Okay, technically broccoli is a cool-weather crop, not a hot-weather one like peppers and beans, but I still think broccoli can be part of a summer salad. After all, summer dishes should be simple and light — no need to spend much time over a hot stove. In this case, yes, there is heat involved (I roasted the veggies), but it’s the kind of heat you can walk away from, not the kind you have to stand next to and stir. And while the veggies are roasting, you can whisk together the dressing and prep the lettuce. If you have a lettuce spinner, the easiest way to rinse and dry lettuce is to spin it, but if you don’t, the pat-it-dry-with-a-kitchen-towel method works, too. I’m spinnerless myself, but I always have a towel at the ready.
When you’re pondering your lettuce options, you might want to keep in mind that loose-leaf varieties are more nutritious than closed-head varieties. (Hence, Romaine is more nutritious than iceberg, and green leaf is a better option than Romaine.) That’s because lettuce that fans out needs to better protect itself from the sun — every leaf is exposed, not just the outer set. You could say that lettuce has to make more of its own natural sunscreen to protect itself.
Increased levels of phytonutrients for the plant = increased nutritional value for us. So the looser the leaf, the higher the nutritional profile. Also, the more reddish pigment lettuce contains, the more nutritious it is. That makes red leaf lettuce my top pick. Of course, texture is also an important consideration, as is the shape of the leaf. (While Romaine makes a great boat, Bibb doesn’t.) So choose whatever lettuce you like using whatever criteria you like.
Roasted Veggie Summer Salad Serves 4 for a light lunch.
For the salad:
1 yellow bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, cut into 1″ slices
1 red bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, cut into 1″ slices
1 head broccoli, florets and trimmed “trunk” cut into 1″ slices
1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed
Your choice of lettuce, although loose-leaf varieties like green leaf and red leaf are best
Feta cheese for topping, preferably made with pastured goat’s or sheep’s milk
For the dressing:
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. red wine vinegar
Sea salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375F and line 2 sheets with parchment paper. Place yellow pepper strips in a bowl and toss with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a dash of sea salt. Arrange on one-half of one of the baking sheets. Repeat with the red peppers, broccoli, and beans, keeping each in its own half of the baking sheet. (That way, if one veggie cooks faster than the others, you can pull it off the sheet more easily.) Roast for 25 minutes or until the veggies are turning golden brown and slightly crisp.
While the veggies roast, whisk together the dressing in a small bowl. Rinse and dry the lettuce, then tear into bite-sized pieces and place into a large mixing or salad bowl. Add roasted veggies, feta, and dressing and toss well. Serve immediately.
Note that if you don’t want to use all the veggies at once, set some aside. Undressed roasted veggies can be refrigerated for 5 days and included in everything from stir-frys to omelets.