Cool Down Your Summer Cooking With these Salad Varieties

It’s summertime and it may be too hot to cook, take these new salads for a spin.  When it is too hot to cook, tossing a salad can be fun. Local lettuces are now in their prime; cool, crisp and greenly refreshing. You can now find these glorious heads at their delicate, tasty best that make summer salads irresistible.

Instead of trying to identify all the different kinds of lettuce, I’ve provided a few different categories to organize them by flavor and texture.

Soft greens are light and pale, their leaves are slightly sweet, and they wilt quickly: butterhead, bibb and Little Gem, baby spinach, Mache and mescaline (also called spring mix).

All-purpose greens are crisp, yet mild tasting: iceberg, red and green leaf, romaine, baby arugula, baby spinach, oakleaf and purslane.

Sturdy greens have dark, thick leaves, a stronger flavor, and are less likely to wilt: chard, collards, escarole, spinach, kale.

Peppery greens have often bitter and a distinct peppery taste and an odd oomph when mixed with milder leaves. Toss a handful onto pasta or pizza right before serving: arugula, dandelion greens, endive, frisee, radicchio, and watercress.

Tender herbs add fragrance and flavor: cilantro, parsley, dill, basil, mint, chives. Sorrel, with its lemony punch, tows the line between lettuce and herb.

Colorful new choices of lettuce come with exotic names that enter the market almost every day: Amish Deer Tongue, oakleaf, purple Merlot, speckled Forellenschluus, tom thumb -adding lush beauty to any salad bowl.


Basic Salad Prep Tips

When it comes to making a salad, there are really no essential tools, but these are good to have on hand: a wooden bowl makes for quick, even tossing and wooden salad spoons lift and toss the ingredients more gently than metal ones.


At home, store lettuces wrapped in damp paper towels in plastic bags and then use them right away. The moisture in the towels keeps the greens fluffy longer. They all wilt quickly at room temperature, so don’t remove them from the refrigerator before using. You don’t really need a salad spinner; just be sure the leaves are dry before dressing.

When weighing your lettuce options, here are some guidelines:

  • Bitter greens (like arugula, watercress) work well with heartier ingredients such as cheeses, avocado, nuts, hard boiled eggs and cured meats.
  • Simple oil and vinegar vinaigrettes work nicely on soft, tender leaves while the substantial leaves stand up to creamier dressings.
  • Main dish components, such as vegetables, meats, nuts and cheeses, are all best cut the same size, so they fit together on the fork.
  • Choose tiny garnishes such as toasted breadcrumbs, microgreens, chopped herbs and seeds to season and add crunch.
  • Think about colors and textures when deciding what to toss into the mix.

On a hot summer night, make dinner a simple toss-up.

Lettuce Toss Salad

Serves 4 to 6


  • 1 large head butterhead or bibb lettuce
  • 1 ½ c. cubed smokey turkey or chicken
  • ½ c. sliced fresh vegetables
  • ½ c. roasted vegetables
  • ½ c. sliced tomatoes
  • ½ c. cooked, drained chickpeas or cubed mozzarella
  • ½ microgreens
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 4 T lemon juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 T sunflower seeds, or more for garnish


  1. Slice the lettuce at the bottom base and let the leaves fall open. Tear the leaves into smaller pieces.
  2. Put the torn leaves, turkey, fresh vegetables, roasted vegetables, tomatoes, chickpeas, mozzarella, cashews, and microgreens into a large bowl and toss together. Gentle toss in the oil to coat all the ingredients, then toss with the lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread the remaining lettuce leaves on a large serving plate or individual plates and arrange the tossed ingredients onto the leaves. Scatter the sunflower seeds over all for garnish. Enjoy!



Modified article from



Author: Michelle Hanson

Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: She will look forward to meeting you!