Food & Drink

Main dish salads are easy and nutritious

When it’s too warm or we’re too busy, we turn in summer to cooling foods or foods that require very little cooking time. A cool and crisp salad served with a crusty lightly grilled bread and a glass of fruity white wine is the answer to what’s for dinner on a summer day.

Summer is also the perfect time to whip up a salad as your main meal. Some of the freshest local produce is in markets and there’s no limit on the combinations that you can toss together.

Also ideal is that most vegetables used in salads need little or no cooking. But if you do want to cook them to make them a bit tender, a quick blanch is all they need. Vegetables like green beans, snap peas or asparagus need only a brief dip in a boiling water bath. You can do the same with vegetables like zucchini or summer squash or you can grill them.

When putting together main dish salads, use a variety of greens for color, presentation and, well, because they are good for you. Dark leafy greens are chock-full of nutrients and antioxidants. Before using, rinse the greens well in cold water and dry them well. A salad spinner works best to dry greens. Plan on at least 2 cups packed greens per serving for a main dish salad.

It’s best to build your salad in layers, starting with the greens on the bottom and finishing with the main ingredients on top.

To dress the greens, use a good-quality fruity olive oil as the base. For the vinegar, my preference is to use white wine vinegar.

I never pour the vinaigrette directly on the greens. I always drizzle it the Bobby Flay way. But first, it’s best to season the greens with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Why? According to Flay in a Bon Appetit magazine interview years ago, it’s pretty simple: They need it.

When you’re ready to add the vinaigrette, do so just before you’re ready to serve so the greens don’t soak in it. Drizzle about 2-3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette along the inner perimeter (closest to the sides) of the salad bowl. Starting from the sides and using salad tongs, draw the greens (and other ingredients) to the center, tossing lightly.

You don’t want to drench the greens and other ingredients so they look limp. Keep in mind soft greens, light Bibb lettuces and radicchio need less dressing.

Today’s recipe is just super. It brings together nectarines, fennel and asparagus on a bed of greens. You can also load it up with any vegetables you like. The cooking portion is only in grilling the nectarines and asparagus. You could also grill the fennel, just cut the pieces bigger so they don’t fall through the grill grates.

Prosciutto-wrapped grilled nectarines with asparagus and fennel

Prep time: 20 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Serves 4

From and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

8 cups favorite mixed salad greens

1 small fennel bulb, cleaned, thinly sliced

8 asparagus spears

4 medium nectarines cut in half, seed removed

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 slices (1/2-ounce each) prosciutto

Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup good-quality fruity olive oil

1/4 cup white wine vinegar or raspberry vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon sugar

Salt and black pepper to taste

Rinse the greens well and spin dry in a salad spinner or pat dry. Set aside in a bowl and add the fennel slices.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Drizzle the asparagus spears and nectarines with the 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle the asparagus with salt and pepper. Grill the nectarines, cut side down, until just tender and you get good grill marks. Grill the asparagus the same way. Remove both from the grill and cool.

Slice each prosciutto slice in half lengthwise. When the nectarines are cool enough to handle, wrap a prosciutto slice around each half.

In a small bowl whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients. Add the vinaigrette a little bit at a time to the greens and toss. Use only enough to coat the greens evenly. Or serve the vinaigrette on the side. Place the greens mixture on individual dinner plates. Top each with 2 nectarine halves and 2 asparagus spears. Serve with crusty bread.

Per serving with dressing: 301 calories (60 percent from fat), 20 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 38 g carbohydrates, 7 g protein, 331 mg sodium, 13 mg cholesterol, 85 mg calcium, 6 g fiber.

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