If you’ve ever been to New York City, then you know there is no shortage of delis and markets in the city, at least some version of them studding seemingly every street corner in Manhattan. Along with ready-to-go products like bags of chips, boxes of cereal and bottles of soda, a now-signature sight at many of these stores is a bountiful salad bar, one that’s a far cry from the spreads of tepid romaine and vegetables from the past.
While visiting New York, the Pioneer Woman and her daughter grabbed lunch from one of these salad bars, known for a wide array of crisp greens, fresh produce, quality cheeses, nuts and dressings. After picking out their favorite mix-ins, they watched as the ingredients were quickly tossed, then hand-chopped into a wholesome meal. Ree’s daughter Alex was so inspired by the salad she ordered there that when Ree returned to their Oklahoma ranch, she re-created the experience for her daughter at home.
Video: Watch Ree make the salad
How many times have you gone to a restaurant with a deliciously full menu of tempting offerings only to order that healthful, lower-calorie salad you think you should eat instead of what you really want? At the end of the meal, you’re still craving fettuccine Alfredo and now are a bit cranky because that bowl of lettuce leaves just didn’t fill you up, right? The same scenario likely plays out at home, too, as you wrestle with hankerings for pizza and instead tuck into an everyday tossed salad.
Now that the healthy-eating season is in full swing and it seems like everyone is committed to making smarter food and fitness choices in the New Year — well, at least in the month of January — it’s time to master the entree salad: that flavor-packed dish of not just lettuce and lemon juice but also other, more filling ingredients that surely won’t leave you feeling deprived. The key to enjoying a salad as a meal is to incorporate creamy cheeses, crisp vegetables, crunchy crackers, good-for-you grains and just about anything else you have on hand so that it becomes something substantial that you look forward to eating.
Keep reading for the recipes
My Grandma Bunny was known for her spinach salad. It was one of her most regularly requested recipes by friends and made an appearance on her table at nearly every family gathering. She would search out adolescent leaves, wanting greens that would relax upon dressing and tossing, but not wilt immediately. Palm-sized leaves were avoided, as they were too old to be eaten without the application of heat.
Once the right spinach was chosen, it was washed carefully (I think this was in part to give an eager grandchild an opportunity to help). I’d climb up on a stool next to the kitchen sink and swish the leaves around until Bunny was certain they’d released all their grit. Once they were clean, she’d shake off the big droplets and heap them into a large pillowcase that was fitted with a drawstring. She’d take the pillowcase outside and twirl it around over her head. More efficient than a salad spinner and far more entertaining for small children.
Then it was time to make the dressing. It started with a few slices of minced bacon and ended with slices of mushrooms, cooked until tender but not rubbery. That, along with slivered red onions, a little red wine vinegar, salt and pepper finished the salad. It was warm, savory and still wonderfully crisp.
Before you start toasting bread cubes, read these tips
Summer cooking is all about choosing the lightest, brightest, most in-season ingredients and letting them shine in simple recipes. Whether you shop at a farmers’ market or neighborhood grocery store, look for the freshest summer produce and let that determine what you make for dinner. Check out a few of Food Network’s favorite summer salads below and visit our Summer Produce Guide for more fresh ideas.
With only a handful of ingredients, Food Network Kitchens’ Fresh Corn Tomato Salad (pictured above) is a refreshing no-cook dish that can be made in only 30 minutes. Because the cherry tomatoes and husked corn are eaten raw, they’ll pop with deliciously juicy sweetness and that just-ripened taste. Add chunks of cool mozzarella cheese for an indulgent bite and dress with a simple vinaigrette and lots of torn basil before serving.
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Light and refreshing yet filling and satisfying, cucumber salads are easy-to-prepare, quick-cooking side dishes that complement any spring menu. The key to crafting a cucumber salad is to start with fresh, firm cucumbers — like those pictured above from Food Network Magazine — and add simple, clean flavors. Check out Food Network’s top five cucumber salad recipes below to find a mix of creative and traditional takes on this classic spring dish.
5. Grilled Red Onion and Cucumber Salad With Yogurt-Mint Dressing — Bobby completes his 20-minute side by sprinkling tangy feta cheese on top.
4. Fresh Cucumber Salad — Made with English cucumber, cool honeydew and jalapeno, Claire Robinson creates a no-fuss salad that is both sweet and a bit spicy.
Get the top three recipes
Though kale is something of a hot new food trend, I happen to be one of those lucky souls who has been eating it for years. My parents are avid vegetable gardeners and both kale and its buddy Swiss chard were always prominent players in the spring and fall plantings.
To us, kale was simply a sturdy cooking green, best for use in soups or wilted with olive oil and garlic. On weekend mornings, I’d sauté ribbons of kale with zucchini and green onions and scramble a couple beaten eggs around the veggies. Topped with fresh tomato, it’s still my favorite breakfast.
The one thing we didn’t do back in those days was eat raw kale. It wasn’t that anyone was against it, it just didn’t occur to either my parents or me (and though my sister is one of the biggest kale eaters around now, she wouldn’t touch it in any form back then). It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, when I started seeing mentions of raw kale salads in magazines and on blogs, that I tried it.
These days, I’m something of a kale salad evangelist. I have two versions that are in my regular dinner rotation. The first is a garlicky version inspired by a recipe posted to 101 Cookbooks and the other is a Grated Carrot and Kale Salad, dressed with walnut oil and rice wine vinegar.
Before you start chopping kale, read these tips
Though it’s a timeless vegetarian combination, soup-and-salad lunches and dinners do not have to be basic, boring meals featuring predictable dishes. Food Network Magazine puts a twist on traditional favorites using vibrant, in-season ingredients, fragrant herbs and spices and bold textures to ensure its soup and salad recipes are anything but ordinary.
Filled with good-for-you vegetables, each hearty bowl of Food Network Magazine’s Slow-Cooker Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup (pictured above) is bursting with the warm flavor of curry powder, subtle notes of ginger and plenty of fresh sweet potatoes, carrots, celery and leeks. Before serving, squeeze fresh lemon juice on top of the soup to lighten it and add a bit of refreshing citrus.
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Ina takes a classic salad and seasons it perfectly with good olive oil, salt and pepper. For an eye-catching presentation, purchase tomatoes in yellow, orange and green hues.
Get the recipe: Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad
Browse more of Food Network’s Labor Day recipes.
Potato and macaroni salads: two of most iconic summer dishes in America. Here, elbow macaroni is tossed with ripe tomatoes, crunchy celery and a creamy dressing. Make it more personal by adding additional veggies for like diced bell peppers and cucumber.
Get the recipe: American Macaroni Salad
Browse more of Food Network’s Memorial Day recipes.
Lighten up dinner tonight with a salad that features crisp spring veggies like radish and cucumber with fresh herbs alongside lemony shrimp.
Get the recipe: Spinach-Orzo Salad With Shrimp
Browse more of Food Network’s seafood recipes.