Food & Drink

Salads you can make without lettuce

There's still time to leverage the diet power of slimming summer fruits and vegetables. One way to do it: Make salads a daily routine now through the end of the season.

Salads made from fresh fruits and vegetables tend to be low in calories, cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium, and they're rich sources of vitamins, minerals and other beneficial phytochemicals. Some are good sources of protein, too, if they include rice, pasta, beans, nuts or seeds.

So they can stand alone as a one-dish meal.

Most salads keep in the refrigerator for three or four days. They're ready to take out and serve, so they're ready when you are.

In most cases, you don't even need a recipe.

Lettuce-based salads are useful when you need a quick filling for pocket or wrap sandwiches, as a foundation for a scoop of potato salad on a plate or to line a sliced tomato sandwich on whole wheat toast.

But my favorite salads don't contain any lettuce at all. For example:

Pickled beets and onions. Toss cooked, fresh beets with vinegar, oil, a dash of sweetener and a big handful of chopped, sweet onion.

Cucumber and tomato salad. Vary it by adding chopped onion, fresh dill, basil or black olives. Use vinegar and oil to make your own dressing or use whatever bottled Italian or other oil-based dressing you have on hand.

Garbanzo bean and cherry tomato salad. Mix rinsed, canned garbanzo beans, cherry tomato halves, chopped green onions and bell peppers, black olives and fresh basil in any proportion you like. Toss it with vinaigrette dressing. I add a dash of hot sauce, too.

Coleslaw. You can make it with light mayonnaise, but I prefer vinegar, oil and cracked black pepper or any bottled, oil-based salad dressing.

For a change of pace, try using rice vinegar. Add grated carrot, red cabbage, chopped onion, caraway seeds, golden raisins or grape halves.

For heartier salads, toss chopped, fresh vegetables with cooked rice, quinoa (an ancient grain available in natural foods stores), wheat berries or whole wheat bow tie or rotini pasta.