Salad Days: Lighten Up With Summer-Friendly Sides and Starters

In between sous viding the World’s Largest Pastrami, scarfing down Kouign-Amann, and reconstructing beef roasts like a bunch of modernist Dr. Frankensteins, we like to work in the occasional salad. But we’re not talking about the sort of iceburg-and-stale-crouton situation you find beneath the sneeze guard at a supermarket salad bar. Oh no. With ingredients like pork belly, fresh Parmesan, and albacore tuna, these salads are far, far sexier than all that. Read on for our favorite ways to lighten up at dinner.

Fun fact: Radicchio is not a lettuce. It’s a member of the chicory family, and it’s super tasty, especially when you accessorize it with creamy buttermilk, verdant chive oil, and funky blue cheese—which is exactly what we do in this Microwaved Radicchio Salad. An elegant warm salad you can make in the microwave? Radicch.

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Salads are a magical thing. You can top them with stuff like fried chicken and fatty cheese, and somehow they still feel healthy. Our Endive Salad works in skinny rolls of braised pork belly, so you get that hit of salty fat without getting too weighed down. It’s a great one for a dinner party, but give yourself time—that belly’ll need a minute to brine. (And by “a minute,” we mean 48 to 72 hours).

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So, your kids complain that chickpeas look like little butts. Don’t let that deter you from serving this Chickpea Tuna Salad. You can substitute all sorts of non-butt-like beans for the chickpeas, and your picky little legacies will never know the difference. Ha, tricked ’em. That’s called good parenting.

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Speaking of microwaves, did you know you can confit vegetables up in there? True story. In fact, that’s how we prepare the squash for this Confit Squash Salad. Then we cut it into cubes and let a blizzard of ricotta salata rain down upon them, tossing on some toasted hazelnuts for good measure. Use kabocha squash and you don’t even have to peel the skin off. Come on, people. The only way we could make this easier on you is to come over and make it ourselves. (Not right now, we’re at work.)

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“You can’t please everybody,” your wise uncle Fred used to tell you. But here’s the thing: You can. Case in point: our two versions of coleslaw–creamy, and red. Because some people love their coleslaw all mayo-slicked and fatty, and other people like it red. Can’t please everybody? Have some coleslaw, Uncle Fred.

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The Germans like to lay claim on potato salad. Man, Germany. Is winning the World Cup not enough? Right here, right now, we’re calling on America to claim this carbiest of side salads. After all, there are few foods that feel as U-S-A! U-S-A! as potato salad. And okay, our version involves homemade mayo and homemade pickled mustard seed—look, if you want something quick go back to that confit squash dish—but it’s stupidly delicious. Bring it to a barbecue and watch it upstage the ribs and the keg of lager and the tall, handsome German guy teaching the kids to play soccer properly.

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