Super Summer Salads

Super Summer Salads


by Cathe Olson

Whether you need a vegan dish to bring to a 4th of July barbeque, are putting together a picnic for the beach, or want a dinner that won’t heat up your kitchen on those hot summer days, salads are the perfect summer meal.

In my mind, there are two types of salads. One is a lettuce or greens based salads, good for a side dish or light meal. The other is a heartier salad based on cooked food.

Greens Based Salads 

Green salads are light and full of nutrients. I love summer salads because I can take advantage of the abundance and variety of fresh vegetables and fruit from my garden and local farmers’ market. Once lettuce based salads are dressed, they should be eaten immediately as they become wilted and soggy as the dressing soaks in.

So what can you put in a salad? Start with a base lettuce, such as: romaine, green leaf, red leaf, butterhead, etc. (avoid the nutritional devoid iceberg). You can also use tender, young dark green leafy vegetables, such as: kale, arugula, beet greens, chicory, collards, dandelion greens, escarole, watercress, spinach, turnip greens, etc.

Then choose from these additions:

Artichoke hearts
Beets (shredded raw, cooked, or pickled)
Bell peppers
Broccoli (raw or blanched)
Cauliflower (raw or blanched)
Nondairy cheese
Cooked beans (garbanzo, black, pinto, white, etc.)
Cooked grains (brown rice, barley, millet, quinoa, etc.)
Diced tofu, plain or flavored
Green beans (blanched)
Green onions
Fruit (fresh or dried)
Nuts or seeds (raw or toasted)
Peas (pod, snap, or snow)
Sautéed mushrooms
Sautéed tempeh
Sea vegetables (e.g., soaked arame or toasted nori)
Shredded cabbage
Sprouts (sunflower, buckwheat, alfalfa, etc.)
Summer squash (raw or blanched)
Whole grain croutons

Of course, salad is nothing without a good dressing. Here are a couple of our favorites. I also recommend the 5-Star Ranch Dressing from the book Dairy-Free Made Easy by Alisa Marie Fleming and Asian Miracle Dressing from The Vegan Lunchboxby Jennifer McCann. 

Italian Dressing
This delicious dressing keeps for several weeks. If the olive oil solidifies in the refrigerator, place dressing at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

3/4 cup olive oil 
1/4 cup wine vinegar 
1 clove garlic, crushed 
1/2 teaspoon dried basil 
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
2 tablespoons grated nondairy Parmesan cheese (optional) 
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast flakes (optional) 
1/4 teaspoon sea salt 
Black pepper to taste 

Place all ingredients in a jar. Cover and shake until combined. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving, if possible. 

Makes about 1 cup 

Note: You can increase the nutritional yeast flakes to 2 or 3 teaspoons if you omit the Parmesan cheese. 

Thousand Island Dressing
My children love this dressing. We also like it on veggie burgers or as a dip for vegetables or oven fries, too. 

2/3 cup vegan mayonnaise 
2 tablespoons ketchup 
2 tablespoons lemon juice 
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish 

Mix all ingredients together. Keep refrigerated. 

Makes about 1 cup 

Heartier Meal Salads 

Heartier and more filling salads can be made from cooked vegetables, grains, or beans. These can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator up to five days. If you know it’s going to be a warm day, make these salads in the morning and they’ll be chilled and ready for dinner and you won’t be stuck in a hot kitchen. These are excellent for picnics and potlucks as well.

Bean and Rice Salad with Asian Citrus Dressing

2 cups cooked black or kidney beans 
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
4 green onions, sliced
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
Grated peel of 1 orange

Asian Citrus Dressing:
Juice of 1 orange (about 1/3 cup)
Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons honey, brown rice syrup, or agave nectar
Combine beans, rice, corn, green onions, carrot, cilantro or parsley, and orange peel in large bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients. Pour over salad and toss gently until coated. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. It’s even better if it sits overnight.

Makes 6 to 8 servings 

Sweet Potato Salad with Peanut Butter Dressing
A unique blend of sweet and savory makes this a favorite with all ages. 

5 medium sweet potatoes, cooked, peeled, and diced
3 to 4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons minced cilantro or parsley
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds or chopped walnuts

Peanut Butter Dressing:
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 teaspoons brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup orange or pineapple juice
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger

Place sweet potatoes, green onions, celery, bell pepper, cilantro or parsley, and pumpkin seeds or walnuts in large bowl. Place dressing ingredients in blender and puree until smooth. Pour over salad. Toss gently to coat.

Makes 8 servings

Note: Tahini or other nut/seed butter can be substituted for peanut butter if desired.

Roasted Root Vegetable Salad
This salad is great any time of the year but I love it with summer beets. It is full of color and nutrients.

8 cups cubed root vegetables (sweet potatoes, white potatoes, beets, carrots, etc.)
1 large red or yellow onion, cut into large chunks
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Olive oil for roasting
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or coarsely chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped basil or parsley

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place cubed root vegetables and onion in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss in enough olive oil so that every vegetable chunk is well coated. Place in single layer on large baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn vegetables. Reduce heat to 350°F and roast for an additional 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. 

Place roasted vegetables in large bowl. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Start with the lesser amount of oil and add more if you feel it is needed. Sprinkle toasted nuts and chopped basil or parsley over top and toss gently to mix. Serve warm or cold. This salad will keep for several days in the refrigerator. 

Makes 8 servings 

Cathe Olson

Author: Cathe Olson

Cathe Olson is the author of the new nondairy ice cream cookbook: Lick It! Cream Dreamy Vegan Ice Cream Your Mouth Will Love, as well as Simply Natural Baby Food and The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook. Visit Cathe’s blog at

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