We've entered the no cook zone of July and August, when heating an oven has all the appeal of watching your home team get clobbered for nine straight innings. Make it easy on yourself. Make salad.
For lunch, for dinner, start with an empty plate for yourself, or a platter if you're feeding a gang. Fill it with foods that are central to the Mediterranean Diet - vegetables, whole grains, nuts, herbs, seafood. Start thinking about salad as an opportunity to build a unique creation as well as a delicious, nutritionally balanced meal, not just dumping some lettuce in the spinner.
(And, if you're planning a dinner party and worrying about meeting all your guests' dietary needs, salad will save the day. Set out a huge bowl of mixed greens, a number of "toppings" and dressings, and invite everyone to build their own combinations.)
Here's how to make it all happen, in seven simple steps:
- Start with a base of greens. Anything goes! Red and green, head and leaf, bok choy, arugula, spinach, kale, cabbage, Swiss chard and, if you're hard core, collards. Sprouts, too. Slice the heartier greens into a thin chiffonade - narrow ribbons - until you're ready for bigger pieces and bolder tastes.
- Add weightier fresh foods. Layer on sliced or chopped cucumbers, beets, radishes, peppers, carrots, celery, or avocado. Cut them in different sizes and shapes on different days to discover ways to dramatically change the look and character of your salad. Try shredding them, too.
- Raid your pantry. Keep a selection of tasty foods on hand to add to your salads: Canned beans, tuna, olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, Medjool dates.
- Slip in a few leftovers. Add cooked potatoes, chicken, shrimp, salmon, roasted vegetables, whole grains, pasta, etc.
- Garnish and decorate. No reason not to make this beautiful. Your eyes, your stomach, and your brain will appreciate a few flourishes and of course, everything contributes to the flavor and nutritional oomph. Add fresh chopped dill, mint, basil, parsley, tarragon, or any other fresh herbs, nuts, peanuts, and seeds. Play! For example, put sliced cherry tomatoes around the edges of the plate, like numerals on a clock.
- Drizzle on a little dressing. Emphasis on little. A tablespoon goes along way. Play with different flavors here, too. For example, black bean hummus, hot sauce, and white wine makes a delicious dressing.
- Finish with pepper or, for fun, a dusting of one or two other ground spices. You probably won't need any salt.