We all grab for a head of romaine or prewashed baby lettuces when tasked to bring “the salad” to a backyard gathering. But if there were ever a time of year to get creative and think outside of that bag of spring mix, it’s now! Pick produce at its prime—like beets, cabbage, green beans, sweet peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini—and you will discover all that a vegetable-forward salad can be.
When vegetables star, there’s an exciting set of pantry ingredients to consider, inspiring dynamic combinations that create texture and interest (hello, tomato, green bean, and farro salad with pistachios, chickpeas, and currants!).
There’s also a world of fresh, intriguing dressings to explore when you start with a heartier base. Here, there’s a creamy and bright black-pepper feta vinaigrette, a scallion-and- jalapeño-spiked avocado dressing, and a tahini- lime number that you’ll want to pour all over so much more than just the beet slaw it was designed to dress.
There are more options when it comes to prep, too. Should you cook the veggies or leave them raw? What about poaching, pan-roasting, blanching, roasting, or grilling? The possibilities are infinite, and I’ve got plenty of ideas to get you started. (Hint: A mix of techniques builds flavor and texture.)
These vegetable salads have many virtues, and complex, sophisticated flavor is toward the very top. But even better is that they make crave-worthy standalone meals as much as they do standout sides—equally perfect for everyday occasions and celebratory ones—on warm summer days and nights.