Gone are the days of limp lettuce and pale tomatoes drizzled with lackluster dressing. Salads are now the main event and just as bright, vibrant, and filling as other entrées. And—even better—they’re quick-cooking and chock-full of nutrients and fresh vegetables. Whether you have minutes or hours, salads allow you to get a delicious and healthful meal on the table any night of the week. Here, find a few of our favorites loaded with seasonal produce and satiating cheese. From a savory panzanella heaped with olives, capers, spicy arugula, and grilled chicken to a nutty quinoa bowl topped with peppery radishes, sweet peas, and grassy herbs, these recipes are sure to make good use of your farmers’ market bounty.
In a hurry? Substitute frozen peas for the fresh peas and frozen shelled edamame for the fava beans—simply thaw and dry thoroughly before using.
Prep School: Salads are a solid option for casual entertaining since much of the work can be done ahead of time. For easy assembly, prepare all proteins, grains, starches, and salad dressings ahead of time. Wash and dry your greens and vegetables as well, if you wish, but save any chopping until you’re ready to serve so that the veggies retain their crunch.
This classic salad calls for a proper Caesar dressing made with raw egg, so use the freshest you can find.
Bulking Season: Adding cooked whole grains like farro, wheat berries, or quinoa instantly increases the volume of your salad, helping it feel more like a meal. A bit of extra cheese or a generous sprinkle of toasted nuts never hurt either! Try toasted sliced almonds, pine nuts, or walnuts for added richness and texture.
This salad is all about the lentils—they should be tender but retain their shape.
Cheese Curls: Nothing takes a salad over the top like delicate shavings of an exquisite cheese. To get restaurant-worthy shards at home, bust out your vegetable peeler and shave thin slices off the longest end of the wedge.
Can’t find heirloom tomatoes? Feel free to sub in any variety—we love grape and cherry tomatoes in this recipe, too.
Punch Up the Protein: Just about any salad can make the jump from healthful side to hearty main dish with the addition of a simple protein. For these spring recipes, grilled fish and meat make great add-ins. Vegetarian? Slice hard-boiled eggs, baked tofu, or lentils also do the trick.
This recipe calls for a mix of rye and multigrain bread, but feel free to use up whatever crusty loaf you have on hand.
Witten by Molly Shuster, Photographed by Lisa Monahan