer, when the days are long, the produce is plentiful, and the temperatures can soar. It’s the time when branching out from the standbys of lettuce with bottled dressing is not only natural, but inevitable.
In my house, salads are summertime staples, often replacing heartier meals and determined in large part by what ingredients are on hand.
At the farmers market, I buy first and strategize later (one could have worse afflictions than impulse buying a drawer’s worth of local vegetables). When hunger strikes, I think of my favorite combinations—many are below—and feel free to improvise on those themes.
Many of these recipes lend themselves to making ahead, or can be assembled quickly at the last minute, needing only grilled steak, chicken or fish to round them out. Ease into the dog days with low-effort meals for maximum impact, and savor the flavors peaking now.
Greek Pasta Salad
Here’s a salad that can work as a main or a substantial side. The briny olives and feta you crave in Greek salad meet the ease and economy of pasta salad. Pack this one up and bring it to a friend’s BBQ—it’s a great make ahead recipe.
Fattoush Bread Salad
Bits of toasted pita soak up the tomato-laced dressing in this classic Middle Eastern salad. It’s ideal for sweltering days when you can’t be bothered to use the oven. Speaking of, if you don’t want to make your own pita chips, grab a bag from the store and use those instead.
Easy Cucumber, Peach, and Basil Salad
There’s something about the combination of sweet peaches, crisp watery cucumber, and aromatic basil leaves that’s utterly irresistible. This salad is a must try!
Lentil Salad with Summer Vegetables
Here’s a terrific salad for picnics. It’s best the day it’s made, but you can toss the cooked lentils with the vinaigrette and add the greens and vegetables right before you depart.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
Caprese Salad with Tomatoes, Basil, and Mozzarella
Always popular, caprese salad sees its acme in the summer, when basil and big, luscious tomatoes are abundant. This one’s best assembled right before serving, but it requires very little effort.
Pasta and Bean Picnic Salad
This is exactly the kind of salad everyone’s happy to see at a potluck cookout. With a base of pasta and canned beans and a dressing you can make with pantry staples, it’s just what you need for tossing together on short notice.
Arugula Corn Salad with Bacon
Summer means sweet corn at its peak. Feature it in a salad like this and you have a starch and a veggie side all in one. Try this with a grilled flank steak.
Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint
A hot summer night’s meal of a simple grilled salmon or chicken becomes memorable when you make cooling salad to go with it. The sweet watermelon, lively mint, and salty feta are a compelling study in contrasts. Best of all, it’s super easy to make!Continue to 9 of 9 below.
Green Bean Salad with Basil, Balsamic, and Parmesan
Here’s a salad that keeps well, so you can make it as a side for dinner and then dip into leftovers the rest of the week. It’s exquisitely simple. If you’d like to bulk it up, add some chopped toasted walnuts.