3 Main Course Salad Recipes For Light Summer Eating

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

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 steak
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

The Herb Vinaigrette and Salad:

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • About 4 cups mixed summer greens
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, cut into 6 wedges each
  • 1/3 cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • Edible flowers like nasturtium, optional


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Grilled Chicken Nicoise (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Grilled Chicken Nicoise (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

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 thighs
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

The Salad:

  • 1 pound fresh green and or yellow beans
  • 8 small new potatoes, or 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 hard or soft boiled egg, peeled and cut into quarters
  • About 4 cups mixed summer greens
  • 1 large or 2 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1 cup pitted black olives
  • 8 bottled artichoke hearts, drained and cut in half lengthwise
  • 8 anchovies, plus some of the anchovy oil
  • Edible flowers, like nasturtium, optional

The Vinaigrette:

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 tablespoons olive oil or more


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 Lettuce Wraps with Grated Vegetables and Peanuts

Vietnamese-Flavored Grilled Pork with Lettuce Wraps, Grated Vegetables and Peanuts (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Vietnamese-Flavored Grilled Pork with Lettuce Wraps, Grated Vegetables and Peanuts (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

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 chops
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped or grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 shallot or scallion, finely chopped, about 1 tablespoon
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh lemongrass, or 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon chili paste or splash hot pepper sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper

The Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh lemongrass or 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili paste or splash hot pepper sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped

The Lettuce, Vegetables and Peanuts:

  • 8 to 10 butter lettuce leaves or large tender leaves, washed, dried and left whole
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and cut into thin slices or wedges on the diagonal
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 10 basil, Japanese basil (shiso) or Thai basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup salted or unsalted peanuts


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

This segment aired on August 14, 2019.


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Kathy Gunst Resident Chef, Here & Now
Kathy Gunst is a James Beard Award-winning journalist and the author of 15 cookbooks.



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