If you think salad is solely a side dish, five of the country's best chefs would like to change your mind. Each of their terrific toss-ups is a satisfying summer dinner in its own right.
Kale & Chicken Scaloppine Caesar
Jenn Louis, Chef and Co-Owner of Lincoln and Sunshine Tavern in Portland, Oregon:
"I love kale! If you remove the stems of this sturdy green, slice the leaves thinly and toss them with a hearty dressing, they stand up to other substantial ingredients, like the pan-fried chicken and chunky croutons I use here. And a little cheese on top never hurts."
To make sure the greens in this salad are tender, chef Louis recommends massaging the kale -- rubbing the leaves together for about a minute to soften any tough fibers -- before shredding.
Creamy Lobster Salad with Arugula
Mark Gaier and Clark Fraiser, Chefs at M.C. Spiedo in Boston and M.C. Perkins Cover in Ogunquit, Maine:
"A simple dish like salad lets the fresh flavors of seafood shine. We're lucky enough to live in New England, where all we have to do is go down to the harbor to get lobster. Dress it very simply and serve it with a few seasonal vegetables, and you've got the perfect summer meal."
This salad is also delicious made with shrimp. Substitute 1 lb. peeled, deveined large shrimp for the lobster.
Steak & Chicory Salad with Fresh Horseradish
Ignacio Mattos, Chef and Co-Owner of Estela in New York City:
"The key to a great salad is picking a few boldly flavored components that will stand out. In this one, I use the garlic-rubbed steak, chicory and fresh horseradish. Charring the steak adds another dimension of flavor without adding more ingredients, and the greens and horseradish cut the richness of the meat."
Fresh is Best
A little freshly grated horseradish (look for it in the produce section) gives this salad a peppery bite.
Greek Salad with Salami Vinaigrette
Mike Isabella, Chef-Owner of G, Graffiato and Kapnos in Washington, D.C.:
"People love the pepperoni sauce I serve with chicken at Graffiato, so I figured, why not mix some salami into the vinaigrette for me Greek salad? It's a great way to give the entire salad meaty flavor."
Save the Sauce
Drizzle the leftover dressing on hero sandwiches or use as a dip for raw or roasted veggies.
Salad Sandwiches with Bacon & Egg
April Bloomfied, Chef and Co-Owner of The Spotted Pig in New York City and Tosca in San Francisco:
"Stuff the salad between two slices of bread, and make it a sandwich. The bread adds texture, and it's also perfect if you have more of an appetite -- or if you don't have a fork! I use ciabatta for a little bit of chew. It does a good job of sopping up the dressing without getting soggy."
Peppers that Pop
Jarred roasted red peppers are a fine substitute for fresh ones.
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