With so many interesting starting points for salad—fresh tomatoes, chickpeas, apple and fennel—why design a dish around an uninspiring base of romaine? Try these, and join me in no-lettuce salad summer.
Hard-to-find ingredients can be a barrier to entry; obtaining pink peppercorns in this, the world’s most elegant salad, was worth the effort. The addition opened my eyes (and pantry) to the world of flavors they represent: a fruity spiciness to balance nutty, sugary candied pecans and freshening dill for exciting flavor pops that wake up the sweet-tart apples and fennel. Not to mention, this is possibly the most beautiful recipe I’ve ever made—almost gem-like, with shades of green from pale apples to emerald dill fronds, bejeweled with the glossy pecans.
This is tomato salad, electrified. A version of Myanmar’s khayan jin thee thoke, it encapsulates everything that makes a recipe transcendent: it’s a complex flavor balance of freshness, tang, and umami. It’s full of color. It’s packed with surprising flavor pops and textures (chilies! crispy shallots! crunchy peanuts!), which show how much you can do with cheap, simple ingredients. It’s an almost magical transformation of a farmer’s market haul.
Inspired by one of Özlem Warren’s childhood recipes—with accompanying memories that are always a pleasure to read—this is our version of southern Türkiye’s spiced-yet-cooling chickpea salad nohut piyazi. It livens up a bowl of chickpeas with tangy fresh sumac (“a must,” Warren says), mild Aleppo pepper heat, onion, brightening lemon juice, and fresh basil. Milk Street punches up the flavor by swapping fresh tomatoes for intense, umami-rich sun-dried tomatoes.
This recipe also taught me a lesson that’s served me well for bean salads over the years: microwave your beans! They’ll absorb maximum flavor from your dressing.
Design your salad around beef; change your picnic game forever. Classic beef salad is a symphony of flavors and texture, with succulent short ribs contrasted with the fresh cabbage and cucumber crunch, plus umami-rich fish sauce sings with a hit of brightening lime. “I was skeptical about how flavorful this would be and if the jalapeño would dominate,” one reader wrote, adding: “I was not disappointed...super flavorful and satisfying.”
For a slightly lighter, still meaty, summer dinner salad, go for this Vietnamese Chicken Salad—a rainbow-colored bowl of similar crunchy freshness.
Real potato salad comes from Japan—and it's so much fresher than its American offspring! In America, we made the mistake of overloading this dish with mayo; by contrast, Japanese potato salad gets natural creaminess from half-mashing some of the potatoes and using less heavy Japanese mayonnaise made with rice vinegar.
If you want to ditch the mayo altogether, look to Austria, where potato salad achieves creaminess from a mix of chicken stock and starchy cooking liquids.
Celery is underrated! Case in point: this bright, fresh chicken salad, based on France’s all-celery salad céléri rémoulade, in which celery brings a crunchy contrast to soft shredded chicken and creamy dressing. Tart-sweet apples and toasty hazelnuts round it out. And, one reader notes, that fennel is what “brings this up a level.”