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Grilled Little Gem Salad with Pita Croutons

Grilled Little Gem Salad with Pita Croutons

Yes—you can grill lettuce. And it’s worth it.


  • 8 heads Little Gem lettuce (about 1½ lbs.), halved lengthwise
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for grill
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 2 pocket pitas, split along the seam
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Sun Gold tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup whole flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled

Recipe Preparation

  • Prepare grill for medium heat and lightly oil grates. Toss lettuce with 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Brush pita with 2 Tbsp. olive oil.

  • Grill lettuce, turning once, until outside of lettuce is lightly charred but inside is still firm, about 2 minutes per side; let cool, then separate leaves. Meanwhile, grill pita until crisp, about 1 minute per side. Let cool, then break into bite-size pieces.

  • Whisk together vinegar, tarragon, shallot, mustard, and remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add lettuce, tomatoes, parsley, ricotta salata, and pita, and toss to combine.

  • DO AHEAD: Dressing can be made up to 1 day ahead.

Reviews Section

1/2 jar of Prins & Dingemanse mussels in vinegar, drained and dried Salt and pepper
6 tablespoons of yoghurt 2 heads of little gem, ends removed, leaves pulled apart
2 tablespoons of olive oil 100 gr of croutons
juice of 1/2 lemon 30 gr of Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
½ clove of garlic, finely chopped Cress as a garnish
1 teaspoon of honey

Mussels in vinegar give something wonderfully fresh to your salad. Delicious with a yoghurt dressing and just that little bit different because of a finely chopped clove of garlic. The little gem produces a beautiful crunchy texture, just as the croutons. We finish the salad with coarsely grated Parmesan cheese and cress.

First we make the yoghurt dressing. Mix the yoghurt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and honey together in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Divide the leaves of the little gem over the plates. Divide the mussels in vinegar, croutons and Parmesan cheese on top. Drizzle with yoghurt dressing and garnish with cress and black pepper.

Tip! It is really easy to make your own croutons. Cut 2 slices of old bread into cubes. Put them in a bowl and mix with olive oil, salt and pepper. Divide over a baking tray. Spread them out and put the tray in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 160 degrees Celsius. Turnover halfway through.

  • Mussel preserves Bekijk dit product

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Double Patty Smashed Burger, Shredded Lettuce, Tomato, Cheddar Cheese, Secret Sauce, Caramelized Onions, Brioche

Shredded Lettuce, Tomato, Cheese, Secret Sauce, Caramelized Onions, Brioche

Roasted Garlic Aioli, Red Onion, Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado, Zesty Cole Slaw, Brioche

The Carb-Forward Salad You Need in Your Life

Every summer, we see a glorious return of the carb-based salad. Potato salads, sure, classic at any warm weather gathering. But also, macaroni or pasta salads, rice salads, couscous salads and grain salads galore. And for good reason! Usually great served cold or at room temp, they are a perfect potluck offering.

Carb-loaded salads can be dressed lightly in a vinaigrette, or in a rich mayonnaise or sour-cream based dressing. Heck, even last night’s red-sauced or pesto-ed pasta leftovers can become instant pasta salad with the addition of some punchy olive oil, fresh herbs, and a splash of red wine vinegar or squeeze of lemon juice.

Now, I am a huge fan of all things carb. Any shape or size of pasta, every type of tater, there is no grain with which I have a bad relationship. But if you asked me for my favorite choice for a summer side salad base, I would have to say fregola.

Fregola, for those of you who have not had the pleasure, is a small pearl-shaped pasta similar to Israeli couscous, which is toasted to give it a nutty flavor. While it is not a standard in the pasta aisle at your local grocery store, it is widely available at Italian markets and online, and is worth seeking out. Since it is a dried, hard-wheat pasta, it can hang out in your pantry for a good long while, so when you do source it, stock up.

I love the variegated colors of fregola, which range from pale straw to chestnut, and the way that the toasted nutty flavor plays off of the other ingredients in a salad, bringing more to the dish than just bland starchyness. I like the small shape, which makes it easy to eat, especially at an event where you might be standing to eat holding your plate in one hand. Because of its small shape, it plays well with other small shapes like lentils or other small beans or peas, which make it a great ingredient for those of us who have carb limitations, as it is easy to do a salad that is half fregola and half a similarly shaped bean or vegetable.

Can’t find fregola locally, or get it delivered in time for your next do? You can hack your own version with other small-shaped pastas that are more readily available, such as Acini de Pepe, Israeli couscous, or Orzo. Simply spread your dried pasta out on a sheet pan and toast in a 400-degree oven until the color deepens to a golden brown the color of a good pie crust. It will be fine if you get good variation of colors on your pan, just remove it when the first few hit that color, and you’ll have the right balance. Let cool on a rack in the pan completely before using or storing.

As with all of these types of salads, you are only limited by your own imagination. So, if you were looking to make your own recipe, think about balance. I tend to keep the total number of ingredients fewer but let each have more punch. You want different textures so that the eating is exciting from bite to bite. A good ratio is between half to two-thirds cooked, drained and cooled fregola to other ingredients. I usually use one bright, colorful vegetable and fresh herbs to bring visual appeal, some acidic or briny element, a raw item for freshness, and often a toasted nut or other crunchy element.

Grilled Romaine Lettuce

Grilled Romaine lettuce? Sounds nuts right? Grilled lettuce? Isn’t that just grilled salad?! I thought the same thing, but decided to try it anyway. I was ridiculed soundly by friends and family who thought this was some sort of joke. I took the ribbing while doing the prep, cooking the lettuce and even plating. Then I handed out the forks to those around the fire and the only sound was the charred yet crisp lettuce being crunched by suddenly mute mockers.

Romaine lettuce has some natural sugars inside that are not released by slathering it with caesar salad dressing. It is only released with heat. High heat. Like molten lava heat. Combine those sugars with something so simple as grated cheese and the resulting combination is as wonderful as it is off the wall with a sweet smokiness and the lovely savory from the cheese.

Grilled Romaine Lettuce Ingredients:

2 heads of Romaine lettuce, the leafy outer leaves removed and sliced lengthwise
2 tbsp olive oil
Course salt and fresh cracked pepper
2 tsp granulated garlic or garlic powder
1/2 cup of fresh grated Romano cheese (any hard grated cheese could be used like Asiago or parmesian)

Prep and cooking is even easier than compiling the ingredients. First, remove the outer leafy leaves as they will get wilted before the rest of the lettuce picks up a nice char:

With the outer leaves removed, the lettuce look like giant hearts of romaine:

Rinse the heads of lettuce under cold water:

Now place the Romaine on a cutting board and pat dry with a paper towel. Then cut the heads of Romaine in half lengthwise:

Now time for the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Always lay the flat side down first when doing this. That way you apply these ingredients on the flat side last and thus it will be facing up and not flat on the cutting board which is where all the oil, garlic, salt and black pepper will stick and require a second coating. I didn’t get shots of them being applied to the curved side first, so in these pictures I have skipped ahead. First drizzle the olive oil:

Then dust the halved heads of Romaine with the granulated garlic and sprinkle with coarse salt and fresh cracked black pepper:

Again, apply the oil, garlic, pepper and salt to the curved side first and then repeat for the flat side.

Here are two of my other favorite side dishes – Baked Potatoes on the Grill (and no, I don’t use foil. No smoke if the taters are foiled), and My Spin on Oklahoma Joe’s Smoked Beans***

You need to get those coals lava hot. Don’t try this on a kinda hot fire. It has to be raging hot. Once the fire is lit, remember this is a quick process, so don’t go to the bathroom or refill your drink once you start.

Place the half heads of Romaine right over a hot fire flat side down:

This only takes a couple of minutes so keep checking the underside. Look for the lettuce to blacken a bit. A nice char is the desired result without having the lettuce wilt too much under the heat:

Notice how I have them not quite flipped over. With one side being rounded, in order to get an even char all the way around, I have to char them in three phases with the curved side getting a sear on two sides, almost like a triangle.

During the cooking process, some of the leaves you cut through are going to pull away from the head like so:

Once all the grilled Romaine lettuce heads are charred evenly they should look similar to this:

You can plate this a couple of ways. You can remove from the grill, lop off the bottom inch or two (where sediment can build up even if you wash well) and put into a bowl where you add the grated cheese and toss. The other option is to serve the grilled romaine halves individually as I did here, adding the cheese as soon as it hits the platter for optimal melting:

On the table and ready to serve:

Grilled salad my be the perfect side to go with a grilled steak. Once the steak is pulled off to rest, throw the lettuce on. The steak, depending on thickness, should be perfectly rested when your grilled salad is ready to be plated. And if you skipped the cheese and and salt and went with a warm bacon vinaigrette, it would be paleo on top of being gluten free!

If you have any questions about the above dish please feel free to comment below or email me.

Recipe: Fattoush Salad

I enjoy a salad nearly every day of the week. I love to crunch with the self-satisfaction of following journalist Michael Pollan’s sage advice for healthy eating: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

It’s easy to eat plants when they’re covered in bacon and blue cheese, which defeats the point. Same goes for salads swimming in dressing and packed with deep-fried croutons. That’s why I like to make fattoush. This Middle Eastern toasted bread and vegetable salad satisfies my inner rabbit perfectly.

I’ve enjoyed fattoush since reading about it in “Flatbreads & Flavors, A Baker’s Atlas” by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. The intrepid authors explain that “the root word for all the dishes in the Arab world using toasted flatbread is fatta — hence fatteh, fattoush, etc. As with most home-cooked dishes, there are a great many versions of fattoush, especially in Syria and Lebanon.

The salad recipe in their cookbook mixes cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions and parsley with a lemon vinaigrette and toasted pita. These days, I mix up a version inspired by a local restaurant that adds plenty of lettuce, fresh purslane and green bell pepper to the mix.

Toasted bits of flatbread or pita, sprinkled throughout the salad like exotic croutons, prove the common bond in everyone’s fattoush. Usually, I employ an open flame to toast the ginormous flatbreads called tannour sold at Middle Eastern markets. Made in superhot tandoor ovens, these chewy golden thin breads crisp quickly over the gas burner or hot charcoal fire.

Alternatively, thicker pita breads or pita pocket breads can be split horizontally in half before toasting over the flame. Popping the breads in a moderate oven lets me make quite a pile of toasted flatbreads in just 20 minutes. An oil spritzer helps prevent greasiness. Once crisp, the breads can be stored in a container for several days. Whether you flame toast or oven-crisp, the crusty breads will contain less fat and calories than most store-bought croutons.

As for the vegetables in my fattoush salad, I like to start with a mix of lettuces for maximum crunch and flavor. I love to combine thinly sliced radicchio with torn romaine leaves and tiny leaves of lemony-bright fresh purslane when I can find it at my Asian or Mexican markets.

Baby kales, slivered brussels sprouts, tender Napa cabbage, sliced Belgian endive make it in the bowl occasionally as does watercress, arugula and red-tipped Little Gem Lettuce.

If adding spinach to the mix, I prefer bunches of tender leaf spinach it boasts better flavor and texture than baby spinach. For week day lunches, I buy bags of chopped lettuce mixes to save time.

I think the versatility of salad is what keeps me engaged. I almost always find something in the refrigerator capable of enhancing even bagged salad. A jar of tiny pickled onions inspires a salad topped with smoky ham and shredded cheddar. Olives and sun-dried tomatoes lend a Mediterranean feel to chopped greens. Cheeses, cooked grains and beans add texture and protein.

Of course, if I have fresh herbs, sliced radishes or shredded carrots, I add them for flavor, color crunch. When I am eating my fattoush salad, or any combination salad for that matter, as a main course, I add strips of roasted or grilled chicken, turkey, pork tenderloin, lean beef or lamb. Boiled shrimp or scallops, flakes of grilled fish, thin slivers of ham or prosciutto likewise add goodness.

If you have time for only one improvement to your salads, make homemade dressing. Most take just a few minutes and always taste fresher than bottled. Homemade salad dressings will keep a week or more in the fridge I pack them into glass bottles with narrow necks for easy shaking and pouring.

For fattoush, I make a lemon vinaigrette seasoned with sumac. This deep-purple-red dried berry, from the sumac bushes throughout the Middle East, has a tart and fruity flavor. It can be found in ground form in Middle Eastern markets or from The Spice House at It’s equally delicious sprinkled over salads, brown rice and roasted vegetables.

So start with crisp bread, homemade dressing and a variety of lettuces and vegetables. You’ll be well on your way to a great fattoush and a lifelong salad infatuation.


2 entree or 4 side salads.

1 head romaine lettuce, trimmed

1 small head Boston lettuce, halved, thinly sliced

1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh herbs, such as a combination of cilantro, parsley and mint

4 to 6 medium tomatoes, such as Campari, cut into eighths

3 small green onions, ends trimmed, thinly sliced

1/2 seedless cucumber, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced

1/2 green bell pepper, seeded, chopped

4 large radishes, cut into matchsticks, about 1/3 cup

1/2 cup drained canned garbanzo beans

2 cups roughly broken crispy pita wedges or flame-toasted flatbread (recipe follows)

2 cups shredded cooked chicken, optional

Fresh lemon vinaigrette with sumac (recipe follows)

To prepare greens: Cut romaine head lengthwise into quarters. Slice each quarter into 1/2-inch-wide pieces. (Note: Yield should be 6 cups) Put into large mixing bowl. Add Boston lettuce. Add herbs. Toss to mix. (Note: Mixture can be refrigerated up to 2 days in covered container lined with piece of paper toweling.)

To assemble: Just before serving, add tomatoes, onions, cucumber, bell pepper, radishes and garbanzo beans to lettuce mixture. Toss well. Add pita wedges and chicken. Add a couple of spoonfuls of vinaigrette. (Note: Do not drench salad.) Toss to lightly coat everything with vinaigrette.

To serve: Pile salad onto serving plates. Sprinkle with sumac. Garnish with lemon wedges.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

1/2 teaspoon dried basil, finely crumbled

4 pita breads with pockets

Olive oil in a spray bottle

To prepare oven, baking sheets: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Have 2 large baking sheets ready.

To make spice-herb mixture: In small dish, mix salt, basil, chile powder and cumin.

To preapre pita: Cut each pita round into 8 wedges. Split each wedge open. Lay pita pieces on baking sheets in single, uncrowded layer. Spray wedges lightly with oil. Toss with spice-herb mixture. Spray again.

To bake pita: Bake, stirring once or twice, for 15 to 20 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool completely on wire rack. Store in a covered container for up to a few days.

Or to flame-toasted flatbread: Set thin flatbread over a gas flame or hot grill. Let sit until flatbread starts to toast and crisp. Using tongs, flip flatbread over. Move over over flame to toast evenly. Cool. Break into large bite-size pieces for the salad.


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 small clove garlic, finely chopped or crushed

1/2 to 1 teaspoon sumac to taste (or use more lemon rind)

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Grate zest from lemon into small bowl. Squeeze juice. Add to zest. (Note: Yield should be 1/4 cup.)Stir in oil, cgarlic, sumac and salt. Refrigerate covered up to 1 week.

Fattoush salad recipe

Fattoush is a delicious and flavour-packed Middle Eastern salad of toasted pita bread and chopped vegetables tossed through a vibrant vinaigrette dressing. This ubiquitous salad is everyday fare in Israel & other parts of the Middle East. It reminds me of Panzanella but with a different flavour profile and I’m rather obsessed with it. It can happily be eaten on its own or with a plethora of other dishes as part of a mezze feast.

Fattoush is a salad that can be easily adapted to your taste preference or whatever you have at home. Use sourdough or other sturdy bread if you don’t have pita. The sweetness and slightly chewy texture of toasted pita really make this dish, so I’ll be inclined to always use it here. The parsley and mint add a strong herbaceous hit and don’t need to be chopped too finely as they form part of the body of the salad in the way they do in tabbouleh. Keep a few of the smaller parsley stems in the mix too. They have so much flavour.

I developed this recipe for MAN Family Wines Free-run Steen Chenin Blanc, a crisp wine that has vibrant aromas of quince, pear and apple. With refreshing acidity, minerality and a full-bodied mouthfeel, it stands up perfectly to the acidity in this salad. It’s a versatile food wine that pairs well with seafood, poultry and vegetable dishes.

Fattoush is a robust and hearty salad that is delicious without lettuce, but baby gem lettuce or other chopped up crisp lettuce lightens it up. I like to serve it at the base of the Fattoush. Garnish this salad with pomegranate arils and a sprinkle of lemony sumac. To make this salad the main event, serve with warm or room temperature roasted chicken or store-bought rotisserie chicken.

*Cooks notes – to make this recipe vegan, simply swap the honey for maple syrup or sugar.

To shop the MAN Family Wines Free-run Steen Chenin Blanc, click here.

Cafe Istanbul Easton

A unique restaurant with a festive interior offering traditional Turkish dishes.

Address: 3983 Worth Ave, Columbus, OH 43219, United States

  • Mon &ndash Thu from 11 am &ndash 10 pm
  • Fri &ndash Sat from 11 am &ndash 10:30 pm
  • Sunday from 11 am &ndash 9:30 pm


Listed below are the keto-approved dishes from this restaurant:

  • Ezme (finely chopped tomatoes, walnuts, onions, and hot peppers mixed in olive oil and herbs)
  • Babaganoush (smoked eggplant puree flavored with olive oil tahini, and garlic)
  • Eggplant with sauce (cubes of lightly fried eggplant combined with onions, fresh red peppers, and garlic in our homemade tomato sauce)
  • Cacik (a large side of our freshly made yogurt seasoned with dill, minced cucumbers, and a touch of garlic)
  • Sauteed Liver cubes (cubes of tender calf liver sauteed with herbs and assorted herbs). Served with sweet red onion and topped with sumac and parsley.
  • Shepherd Salad (diced Roma tomatoes, red onions, bell peppers, cucumbers, and parsley tossed with olive oil and ed vinegar)
  • Mixed Green Salad (fresh assorted field greens, crumbled feta cheese, tossed with fresh lemon juice and olive oil)
  • House Salad (fresh assorted field greens, crumbled feta cheese, tossed with fresh lemon juice and olive oil)
  • Shish Kebab (tender cubes of lamb marinated in their special house sauce and chargrilled)
  • Special Beyti (special Beyti Kebab wrapped in their lavash bread topped with their tomato sauce and served with yogurt)
  • Chicken Kebab (hand-cut cubes of chicken breast marinated in their special sauce and chargrilled)
  • Adana Kebab (seasoned ground lamb flavored with onions, red bell pepper and grilled on flat skewers)
  • Lamb Chops (delicately marinated and chargrilled lamb chops topped with oregano leaves)
  • Chef&rsquos Stuffed Chicken (grilled chicken stuffed with asparagus, topped with cheddar cheese, served with fresh sauteed spinach)
  • Shrimp Spinach Casserole(jumbo shrimp baked with cream sauce and baby spinach, topped with mozzarella cheese and served with rice pilaf). Avoid the side of rice pilaf.

Chopped Salad, 3 Ways: The Perfect Bite Every Time

A trip to a salad bar was always a treat when I was a kid. Perhaps because the opportunity to go to one was rare, as my Dad strongly opposed dining anywhere that implemented something called a “sneeze guard” as part of its functional decor. But I think the main reason was the freedom to create exactly what I wanted from a seemingly limitless array of ingredients without any input from a grown-up.

That lack of grown-up input is probably why my plate always ended up with the same salad composed of a pinch of iceberg lettuce blanketed with shredded cheddar cheese and a flowing river of ranch dressing, all coated with crunchy sunflower seeds, croutons and imitation bacon bits. I know, I know. Gross. But at the time, my salad creation provided me with the thing I still crave in things I cook today: the perfect bite, every time.

My Dad’s aversion to the sneeze guard was passed down to me, and I find that I avoid salad bars like the plague. I have learned that the only way to relive my childhood days at the salad bar is to craft my own delicious salads at home. I have also discovered that there are few better or easier ways to create a meal that achieves the perfect bite every time than the chopped salad. A mix of anything your heart desires, uniformly chopped, tossed with your favorite dressing and blended perfectly together to get a little of each ingredient in every forkful.

While there are some classic, universally liked chopped salad recipes out there, you can do whatever you want to attain your perfect bite. Here are three fantastic combinations I could eat over and over again.

Rotisserie Chicken Chopped Salad with Sweet Mustard Vinaigrette

One of my favorite restaurants in Chicago is the Mity Nice Grill , a no bull little gem serving American comfort food. They offer a rotisserie chicken chopped salad that left me dreaming about it for weeks. I did my best to recreate it from memory and I have made it countless times since.

2 rotisserie chicken breasts, skin removed, hand shredded

1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped

1 bunch scallions, chopped

1 medium cucumber, chopped

1/2 lb. bacon (about 6 strips), roasted and chopped

1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup ditalini pasta, cooked and chilled

Sweet Mustard Vinaigrette

3 Tbs. champagne vinegar (balsamic or white wine vinegar are also excellent)

1 clove garlic, chopped fine

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Whisk together the vinegar, mustard and shallot. Slowly whisk in the honey, followed by the oil, whisking steadily until the dressing is emulsified.

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with dressing immediately before serving until well combined. Serves 6 as a main course.

Antipasto Chopped Salad

I love a traditional, family-style antipasto salad, but getting the perfect bite can be difficult once it’s been passed around the table. One person ends up with a plate full of meat and cheese with very little lettuce, the next with a pile of onions intermingled with whole olives and a few whole peppers. The last poor soul to get the bowl gets plain iceberg lettuce, with no sign that it had ever been part of something great.

Chopping all the ingredients evenly and tossing them with the dressing until well-blended gives everyone a share of all the goodness antipasto has to offer. Try it piled on top of a slice of warm focaccia or stuffed in a pita for a heartier meal.

Romaine lettuce, julienned

Iceberg lettuce, julienned

Black olives, thinly sliced lengthwise

Red onion, halved and very thinly sliced

Provolone cheese, thinly sliced

Genoa salami, thinly sliced

Add all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with your favorite Italian dressing until all ingredients are combined and coated evenly. Serve.

Grilled Mexican Chopped Salad

Fresh and exploding with flavor, this has become one of my all-time favorite salad recipes. When grilling the vegetables, do so just long enough to get the grilled flavor and a bit of caramelization from the heat. Don’t cook until soft. The corn will take the longest to get the desired char and grilled flavor, so put that on first.

Serve with your favorite dressing, or simply toss with lime juice, olive oil and a little salt. Another delicious way to dress this salad is with fresh salsa and a little sour cream. If spicy food isn’t your thing, omit the jalapenos and replace with green or red pepper. I don’t use lettuce but if you feel like it’s not a salad without it, add some!

For the grilled vegetables:

Corn on the cob (kernels stripped from the cob after grilling)

Queso fresco cheese, crumbled

Fresh cilantro, chopped fine

Corn tortillas, cut into strips, baked or fried until crunchy

Grill the first four ingredients on an outdoor grill. (In bad weather, I have also done this successfully in an indoor cast iron grill pan.) When cool, chop each grilled vegetable.

Place all ingredients in a large bowl, toss with dressing until combined and coated evenly. Serve.

So, are you craving for the perfect bite every time, made easy? What are you waiting for? Try this at home! Chop to it!

About the author: Anne Brown, a Michigan native, is a chef and writer who lives with her patient husband and a scrappy terrier. After her obsession with getting her favorite recipes right began to haunt her dreams, she enrolled in culinary school. After culinary school, Anne realized she liked to talk about food as much as she liked cooking it. In 2010, Anne earned a journalism degree and launched Anne Brown Creative, a copywriting firm dedicated to all things culinary. While she appreciates the song and dance involved in a five-course meal, she craves a great meatloaf followed by a warm chocolate chip cookie more often.

2020 Summer Salad Trends

Summer is salad time. Get ready with the latest trend info on greens, toppings, dressings, even salad shapes. Learn which ingredients patrons want this season.

With interest in plant-centric menu items sizzling, salads are poised to become a hot summertime specialty. Chefs and operators are experimenting with exciting new ingredients distinctive combinations of flavors, textures, and even shapes appealing dressing varieties and variations on modern and established classics to create craveable signature salads.

New Lettuce Varieties – Beyond the usual romaine and iceberg are such newly popular greens as arugula, Little Gem, endive (both curly and Belgian), napa cabbage, radicchio, escarole, frisée, and various herbs and microgreens to add flavor, texture, and color to salads.

Power Ingredients – Items that confer a healthy, beneficial image to salads are popular, including chickpeas, edamame, quinoa and ancient grains, nuts and seeds, lean proteins (including eggs), leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach, butternut squash, berries.

Cheese It Up – Specialty cheeses are showing up in salads to add flavor and a premium image, with such varieties as Gorgonzola, Asiago, queso fresco, cojito, ricotta salata, bocconcino, pepper Jack, smoked cheeses, manchego, aged cheddar, and artisanal and branded cheeses.

Surprising Combos – The contrast of bitter, sweet, salty, spicy, and savory is an important consideration when building salads, along with textural interplays such as crisp and creamy. Try combining brightly acidic sliced or wedged tomatoes with sweet mango and briny white anchovies for a bold combination of flavors and colors.

The Shapes of Things to Come – Shaping salad ingredients in unusual ways creates both visual and textural interest, and can also enhance the flavor by allowing better absorption of dressings. Try shaving hard vegetables like brussels sprouts, celery root, butternut squash, fennel, or carrots. Softer vegetables can be spiralized or cut into noodle shapes: Zucchini and other summer squash, cucumbers, onions, red cabbage, bell pepper, or sweet potato. Simple knife shapes like julienne and dice can be used as garnish vegetables.

Crunchy Bits – Some of the best salads rely on crunch. Croutons are a given but there are other options. Nuts such as pistachios, pecans, pine nuts, and hazelnuts are becoming more popular candying or toasting these notes ramps up both the flavor and the crunch factor. Seeds such as sunflower, pepitas, sesame seeds, and popped quinoa work well. Other options include crisp nuggets of bacon or prosciutto, wonton strips, and tortilla chips.

All Dressed Up – Datassential points to following dressings with growth potential:

Note that many of these dressings are easy to riff on, from lemon poppy seed and sriracha ranch to champagne vinaigrette.

New Standards – Caesar and chef’s salad will likely always have a place on salad menus, but lately other variations are coming to the fore:

  • The great beauty of chopped salads is their endless versatility, and the eating appeal of getting a bit of every ingredient in every bite. Almost any combination of salad ingredients and popular varieties can be chopped, including Greek, antipasto, grain salads, and more
  • A classic Cobb salad includes chopped tomatoes, chicken or turkey, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, blue cheese, and avocado, but feel free to substitute falafel, salmon, feta, artichokes, broccoli, olives, kale…
  • The Tuscan-style bread salad called panzanella is a perfect foil for ripe seasonal tomatoes, but it’s also endlessly variable with ingredients like roasted vegetables, cheeses, avocado, and breads beyond the traditional rustic bread (Middle Eastern fattoush, for instance, uses pita bread)
  • Once a steakhouse favorite, the wedge salad has gone mainstream, often with upgrades like Gorgonzola, mini-iceberg or Little Gem, oven-roasted tomatoes, and specialty bacon or cured pork
  • Beet salad is a new classic variations include multicolored beets such as yellow and candy-stripes, using nuts such as pistachios, substituting another salty cheese such as Greek manouri for standard goat cheese, and adding citrus such as orange

Source: Datassential Instant Chart, Salad Dressings (2020)

The information provided is based on a general industry overview, and is not specific to your business operation. Each business is unique and decisions related to your business should be made after consultation with appropriate experts.