5 bright and crunchy veg salads for easy summer dinners

This past weekend, I was in Oakland and had one of the best salads in recent memory at Daytrip, a natural wine bar/restaurant in the city’s Temescal neighborhood. Smack dab in the middle of some of the best produce in the country at the peak of summer and the main vegetable in the salad was … celery. Thin slices were tossed with spicy habanero vinaigrette and topped with shaved semi-soft sheep’s cheese. It was so simple, so unseasonal, and so very perfect — crunchy celery, a sharp vinaigrette, and a little dairy to soften the edges.

It reminded of another one of my favorite dishes that just so happens to have celery in it, a dish at Prune restaurant in New York City where sliced celery is marinated in a garlic-and-lemon-heavy vinaigrette then served over a slab of toast with blue cheese and butter. That dish is great in the wintertime when those kinds of dishes are nourishing, but Daytrip’s version is what I’d want in the summer, when it’s too hot outside all the time and you just want something cold and crunchy that will help you sweat a bit.

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In honor of those salads, here are a few other chunky veg salads that make use of everyday vegetables that are good in any season and always reliably delicious. Dawn Perry’s celery and grape salad that pairs with oven-baked chicken tenders is so incredibly delicious, more so because of how easy it is to throw together. A little parm, walnuts and pickled onions combine to make a sharp, nutty and sweet side that I often make on its own and eat as my whole meal.

Similarly, Danielle Campbell’s simple cucumber and red onion salad that she pairs with harissa meatballs is an outstanding salad to keep around to have with whatever protein you prefer. And Paola Briseño-González’s fennel and mango salad offers up a spin on a fennel and orange salad that she pairs with braised beef cheeks coated in za’atar. I love this salad by itself but also with grilled shrimp or salmon.

My Crunchy and Spicy Green Potato Salad is heavy on the cucumbers and snap peas, and has a cilantro-and-serrano dressing that perks up everything even more. And if you want the best way to serve just a platter of cut vegetables, go for Adeena Sussman’s Rough Chopped Salad With Yogurt and Dukkah, which lets you pile chunks of veggies on yogurt and shower them with her salty, nutty and addictive spice mix.

Oven-Baked Chicken Tenders With Celery and Grape Salad

A handful of sweet grapes, shaved cheese and pickled onion brine elevate humble celery into a fantastic crunchy, cold salad to balance chicken tenders, but any protein you like will work.Get the recipe.
Cook time: 40 minutes.

5 bright and crunchy veg salads for easy summer dinners
(Lindsay Kreighbaum / For The Times)

Spicy Harissa Meatballs With Cucumber Salad

A bright cucumber salad adds freshness and crunch to spicy harissa meatballs; serve them on yogurt and warm pita bread.Get the recipe.
Cook time: 35 minutes.

5 bright and crunchy veg salads for easy summer dinners
(Danielle Campbell / For The Times)

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Za’atar Beef Cheeks With Fennel and Mango Salad

A tart and crunchy fennel and green mango salad lifts braised beef cheeks with their bright flavors. Green mangoes are available in most grocery stores, but if you aren’t able to find them, substitute the amount with tart green apples.Get the recipe.
Cook time: 40 minutes.

5 bright and crunchy veg salads for easy summer dinners
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Crunchy and Spicy Green Potato Salad

The dressing for this fresh spring potato salad is inspired by zhoug, the fiery chile sauce from Yemen that goes well on basically anything. Here, serrano chiles add heat, but you can tame them by removing the seeds from as many chiles as you want.Get the recipe.
Cook time: 45 minutes.

5 bright and crunchy veg salads for easy summer dinners
(Shelby Moore / For The Times)

Rough Chopped Salad With Yogurt and Dukkah

Keep the vegetables in this salad big to better enjoy the difference in textures and taste among carrots, radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, kohlrabi and whatever else you have available. Make a double batch of the dukkah; it’s great sprinkled on popcorn, fish or swirled into a bowl of olive oil as a dip for bread.Get the recipe.
Cook time: 20 minutes.

5 bright and crunchy veg salads for easy summer dinners
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

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