Create-Your-Own Summer Salad

by: Kara Yorkhall, L.Ac, MAOM, FABORM

While soup is the staple that our family relies on for lunches and quick meals in the colder months, we are gravitating towards more seasonal foods now- with lots of grilling and summer salads.  If you’ve worked with me or anyone else on our team we’ve probably sung the praises of eating warm, cooked foods, which is oh, so true. However, unless you have a strong predominance of internal cold in your constitution or digestion, most of us can handle some amount of raw and uncooked foods during the summer months and especially if the food has a healthy dressing on it.  


Below I’ve shared the basics for our summer salad.  This can be a delicious side dish or easily stand on its own as the main entree.  It’s great to carry along to picnics or potlucks and easy to pack for lunches.  Make it your own, based on dietary preferences or restrictions and what you happen to have in your kitchen or garden on any given day. It never has to be the same salad twice– although I’ve shared a combination of ingredients that is a standard version and crowd pleaser in our house.   I’ve starred (**) the ingredients for that combination.  I try to keep cooked wild rice and brown rice on hand and then it only takes a couple minutes to throw together. 

Summer Salad Holistic Health

How much to make?

Our basic salad begins with about 6 cups cooked whole grain, and other guidelines are based on this amount.  It’s ideal to cook the grain and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours before mixing into salad.  

Start with a base: 

 Use “al dente” cooking instructions–you don’t want your salad to turn out mushy!  For the grains below you would cook 2 c. grain with 4 c. water and 1 tablespoon of salt.  I have not included grain cooking instructions below; those are very easy to find online if you’re not familiar already.

  1. **Wild rice and/or brown rice
  2. Quinoa
  3. Millet or Millet and quinoa mixed together
  4. If you’re not avoiding wheat or gluten then the following are also options: farro, wheat berries, spelt, bulgar wheat, couscous or barley
  5. Brown or green lentils (you’ll want to avoid boiling lentils with salt or they will get mushy, which is not ideal for a salad)

Choose your hearty sidekick:

  1. Beans  1 can, or about 2 cups cooked. (some options are black beans, lima beans, garbanzos, and kidney beans but feel free to expand beyond those)
  2. Nuts ~1 cup.  Try almonds, **walnuts, pistachios or pecans
  3. Seeds  ~½ cup.  Sunflower or pumpkin are nice options (if you’re using seed cycling for fertility support maybe that guides your choice here)
  4. Cheese, to taste- I like using **goat chevre or feta but the possibilities are endless
  5. Avocado, up to one whole. (This can make the whole dish a little creamy but also more perishable.)

Add vegetables:

Your dish can become a vehicle for lots of veggies or you may just want to choose 1-2 and keep it simpler.  I enjoy playing around with cutting different sizes (dicing very small can have a very different effect from big cubes and grating veggies can also add nice variety). 

Here are some of my favorites but there are no limitations here:

  1. **Fresh baby greens (spinach, arugula, mixed greens etc)
  2. Radish
  3. Cucumber
  4. Fresh peas (but frozen work too)
  5. Beets (roasted or grated raw, but remember, they will make everything pink)
  6. Salad turnips
  7. Sweet peppers (I especially love red ones)
  8. Tomatoes (cherry tomatoes can be quite nice)
  9. Roasted sweet potatoes

Fruit can also add a nice accent and add a little sweetness:

  1. Grapes
  2. Chopped apple
  3. Dried fruits such as **cranberries, apricots or figs

Then you top it off with a dressing and perhaps some fresh herbs:

I love using fresh **parsley or basil, mint, dill or cilantro but again the possibilities are endless.

For dressing, choose or make one consisting of a healthy fat and something sour like vinegar or lemon which will warm up the food and make it easier to digest.  Adding Greek yogurt, tahini or a blended avocado can be fun additions. We tend to use a pretty basic **blend of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt and pepper for the dressing, but here’s another area where you can let you imagination run wild.  It’s the marinating with this type of dressing that will aid the digestive process and balance out the cooling properties of the rest of the ingredients.

Now it’s time to enjoy! 

Want more ideas? Click here to find more recipes.

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