Serving up fresh ideas for salads

Sometimes the simplest dishes are the hardest to create without a recipe.  If you are tired of just adding tomato, celery and cucumber to lettuce, try these tips to freshen things up.  Use a vegetable peeler to make zucchini and squash ribbons.  Consider lettuce a bed for anything, add leftover grilled vegetables or even stir fry.  Often leftover dishes are made with some type of seasonings that can act as a dressing if just olive oil is added.

Just because it isn’t fresh doesn’t mean it can’t be part of a salad.  Baked butternut squash, grilled corn or fajita vegetables add lots of flavor to fresh greens.  Sauté mushrooms before tossing them in a salad or grate cauliflower to look like rice, shred vegetables for an easy and fast transformation.  You can bulk up a salad with brown rice or whole-wheat pasta to make it especially filling.  Don’t know what to do with kale?  Toss raw kale in olive oil and let it sit in the refrigerator to soften the leaves for easier chewing or finely chop it in the food processor.  Salads don’t have to be boring.  Just as it is often done for soups, anything on-hand in the refrigerator or pantry can come together for a tasty nutrient-packed meal, no recipe needed.

For a new edition to your recipe collection, try this Asparagus Tomato Salad:

—1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed & cut into 1-inch pieces

—1 small zucchini, halved and cut into 1/4 inch slices

—3 tablespoons olive oil

—2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

—1 garlic clove, minced

—1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

—1/4 teaspoon honey mustard

—1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

—1/4 cup sliced green onions

—1/4 cup shredded fresh mozzarella cheese

—1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

 Place the asparagus and zucchini in a steamer basket.  Place in a saucepan over 1 inch of boiling water.  Cover and steam for 2 minutes.  Rinse in cold water.  In large bowl, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, seasoned salt and honey mustard.  Pour over asparagus mixture; toss to coat.  Toss in tomatoes and green onions.  Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and parsley.

Visit our website at http://clark.ca.uky.edu/ for more ways to use asparagus.

Jennifer Howard is the Clark County Extension Agent for family and consumer sciences.