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caption: Chef Kathy Gunst's grilled steak salad with blue cheese, tomatoes, and greens. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
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Chef Kathy Gunst's grilled steak salad with blue cheese, tomatoes, and greens. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

3 Main Course Salad Recipes For Light Summer Eating

These three main course salads take advantage of the season and the need to be outdoors.

Get creative with these recipes: Substitute various greens, cheese, herbs, nuts and vegetables. You can substitute vegetables, fish or seafood, or tofu for the meat in all these recipes.

 Grilled Steak Salad with Blue Cheese, Tomatoes and Greens

Skirt steak is a long, flat cut of beef that is ideal for a summer salad. Many cooks think skirt steak is tough, but if you marinate the meat for at least an hour and grill it quickly over high heat, it’s full of flavor and becomes tender. You can also use hangar steak.

Be sure to let the meat sit before slicing it thinly on the diagonal. Place the meat on summer greens — the more variety the better — surrounded by crumbled blue cheese, ripe tomatoes and an herb-based vinaigrette. If you marinate the meat ahead of time, this whole salad can be put together in about 15 minutes.

Serves 2 to 4.


The Meat and Marinade:

1 pound skirt or hanger steak3/4 cup dry red wine2 cloves garlic, chopped1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped1 tablespoon olive oilSalt and freshly ground black pepper

The Herb Vinaigrette and Salad:

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped1 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, choppedSalt and freshly ground pepper1 1/2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar3 tablespoons olive oilAbout 4 cups mixed summer greens2 ripe tomatoes, cut into 6 wedges each1/3 cup blue cheese, crumbledEdible flowers like nasturtium, optional


Marinate the meat: place the steak in a non-reactive bowl or zip lock bag and add the wine, garlic, thyme, rosemary, basil, oil and a touch of salt and pepper. Marinate for at least 1 hour or cover and refrigerate overnight.Make the vinaigrette: in a small bowl, mix the mustard, thyme, basil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Add the vinegar and then the oil and taste for seasoning.Preheat the grill to 400 degrees. Place a clean flat grill rack on the hot grill. Grill the meat for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of your cut. Brush the marinade on top of the meat once or twice as it grills. Remove from the heat and let sit for about 2 minutes.Place the greens on a large serving plate. Arrange the tomatoes on the outside of the greens. Season with salt and pepper. Thinly slice the steak on the diagonal and place in the center of the plate. Scatter on the blue cheese and spoon the vinaigrette on top. Season with salt and pepper. Place flowers on top if using.Grilled Chicken Nicoise

A traditional nicoise salad comes from southern France and almost always includes tuna, potatoes, green beans, eggs, tomatoes, olives and other vegetables. Here I marinate boneless chicken thighs in a lemony herb mixture and grill them over high heat. This main course salad is colorful and full of summer flavors and textures. The chicken should marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

Serves 4.


The Chicken:

1 pound boneless chicken thighs1/2 cup dry white wine1 tablespoon olive oil1 teaspoon grated lemon zest1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice1 tablespoon chopped fresh thymeSalt and freshly ground pepper

The Salad:

1 pound fresh green and or yellow beans8 small new potatoes, or 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes1 hard or soft boiled egg, peeled and cut into quartersAbout 4 cups mixed summer greens1 large or 2 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters1 cup pitted black olives8 bottled artichoke hearts, drained and cut in half lengthwise8 anchovies, plus some of the anchovy oilEdible flowers, like nasturtium, optional

The Vinaigrette:

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustardSalt and pepper2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh basil1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme1 tablespoon lemon juice1 teaspoon grated lemon zest2 tablespoons white wine vinegar1/3 tablespoons olive oil or more


Marinate the chicken: place the chicken in a plastic bag or non-reactive bowl and toss with the wine, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, thyme, salt and pepper. Let sit for 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate for several hours.Cook the beans, eggs and potatoes: bring a saucepan of water to boil over big heat. Add the beans and cook for about 4 to 6 minutes, depending on the thickness, or until almost tender. Drain in cold running water and drain again.Fill another saucepan with the eggs and cover with cold water; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and cook 4 minutes. Turn the heat off and let sit for 3 to 6 minutes. Three minutes results in a slightly soft boiled egg (almost runny yolk and 6 minutes is for a hard boiled egg). Drain under cold running water. Drain and peel. Cut the eggs in half.In another saucepan bring water to boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and cook about 8 to 12 minutes, depending on size and freshness, or until soft when you place a small sharp knife in the center. Drain, run under cold water, drain again.The recipe can be made several hours ahead of time up to this point. Cover and refrigerate everything until ready to put together the salad.Grill the chicken: heat a charcoal or gas grill until hot, about 400 degrees. Grill 4 to 5 minutes per side or until cooked through and crisp on the outside. Brush with the marinade in the bowl while grilling. Remove and let cool for several minutes. Cut into cubes or thin slices.To assemble: place the greens in the large bowl or serving plate. Divide the beans, egg and potatoes into two “piles” along the outer rim of the lettuce. Divide the tomatoes, olives, and artichoke hearts into two piles as well, alternating ingredients. Place chicken in center and add the anchovies, crisscrossing two of them into an “X.” Drizzle with anchovy oil. Scatter with flowers if using. Serve vinaigrette on the side.Vietnamese-Flavored Grilled Pork with Lettuce Wraps, Grated Vegetables and Peanuts

With this salad the lettuce acts as a wrap for bundles of pork, vegetables and peanuts.

Serves 4.


The Pork and Marinade:

1 to 1 1/2 pounds pork loin, blade cut steak, or boneless pork chops2 tablespoons fish sauce1 tablespoon soy sauce1 tablespoon finely chopped or grated ginger1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint1 shallot or scallion, finely chopped, about 1 tablespoon1 tablespoon brown sugar1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh lemongrass, or 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel1 teaspoon chili paste or splash hot pepper sauceFreshly ground black pepper

The Sauce:

3 tablespoons fish sauce1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh lemongrass or 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel1 tablespoon brown sugar1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili paste or splash hot pepper sauce1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice1 clove garlic, finely chopped

The Lettuce, Vegetables and Peanuts:

8 to 10 butter lettuce leaves or large tender leaves, washed, dried and left whole1 cup bean sprouts1 large cucumber, peeled and cut into thin slices or wedges on the diagonal1 cup grated carrots10 basil, Japanese basil (shiso) or Thai basil leaves1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves1/3 cup fresh mint leaves1 lime, cut into wedges1/2 cup salted or unsalted peanuts


Marinate the meat: place the pork in a large non-reactive bowl or zip lock bag and add the fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, cilantro, mint, shallot, brown sugar, lemongrass, chili paste and pepper. Toss thoroughly to coat the meat with all the ingredients. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.Make the sauce: mix all the ingredients and taste for seasoning, adding more chili paste or lime as needed. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.Grill the pork: preheat a charcoal or gas grill until hot, about 450 degrees. Grill the pork about 4 to 5 minutes per side, depending on the thickness, or until just cooked through. Brush the meat with marinade as it grills. Remove and let cool a minute or two before thinly slicing.Place the lettuce leaves on a large serving platter. Divide the pork slices inside the lettuce and top with some of the bean sprouts, cucumber, carrots, basil, cilantro and mint leaves. Sprinkle with a few peanuts and arrange the lime wedges alongside the lettuce wraps. In the center of the plate, place the remaining vegetables, herbs, salad and peanuts.

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