Ah, the summer salad. Nothing could be so healthy, so easy, so...freakin' boring! But walk past the sorry-looking heads of iceberg and the been-there-done-that spinach in the supermarket produce aisle and you'll find an array of interesting greens. These leafy wonders will introduce you to a cool new world of flavors, plus they're packed with nutrients that will keep you slim and healthy. Here are the salads they work best in--as well as some unexpected uses beyond the bowl.
Looks like: Deep-red cabbage with white veins
Flavor profile: Bittersweet, tender leaves
Nutritional powers: High in folate, which may help reduce dementia risk
Super salad: Michael Schlow, executive chef and owner of Radius in Boston and author of It's About Time, combines radicchio with endive, sliced red onion, walnut pieces, and raisins. Top with a mixture of three parts olive oil to one part sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, chopped fresh rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste.
Beyond the bowl: Catherine McCord, founder of Weelicious, a recipe website, uses radicchio for this twist on bruschetta. Saute onion in olive oil, then add chopped radicchio. Coat with balsamic vinegar and heat through. Spread goat cheese on slices of toasted crusty bread; top with the radicchio mixture.
Looks like: A head of broad-leafed, raggededged lettuce leaves with a yellow heart
Flavor profile: Slightly bitter and nutty
Nutritional powers: An excellent source of vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy eyes and skin, and may help maintain a strong immune system
Super salad: Escarole's strong but not overpowering essence makes it McCord's go-to base for a chicken salad. Toss cooked chicken, wholewheat croutons, and escarole, then coat with a dressing of olive oil, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, minced garlic, and a few shavings of Parmesan cheese.
Beyond the bowl: For a sweet and spicy side dish, saute chopped escarole in olive oil and garlic, and then mix in golden raisins, pine nuts, and crushed red pepper, suggests Schlow.
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Looks like: Small, bright-green leaves
Flavor profile: Spicy, pungent, and rich, with a mustard-like zing
Nutritional powers: Contains glucosinolates, nutrient compounds that may help eliminate harmful toxins in the body
Super salad: Its natural peppery flavor screams for a sweet complement, says McCord. Top arugula leaves with blood-orange segments (use navel oranges if your grocery store doesn't have blood oranges), shaved fennel, and pomegranate arils (the pulpy seeds). Then coat the mixture with an easy vinaigrette made from bloodorange juice (or regular OJ), sherry vinegar, minced shallot, olive oil, a touch of honey, and a dash of salt.
Beyond the bowl: Shrimp's mild sweetness pairs well with zesty arugula, says Schlow. Saute chopped garlic in olive oil, then add shrimp, lemon juice and zest, a dash of chicken stock, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with either cooked penne pasta or white beans, then add a handful of arugula leaves and let them wilt in the hot dish.
Looks like: Firm bunches of greenish-white boat-shaped leaves
Flavor profile: Bitter
Nutritional powers: High in vitamin K, which may help keep bones strong and ward off osteoporosis
Super salad: Because of its bitterness, endive is better as a secondary ingredient rather than a main attraction. McCord uses endive in hearty yet healthy salads like this one: Chop and mix endive, pears, walnuts, and shallots, add blue cheese crumbles, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Serve on top of endive leaves.
Beyond the bowl: For an appetizer, Schlow serves up endive Caprese-style. Cut the leaves in half lengthwise and sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Slightly grill or broil them--heat tempers endive's bitterness--then top with a slice of smoked mozzarella and chopped tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, and basil.
Looks like: Green oblong or heart-shaped leaves
Flavor profile: Spicy
Nutritional powers: Rich in potassium, a mineral that is necessary for building muscle and keeping blood pressure at healthy levels
Super salad: Balance peppery watercress with smooth avocado and sweet tropical mango. Dice a ripe avocado and a ripe mango, and combine with a bunch of watercress leaves. Mix two parts olive oil with one part champagne vinegar, add a pinch of salt, then pour over the salad and toss to coat.
Beyond the bowl: Fighting a summer cold or allergies? Steep watercress in hot water (like a tea), then add lemon, ginger, and honey. The green's spicy kick helps break up congestion, says McCord.