The past few days have been blisteringly hot- I haven’t had much of an appetite. For dinner tonight, I cut up a watermelon, and had some soda water. It was light, refreshing, and didn’t make me feel full.
During these hot summer months, heavy food tends to take a back seat. Lighter, less calorie-dense meals are more appealing and healthier as well.
I love salads, especially during the summer. They’re easy to prepare, and you can mix and match different type of greens with veggies, proteins, nuts and fruits. There really aren’t any combinations that won’t work; just pick a few of your favorite flavor combinations, and get mixing.
First, let’s take a look at the different types of lettuce:
Iceberg: This is a very popular lettuce. It’s served in most restaurants because it is cheap, and easy to prepare. Iceberg lettuce has no nutritional benefits, but does provide a nice crunch in a salad.
Romaine: Romaine also a popular type of lettuce. It can be used in many different concoctions, and is most typically used for Caesar salads. Romaine lettuce has a soft, slightly sweet taste.
Arugula: Arugula is typically found in Italian salads, and can also be used to make pesto. It has a peppery taste, and may be a bit overwhelming to eat by itself. Arugula is usually mixed with other types of lettuce.
Butter Lettuce: Butter lettuce has soft leaves, and a mild texture. Butter lettuce can be used to make lettuce wraps, or eaten by itself.
Radicchio: Radicchio is purple, and has a bitter taste. It can be used in salads, but sparingly, as it has a strong, bitter taste. Try grilling radicchio with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and aged balsamic.
Belgian endive: Belgian endive is a very flavorful, sweet lettuce. It comes in small, spear-type heads that are easy to pry off. Endive can be used in most salads, and the thick, flavorful leaves can be used as vessels for fillings.
Red Leaf Lettuce: Red leaf lettuce is very similar to romaine. The heads are the same, but the leaves are softer, sweeter, and the tips are slightly red.
Spinach: Spinach is a great flavor enhancer for any salad- it has depth of flavor, is packed with nutrients, and is extremely versatile.
Curly Endive: Curly endive is spicy, and adds a great crunch to your salads. It can be strong, so use it sparingly when creating your salad.
Swiss chard: Chard has a delicate stems, and the ribs of the lettuce taste like celery. The leaves have a spinach-like flavor.
Nuts add a great crunch to salads; I always put them in mine. Nuts are gaining popularity because of their nutritional content, and healthy fats. They can also quell your appetite, and are a great snack. Try eating raw nuts- they have fewer calories, and less sodium.
Here are some different types of nuts to consider:
Besides nuts, try adding some citrus to your salads. Wedges of grape fruits and orange are delicious. Sliced kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries also add a nice flavor-punch.
Take some time at the market, and try some lettuce variations; mix and match your flavors for a new taste combination that is sure to impress your family and friends!
Chef Chuck Kerber