Sometimes on a hot day, setting up the grill to make rich, grilled meats can feel too heavy (on your body and stomach!). These are the times when a light but hearty summer salad sounds like heaven.
But how do you create an all-in-one dish that shines like a full dish? Are some greens better than others? When does dressing give her that refreshing flair that expert chefs seem to master so easily? TODAY Food turned to Pati Jinich, James Beard Award-winning chef and Emmy-nominated TV host. The resident chef of the Mexican Cultural Institute whose new cookbook, “Treasures of the Mexican Table” hits shelves in October, makes it easier to prepare summer salads.
Follow his four tips and you’ll be making salads all season long.
What is the basis of a good summer salad?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of emulsifying a dressing or picking the right greens when serving dinner out on a hot day, let’s start with the basics.
Jinich breaks down the components of a summer salad. Once you master these simple steps, you’ll be a pro!
- Create the base: âChoose a combination of ingredients that have a variety of textures and flavors. I like to mix ingredients that have a moist crunch, like jicama or radishes or apples, with buttery creamy ingredients, like ripe avocado and a little salted cheese. Jinich said. âUsing a lettuce mix is ââanother great way to add different textures and flavors, like a mix of crispy romaine lettuce, peppery arugula and butter lettuce. “
- Try some seeds: Sometimes having that hearty crunch and hearty protein can take a salad from a side dish to a centerpiece. âYou can add nuts or toasted seeds such as pecans, peanuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds,â Jinich recommended.
- Do some magic with the herbs: âAdding a handful of your favorite fresh herbs, such as cilantro, parsley, basil, oregano, mint, dill or tarragon, can add a lot of flavor,â Jinich said. .
- Choose the dressings: âYou need a solid dressing that is irresistible and will make the salad ingredients shine, without obscuring the quality of the ingredients or making them bland,â Jinich said TODAY. So whether you’re making a homemade salad dressing or have a proven, store-bought citrus vinaigrette, make sure this type of dressing is on hand all summer long.
Seize what’s in season during the summer months
âSummer salads really welcome fresh fruits like watermelon, plums, peaches, apricots, strawberries. It’s also the season for tomatoes, corn, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash and tomatillos. or even spicy, âsaid Jinich TODAY.
Each of the three months of summer has its own bounty of ingredients that will truly shine. If you have access to a local vendor, feel free to ask which products performed well that week, as certain harvest times vary by location.
- June: Jinich enjoys the balance between late spring and early summer produce like peas, spring onions, radishes, and strawberries. She advises that this is also one of the best times to buy fresh green salads from a local farm or market, as they taste the sweetest during this time.
- July: âIn July, you start to get tomatoes and cherry tomatoes at their best, and it’s time for sweet corn, which is delicious cut into the cob and sprinkled on salads,â Jinich said TODAY.
- August: The end of summer is when you have a lot of ingredients to work with. âThe markets are starting to burst with summer zucchini and squash that you can cut into thin ribbons with a peeler and enjoy over salads,â Jinich added.
Are some green salads better than others?
While many green vegetables are great when mixed with seasonal ingredients, some may require different storage techniques to maintain ultimate freshness. Jinich likes spinach and watercress in his salads, for example, but they can will wilt quickly.
âSo for the summer, when you go more outdoors, you might want something more robust like romaine, or no lettuce at all. A must-have salad for me combines moist and crunchy jicama, with sweet apples and sweet chayote squash, all topped with a creamy avocado dressing, âJinich said TODAY.
Dress him up
âMixing a good acidic, like your favorite citrus with a vinegar you love, can immediately give a salad a bright, summery feel. You want layered dressings,â Jinich said TODAY. “Just be sure to emulsify your dressing well, which means the oil is not separated from the vinegar or citrus, then season it with whatever ingredients you like.”
Here is his basic guide to creating a summer dressing room. Don’t be afraid to taste as you go!
- Combine lime juice and orange juice with distilled white vinegar; or orange juice with natural rice vinegar.
- Mix in your favorite oil. Jinich often turns to safflower oil because it is very neutral and let the other flavors do the talking.
- If you prefer a “hot punch”, Jinich recommends adding a little mustard or Worcestershire sauce.
- For a “drop of sweetness”, add a little honey, maple syrup or agave.
- A pinch of dry chili, like chili de arbol, will help add a hint of spice, which can be really nice when you have ingredients to balance that out, like creamy cheeses and sweet fruits like in watermelon salad. of Jinich.
- âMost of the time, think outside the box and customize your own and your family’s tastes! Often times we get stuck in the regular salad mix with the regular dressing, and there’s so much room to play with the salads,â said the chef.
Play around with some of TODAY’s favorite summer salad recipes:
Courtesy of ValÃ©rie Bertinelli