Five easy summer salads add fresh flavors to your weeknight meal rotation

Add the protein of your choosing to turn them into a fuller meal.

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Watermelon and feta salad is easy to make and refreshing.

Watermelon and feta salad is easy to make and refreshing.

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When you think of a salad, you may envision a pile of lettuce and maybe some stale croutons with dressing and think “ugh, boring.” But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’m a year-round salad fan but leafy greens hit different in the summer — especially paired with juicy, flavorful fruits and vegetables that abound in the warmest season of the year. Most of the time, I eyeball my ingredients when I make salads. It’s not an exact science, which I think makes the process more fun.

To help you get started on your own salad streak, we’ve rounded up — and tried — several salads. Some are salads I’ve grown up with, others I’ve concocted with inspiration from various sources and all are common enough to find different versions of online.

All are sure to excite your taste buds and are customizable — you can always add protein of your choosing to turn them into a fuller meal.

Here are a few easy recipes to try:

If you’re a watermelon lover like I am, this is a no-brainer, check-yes-every-time kind of side or lunch option.

There are plenty of salad recipes online for watermelon feta combinations including those with added olive oil and vinegar for dressing, red onion and cucumber to make the salad heftier. Delish.com recommends including leafy greens.

But the way I like to make it requires fewer ingredients.

When I make a watermelon feta salad, I use eyeballed amounts of everything. But I would recommend using approximate amounts if this is your first time — aim for:

Watermelon and feta salad

  • 2 cups watermelon, cubed
  • 5 sprigs mint
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • Drizzle of balsamic glaze

Once you have your ingredients prepped (basically cutting up your watermelon and rinsing your mint) just add everything to a bowl and drizzle the balsamic glaze to your liking. It’s super easy and pairs well with summer dishes.

Pasta salad

It’s not quite leafy or green but pasta salad can serve as a great weeknight meal and it’s totally customizable. You can add whatever ingredients — in whatever quantities — you think will contribute to the taste profile you’re aiming for.

Fourth of July weekend, I made a pasta salad with gluten-free pasta, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, cured meats, red onion, mini peppers and grape tomatoes along with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Chopped red and yellow peppers add fresh flavor and crunch to your pasta salad.

Chopped red and yellow peppers add fresh flavor and crunch to your pasta salad.

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I’d estimate I used about:

  • 16-ounce box of pasta, cooked al dente; drained
  • 3/4 cup chopped peppers
  • 3/4 cup chopped grape tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup Sopresseta and Genoa salami
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup feta
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and serve.

Caprese salad

Fresh tomatoes and mozzarella drizzled with a balsamic glaze and topped with fresh basil — otherwise known as a caprese salad — are a perfect choice for a summertime meal.

Fresh tomatoes and mozzarella drizzled with a balsamic glaze and topped with fresh basil — otherwise known as a caprese salad — are a perfect choice for a summertime meal.

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I’ve never met a caprese salad I didn’t love. It’s one of my most-ordered apps (alongside burrata) when I go out to eat. And it’s so simple to make at home.

To make the version I often prepare (which is an easy copycat dish of the real thing) you’ll need:

  • 1-2 beefsteak tomatoes
  • Pre-cut mozzarella (log can come in 1 pound — if you have extra there’s zero reason to be upset about that)
  • Drizzle of balsamic glaze
  • Handful of basil

Simply layer thick-cut tomato and mozzarella slices on top of each other in a repeated format and sprinkle pieces of basil on top. Drizzle balsamic glaze over to finish. You can also add olive oil, if you wish.

Strawberry-spinach salad

Strawberries and spinach combine for a great summer salad.

Strawberries and spinach combine for a great summer salad.

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My mom has been making this salad since I can remember and now I’ve completely stolen it.

  • Four to five handfuls of spinach
  • Six strawberries
  • Half an avocado
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese

Combine all ingredients and drizzle dressing of your choosing (I usually use a strawberry blush wine vinaigrette by Brianna’s Home Style but plenty of sites, such as AllRecipes, have strawberry vinaigrette recipes readily available).

Sometimes I top this with balsamic glaze instead of the vinaigrette, which is also good. This makes enough for two... but I’m not going to lie, I’ve eaten an entire batch of this salad in one sitting.

There are plenty of variations on this strawberry goat cheese combo if you are interested in incorporating other flavors, like this one from Laylita’s Recipes which uses arugula, red onion and spicy pecans.

Grilled peach salad

A peach and arugula salad is a delicious side dish or main course.

A peach and arugula salad is a delicious side dish or main course.

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Peaches have to be my favorite summer fruit. I almost exclusively eat them in the warmer months and didn’t quite understand just how good they can be — though I was already a big fan — until I cooked them a bit for a salad a couple years back.

This salad is easy and feels similar to the strawberry spinach salad in terms of prep but with an added step to grill (or cook on your stovetop, if you’re without grill access) peach slices.

To make this salad (which I initially used as a side to tuna steaks):

Wash and slice two yellow peaches. Cook the peach slices with a little avocado oil on stovetop.

Chop an estimated 1/4 of a red onion (whatever amount you desire) and add three to four handfuls of arugula to a bowl. Add in red onion. Add in an estimated 1/4 cup goat cheese.

Add warm peaches and drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the mixture. Toss the salad and serve.

Read more at usatoday.com

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