By the time we’re deep in August, standing in front of a hot stove holds little appeal. What you want in the heat of summer is an all-in-one dinner—only a glass of wine on the side—with minimal cooking time and maximum flavor. These five salads bring together assortments of fresh, seasonal produce and healthy, filling protein, with creative add-ins for flair—ensuring that you leave the table with both your appetite and your palate satisfied.
All five recipes come from our 8 & $20 series of weekday go-to meals, with ingredient lists kept to a minimum, supplemented by pantry staples. Not only do the recipes allow for the flexibility that these times demand, but each recipe features a wine pairing under $20, ensuring dinner is also easy on your wallet.
The bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich is an American classic, a simple can’t-miss summer repast. But in this era of adapting and improvising, reimagine that old standby as a crisp, refreshing salad, throw in a few new players, and it’s a whole new ballgame for the BLT. This recipe spruces up the classic combo with tangy feta cheese, just-ripe avocado and sweet corn, all tossed with a tart lemon vinaigrette. This version also swaps in soft butter lettuce mixed with bitter arugula for pizzazz, but if those aren’t in stock, traditional romaine or iceberg lettuce will provide satisfying crunch and act as a sturdy foil to this medley of flavors.
The creamy, healthy fats—and the indulgence of crispy bits of bacon—are balanced by the bright acidity of plump cherry tomatoes and the jolt of citrus from the dressing. For the wine pairing, a dynamic, dry Verdicchio, a Central Italian white, makes a well-balanced match with its aromas of peach and citrus and mineral undertones. Try this new take on a cultural icon for your next backyard dinner!
Not just for desserts, the sweet-tart flavor of strawberries makes a delicious accompaniment to a variety of meats and cheeses. Here, standing in for the more common salad topping of chicken, lean turkey breast cutlets cook up quickly, sautéed to a golden brown. The pieces are mixed together with the berries, refreshing romaine, basil and sliced almonds, then topped with a classic balsamic vinaigrette.
But this isn’t just an easy toss of ingredients; a few extra steps give the salad decadent flair and are worth the little added time and effort. Some strawberries are macerated in the balsamic vinegar used for the vinaigrette, giving the dressing a hint of fresh seasonal fruit. Goat cheese logs are sliced into rounds, rolled in breadcrumbs and ground almonds, and baked (in a toaster oven if you prefer) for a firm, nutty crunch on the outside and a creamy center on the inside. A summery glass of vibrant Provencal rosé, with strawberry notes and herbal accents, speaks to all the elements in the salad. Pour a glass and enjoy the interplay of flavors!
Did you stock up on dried ramen noodles for emergency supplies? If so, dip into your pantry stash and create a meal with intense crunch and depth of flavor. Toast the noodles instead of throwing them in the microwave, then add them to a salad to amplify the juicy crunch of greens, with toasted almonds to assist.
Here, fresh Napa cabbage coleslaw is a crisp base for shredded rotisserie chicken, green onions and cilantro. Top it with mandarin orange slices for a touch of sweetness. In summer, a light, tart vinaigrette is the way to go with the dressing. (For picnics or if you want leftovers, just add the noodles, nuts and dressing when serving each plate, rather than pre-mixing them.) Look for a white wine with enough acidity to balance this mix; a Sicilian blend of Italian and international varieties offered orchard fruit and citrus notes along with almond accents that paralleled those in the salad. You’ll go nuts for this recipe!
For those times when a booming summer thunderstorm rolls in to tread on your plans, this meal works outdoors on the grill or indoors in the oven. It also travels well and can be made ahead of time, so it’s well-suited to easy entertaining, advance meal prep or leftovers that only get better in the fridge.
The marinade for the pork begins with a bottle of store-bought satay, or peanut sauce (also used for dipping), elevated by add-ins of lime zest and fresh ginger. The earlier that the skewers are prepped—up to a day ahead—the more flavorful the pork will be. Chickpeas and kale make about as durable a salad as you can find, for when you need a combination hardy enough to set out at a picnic or buffet without wilting. Here, to complement the satay, it’s tossed with a ginger-soy dressing, in which it tastes even better after sitting overnight. Garnish with shredded carrots or chopped peanuts for crunch.
A refreshing, off-dry German Riesling with stone fruit flavors balances the lightly sweet notes of the peanut sauce and brings out the fragrant ginger throughout the dish. Spice things up tonight with this recipe!
The French bistro classic chicken paillard is ideal for this time of year. For this dish, chicken breasts are pounded thin, so they marinate quickly and cook in the pan in less than five minutes. Garnishing the chicken with a little crispy bacon adds a smoky flavor without having to turn on the grill. Accompanying the meat is a peppery salad of arugula and bright red radishes, along with thin ribbons of cucumber for a cooling element. It’s all topped off with toasted almonds, parmesan and a lemony vinaigrette.
Many refreshing white wines will enhance the lighter components of the salad and its citrusy dressing. But a Soave Classico, from select hillside sites in northeastern Italy’s Veneto region, tied in particularly well with its ripe citrus flavors and almond note; while light-bodied, it had enough texture and depth to complement the complex, smoky, toasty flavors in the dish. Try it out and feel like you’re dining at a sidewalk café!