Salads of Summer: 7 Spectacular Recipes

By Ann Thelen

These seven salad recipes are cool, crisp and perfect go-to meals on hot summer days. Make the most of the garden-fresh vegetables by pairing them with Iowa grown and raised proteins.

It’s salad season! The vibrant colors of summer come alive with these seven spectacular recipes. Perfect for backyard barbecues, family gatherings and easy weeknight meals, salads are a canvas for culinary creativity. From garden-fresh tomatoes and cucumbers to ripe watermelon and iconic corn on the cob, the foods of summer flank perfectly seared meats.

Whether on a plate or bowl, a salad can be as simple as a side dish or fully decked out for the main dish. The possibilities are endless to showcase fresh, in-season produce that’s as pleasing to the eyes as it is to the tastebuds.

Get ready to change up your salad routine with these flavor-packed, protein-rich recipes. As the temperatures rise, salads provide cool and crisp mealtime options the whole family will crave! No matter how they are served up, know that Iowa’s farmers likely had a hand in creating the bounty of fresh foods.

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Farmer’s Market Vegetable, Beef & Brown Rice Salad | Iowa Beef Council and Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.

Stock up at your local farmer’s market with fresh veggies and turn them into a sensational main course. Packed with protein, veggies and brown rice, this salad is a colorful treat. Beef round steak is the star of this plate and paired with tomatoes, squash, asparagus and fresh basil. Before grilling, the steak is marinated for 6 hours or overnight (refrigerated) in blend of garlic, lemon juice, thyme, honey and olive oil, resulting in tender and flavor-infused meat. Find the recipe here.

Fresh Facts: There are two key reasons to use a marinade – to help add flavor or tenderize. While the different types of marinades may contain similar ingredients, the key is the length of marinating time. If you’re just looking to add flavor, you only need to marinate for 15 minutes to 2 hours. If you’re looking to tenderize cuts, you’ll want to marinate for 6 to 24 hours.

Pulled Pork Salad with Grilled Vegetables | Iowa Pork Producers Association

Pulled pork isn’t just for sandwiches; it also makes for a hearty, healthy and delicious salad. Pork shoulder is fall-apart-tender, bursting with flavor and can be found in a variety of recipes. Pork shoulder goes by several names at the grocery store, including picnic roast, Boston butt, blade roast and pork butt. In this recipe, pork is “smoked” by seasoning it with chili powder, garlic salt, onion powder, dry mustard and pepper, then indirectly grilling it over hickory or applewood chips. Served on a bed of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, zucchini and corn, this is a backyard barbecue that might quickly turn into a neighborhood block party! Find the recipe here.

Fresh Facts: The best way to ensure peak deliciousness is to cook by temperature with a digital meat thermometer. Grill pork over direct, medium heat, turning once halfway through. Using a meat thermometer is the best way to ensure both a safe and delicious eating experience.

Turkey Mango Salad | National Turkey Federation & Iowa Turkey Federation

June is National Turkey Lover’s Month, making it a perfect time to add some tango to your grilled turkey salad with the fresh citrusy flavors of mango! The salty-sweet combo is a perfect low-carb option that maximizes summertime flavor. It’s topped with a Catalina dressing, which somewhat resembles French salad dressing. This tomato-based combination typically has a slightly sweeter taste and is moderately tangy. For extra freshness, it’s a simple salad dressing to make from home. Find the salad recipe here.

Fresh Facts: The turkey tenderloin is a portion of the turkey breast, and it is boneless and skinless. It’s also extremely tender, making it a perfect choice for many recipes. Slice them crosswise into medallions, lengthwise into tenders for breading and baking or into chunks for stir-fry.

Kale Cobb Salad | Iowa Egg Council

This colorful, hearty and power-packed salad looks like art on a plate. Layered on a bed of kale are perfectly arranged rows of goodness, including hard-boiled eggs, avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers, chicken and blue cheese. Packed with protein, vitamin A, folate and choline, eggs will power you through long summer days. As a time-saver, use packaged baby kale. If desired, substitute baby spinach or a combination of greens for kale. Find the recipe here.

Fresh Facts: Hard-boiled eggs in the shell can be refrigerated for up to a week. It is recommended to refrigerate the eggs in their original carton to prevent odor absorption. Hard-boiled eggs should be eaten within two days of being peeled.

Grilled Jicama, Watermelon and Avocado Salad with Cotija Cheese | Midwest Dairy

Some call watermelon a vegetable; others call it a fruit. No matter what you call these melons, grilling elevates the flavor to a whole new level. Once grilled, watermelon’s caramelly-savory side emerges in a new texture. Not to mention those intriguing black stripes. This recipe brings extra flavor dimensions for a not-too-sweet watermelon salad. Even the grilled jicama shows up smoky. Jicama is a starchy root vegetable that some people describe as tasting like a sweeter and juicer version of potato. Add cilantro and cotija cheese, and you have the makings of a summer fiesta. Find the recipe here.

Fresh Fact: Cotija is a Mexican cow’s milk cheese named after the town of the same name. It’s white in color, firm and dry in texture, and salty and milky in flavor. When the cheese is made, it is white, fresh and salty, thus bearing immense resemblance to feta cheese. However, with aging, it becomes hard and crumbly like Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Green Goddess Dressing | The Soyfoods Council

Professional Chef George Formaro of Orchestrate Hospitality created this magnificent green goddess salad dressing featuring soft silken tofu. Every year, The Soyfoods Council and Iowa Restaurant Association welcome top local to compete in the healthiest food competition – a soy salad dressing stage contest. This creamy and flavor-packed dressing also features sour cream, green onions, garlic and parsley. Salad greens, grapefruit slices and avocado slices are garnished with pomegranate seeds and slivered fennel, then drizzled with the green goddess dressing for an award-winning plate. Find the recipe here.

Fresh Facts: There are two main kinds of tofu: silken and water-packed. Silken tofu has a softer texture and blends well with other ingredients. Silken tofu is shelf-stable until opened, then needs to be refrigerated. Many times, it is with the other refrigerated tofu products but look to see where the grocery store of your choice has it located. Water-packed tofu requires refrigeration.

Pesto Pasta Salad with Green Beans and Corn I Iowa Corn Promotion Board

This simple and flavorful pasta salad from The Lemon Bowl blog is made with just a few simple ingredients, including whole-wheat pasta, pesto, fresh green beans and sweet corn. Although gardens and farmer’s markets will soon be overflowing with green beans and corn, this pasta recipe also would be delicious with other fresh, seasonal vegetables like zucchini, tomatoes or grilled eggplant. Fresh basil is used to create pesto, which adds a punch of bright and herby flavor, combined with the salty and rich notes from the cheeses and pine nuts. Find the recipe here.

Fresh Facts: Only 1% of corn planted in the U.S. is sweet corn, and 99% of corn grown in Iowa is field corn. When Iowa’s corn farmers deliver corn from the field, it’s field corn, not the melt-in-your-mouth sweet corn you might enjoy on the cob, in a can or in this salad recipe.