Summer Salad – Hold the Lettuce

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On more than one occasion I’ve heard my pre-schooler exclaim: “I love Kale!” or “Spinach is my favorite food!” This is typically followed by a statement that she will eat salad when she is seven, or some other very arbitrary age, date or time in the future. So, while my daughter loves to help me cook with leafy greens – kale pesto is one of her favorites – the act of her actually eating the leafy greens is not exactly happening.

I often make a big platter of salad for the family for dinner, and for the kids I’ll portion out all but the salad on their plates, basically a deconstructed version of what the adults are eating. So, while we had apples, almonds, craisins, caramelized onions, avocado and goat cheese over chopped spinach, the kids had a plate of all the toppings plus crackers spread with goat cheese.

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But then I have to remind myself that salad doesn’t have to include leafy greens. What about fruit salad with some yogurt and granola? Or incredible lunch staples like egg, chicken or tuna salad? My mom always used leftover ham to make ham salad, working in egg and celery, too.

The possibilities for salads without greens are endless and dreaming them up can be all about the texture – I love to do big chunky salads when I’m skipping the lettuce – and the color of the ingredients.

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In the summer, I definitely crave a bread salad with fresh tomato, peppers, cucumber and toasty bread chunks. This summer, I made a few tweaks to that traditional salad and used cornbread cut and toasted in chunks, with black beans drained and rinsed, chunks of cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes and a simple dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, cumin, chile powder, salt and pepper, and some fresh lemon juice.

I also threw together a salad highlighting one of my favorite summer veggies – green beans! Sitting at the counter snapping beans is one of my best memories of summers with my grandparents. Plus, snapping the beans is something kids can do with you. I gave those beans a quick sauté in butter until just softened slightly. After they cooled a few minutes, I combined in a bowl the beans, chopped hard boiled egg, chopped chives, shaved Pecorino cheese and torn up slices of prosciutto. Give it a quick toss and eat while it’s all still a bit warm.

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Black beans are a big winner in our house, and so are hard boiled eggs and green beans – those were my inspiration for these salads and what gave me hope that the kids would eat some of each – or at least try them!

What do your kids love? Let them help you create a salad around those ingredients!

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Lauren K. Stein is the author of Fresh Made Simple, a collection of 76 fully illustrated recipes.  The cookbook has earned accolades and press in O, The Oprah Magazine, Yahoo! Health, Leite’s Culinaria, Edible Boston, Edible Memphis, BookTrib, Yankee Magazine, Red Tricycle, and others. Knoxville Mercury called Fresh Made Simple one of the best cookbooks of 2015. Stein is a former journalist for Reuters and has written for the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine and the website Eat Boutique. Her recipes are inspired by time spent in the kitchen with her young daughter and feeding her family.  She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.  Read more about her cookbook and recipes on www.laurenkstein.com.

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