staples for summer dinner salads

IMG_1039We’ve completed our annual chore of preparing our patio for summer-living and the weather has definitely transitioned to allow evenings on the patio, so it’s time to make summer patio dinners easy and quick to prepare.  Just last week I  prepared two salads for dinner that were completely different, quick to prepare and scrumptious.  

Dinner salads are a reflection of your creativity as well what you have on-hand, so why not stock up on staples so that you have all that you need to create a delicious dinner salad to enjoy on your patio.  Here’s what I stock in my pantry so that I have a variety of ingredient choices to complement the main star of my salad.

  • Salad greens or baby spinach
  • A variety of nuts: hazelnuts, almonds (plain, smoked and Marcona), pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, sweet hot pecans
  • A variety of cheeses: Fresh mozzarella (including buffalo), manchego, gorgonzola, parmesan, goat cheese, high quality cheddar, cotija and feta
  • A variety of salad dressings/vinaigrettes (review my video to see how to make a vinaigrette)
  • A variety of flavored mayonnaises (review my video to see how to make flavored mayonnaise)
  • A variety of fresh fruit: raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, apples, grapes, etc.
  • A small variety of canned fruit: mandarin oranges, pineapple 
  • Hard-cooked eggs
  • Red and green onions
  • Red and yellow bell peppers (review my video to see how to cut them for a beautiful presentation)
  • Pepperoncini
  • A variety of finishing salts

The salad pictured above featured shrimp, scallops and roasted vegetables – a variety of flavors and textures that was extremely flavorful. I portioned the individual featured items into thirds on the plate and dressed them individually: bottled ceasar dressing for the roasted vegetables, orange aioli dressing for the shrimp and a Asian vinaigrette for the scallops.

When you are building your salad, try to include different colors and textures, to make it more beautiful, interesting, flavorful and healthy. Grated carrots, celery sliced thinly on the bias, thinly sliced radishes and cucumbers add crunch. Richness may be provided by eggs, meats, or dressings. And dressings may also provide a bit of ZING!, possibly a bit of sweetness, and a great way to balance out and tie all of the flavors together. 

Here are some salad ideas from previous blog posts to help get your creative juices flowing (and a jumpstart on how to prepare them).

Enjoy the best of the season – your own creativity, family and friends, fresh fruits and vegetables and our beautiful summer weather!

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