Dinspiration: 10 Fast, Easy, Satisfying Spring Salads
1. BLT Salad
Fry a few small cubes of slab bacon for about five minutes or until crisp. Puree an avocado, a handful of basil leaves, a clove of garlic, juice from one—or more—limes, about one-quarter cup of olive oil, salt, and pepper together in a food processor or blender; if you like a thinner dressing, add a few drops of water. Mix a head of Bibb or romaine lettuce with sliced tomatoes and chopped red onions. Add the bacon to the vegetables and dress with the pureed mixture. Serve with warm, crusty bread.
2. Artichoke Heart Salad
Halve or quarter cooked artichoke hearts (the best are fresh and grilled, but you can certainly use canned or frozen for this), and combine them with thinly sliced fennel, sliced snow peas, chopped green olives, crumbled feta, olive oil and lemon juice. If you want some croutons, chop up some pita (I like the pocket-less kind that looks like flatbread), and cook it in olive oil in a skillet until crisp. Toss those with the salad before serving.
3. Salade Niçoise
Boil and salt a pot of water. Chop a couple of potatoes (peeled or not) into half-inch dice and boil until a knife can be easily inserted, about eight minutes. When the potatoes are nearly done, add a handful of trimmed green beans or haricots verts and cook until crisp-tender, just a minute or two. Drain the vegetables and plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process. Put a bunch of mixed baby greens in a bowl with the beans, the potatoes, a handful of good-quality black olives, a few chopped anchovies, a diced tomato, and half a sliced red onion. Combine one-quarter cup of olive oil, a few tablespoons of sherry vinegar, a teaspoon or so of Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper and dress the salad. Top the salad with a drained can of tuna packed in olive oil.
4. Sichuan Salad with Tofu or Chicken
Toss together bean sprouts, shredded carrots and celery, minced fresh chili, soy sauce, sesame oil, and a bit of sugar. While those flavors meld together a bit, sauté some chopped or sliced tofu (the firmer the better) or chicken in neutral oil in a skillet until just cooked through. If you like, stir in some minced garlic, a pinch of cumin seeds, and some fermented black beans (if you have them) during the last few minutes of cooking. Toss with the vegetables, and top with chopped peanuts and cilantro.
5. Spinach Salad with Smoked Trout and Apples
Toast a handful or two of sliced almonds in a dry skillet until just fragrant. Core two apples and cut them into thin slices. In a large bowl, whisk together a quarter cup of olive oil, the juice of a lemon, and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Add the apples and toss to coat. Break a smoked trout into bite-size pieces and add it to the bowl along with a mound of fresh spinach, the toasted almonds, and a handful of currants or raisins. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Roasted Red Pepper and White Bean Salad
Slice a bunch of roasted red peppers (if you’re going to use canned ones, try to find piquillos; those are the best). Toss with chopped fresh mozzarella, cooked white beans, olive oil, red wine vinegar, a finely chopped shallot and some fresh rosemary and/or parsley. If you feel like adding meat to this salad, chop up some thick-cut salami and stir it in.
7. Seared Scallops with Escarole, Fennel, and Orange Salad
In a large salad bowl, mix together about one-quarter cup olive oil, a few splashes of white wine or sherry vinegar, some salt and pepper, and the zest of an orange. Now peel the orange, getting as much pith off as you can, and divide the fruit into sections. Core and thinly slice a head of fennel and toss this into the bowl with a couple of cups of chopped escarole and the orange sections. Sear eight to 12 scallops in olive oil until nicely browned on both sides, sprinkling them with salt and pepper. Give the salad another good toss and serve the scallops on top.
8. Chipotle-Lime Black Bean Salad
Smoky, spicy, and really tasty. Combine cooked black beans (drained and rinsed if they’re canned), chopped tomato, chopped avocado, and some chopped jicama in a salad bowl. For the dressing, in a blender or mini food processor, combine one chipotle in adobo, neutral oil, lime, a pinch each of ground cumin and coriander, and salt and pepper. Blend until smooth, then toss with the black bean mixture. Stir in some chopped cilantro and thinly sliced scallions, and garnish with queso fresco.
9. Spicy Pork Salad
Coat thin, boneless pork chops with a mixture of sugar, cumin, chili powder, and salt and set aside to marinate. Combine a few handfuls of baby spinach leaves with half a thinly sliced red pepper, sections of a navel orange, a sliced avocado, and a small handful of toasted pine nuts. Mix together some olive oil, a good squeeze of fresh lime and orange juices, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper to dress the salad. Grill, broil, or pan-cook the pork until it’s just done; cut into strips; and serve on top of the vegetables with the dressing drizzled over all.
10. Tuna and Egg Salad with Cucumbers and Dill
The title kind of says it all. Combine canned tuna, chopped hard-boiled eggs, and chopped English cucumbers in a salad bowl (I like the ratio to be 1/3, 1/3, 1/3, but adjust as you like). Add some mayo, a bit of Dijon mustard, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, and a good handful of chopped fresh dill (tarragon and parsley are nice additions too). Stir to combine, and serve on a bed of greens, or with toasted bread on the side.