Make salad the main course

Enjoy summer's bounty

click to enlarge Make salad the main course
Pan-Asian noodle salad.

Whether you're looking for healthful make-ahead lunches or a colorful dish for a cookout, these recipes make the most out of summer's bounty. All are nutritionally complete and can be modified to suit many different dietary requirements. Use whatever veggies you have on hand when making the Pan-Asian noodle salad. The addition of shelled edamame adds a significant protein bump, as do the peanuts and sesame seeds. Iron-rich beans are boosted by the high levels of vitamin C in the peppers and citrus juice in both the Mediterranean Pantry Salad and the Spicy Quinoa Black Bean Salad.

The fact that they're all vegetarian or vegan is just a happy accident. While lovely alongside a piece of grilled chicken or salmon, they're all nutritionally complete as a main course. If planning to take one of these salads to a cookout or to serve guests, it's best to make it on the day you plan to serve it in order to keep the colors fresh and bright. However, they will keep well in the fridge for about three to four days, ideal for quick lunches and dinners. 

Pan-Asian Noodle Salad

10 ounces noodles, such as soba, rice sticks or angel hair
2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
Juice of 2 limes, divided
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey or pure maple syrup
Chili paste or sriracha sauce, to taste
2 cloves garlic, grated
Up to 5 cups prepared veggies, such as bell pepper, carrot, cabbage, cucumber, zucchini, snow peas, shelled edamame and/ or celery, cut into thin slices or matchsticks
¼ cup each cilantro and mint leaves, torn or roughly chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced
½ cup chopped unsalted dry roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Additional lime wedges, for serving


Cook the noodles according to the package directions. When finished cooking, rinse the noodles under cold water then drain them well. Toss the noodles with one tablespoon of sesame oil and the juice of half a lime, then set them aside to cool while you prepare the sauce and vegetables.

Juice the remaining three lime halves into a small mixing bowl. Add the peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, chili paste and minced garlic along with a tablespoon of water and mix well to combine. Set aside. (This sauce can be made ahead and stored for a week in the fridge.)

Wash and thinly slice the vegetables. Snow peas can be halved or left whole if small, and may need to have the string running along the seam of the pods removed. Frozen edamame should be blanched briefly in boiling water before using. After blanching run cold water over them to stop the cooking process.

Toss the prepared vegetables, chopped herbs and green onions with the dressed noodles, then drizzle with peanut sauce and gently toss again. To serve, scatter the chopped peanuts over the top of the noodles with additional lime wedges on the side. 

Mediterranean Pantry Salad

1 can cannellini or garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/2 -inch dice
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bell pepper, diced
1 bunch torn or shredded kale
½ red onion, sliced thin
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
½ cup crumbled feta
¼ cup minced parsley
6-8 basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste


Combine the beans, vegetables, feta and herbs and mix well. Mix together the minced garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl, then drizzle over the bean mixture and mix gently. Refrigerate for an hour before serving to allow flavors to meld and kale to soften.

Spicy Quinoa Black Bean Salad

2 cups cooked quinoa, at room temperature
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and cut into small dice, optional
1 cup cooked corn kernels (fire-roasted is especially good)
1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
½ red onion, diced
1 bunch cilantro, washed well and minced (include the stems)
1 or 2 cloves minced garlic
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon honey or agave, to taste
¼ cup oil, such as olive or avocado
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce), optional
Salt and pepper to taste
Sliced avocado, to serve


Combine the quinoa, black beans, pepper, jalapeno, corn, cabbage, onion and cilantro in a mixing bowl. Mix together the minced garlic, lime juice, honey, oil, cumin and adobo sauce and drizzle over the quinoa salad. Toss well to combine, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Offer sliced avocado as an accompaniment if desired.

About The Author

Ashley Meyer

Ashley Meyer has been cooking as long as she has been walking. The daughter of beloved former Illinois Times food columnist, Julianne Glatz, Ashley offers a fresh, inspired take on her mother’s culinary legacy. Ashley studied winemaking at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand and recently achieved the...

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