Your Weeknight Meal Planner: Salad Days of Summer

Get inspired for the week ahead with our top picks from this week’s menu.

Inspired by last week’s meal-planning ‘challenge’, which was surely easy for vegetarians, we’re back with another test—what’s it like to have salad with every dinner? Okay, so that’s not too hard to imagine. But really, we’ve all been told how important it is to get our greens in. It might actually prove pretty refreshing, in a real scorcher of a week, to end each day with crisp romaine, tender spinach, peppery arugula, or a blend with your favorite grain. Yes, it’s not just about raw lettuce here; a good sal’ has the right mix of raw and cooked, crunchy and tender, acidic and rich.

The key is not to get bored. With Plated? Easy. Now, on to the recipes!

Steak Salad

Monday: Steak Salad

(Serves 4)

2 sweet potatoes
2 limes
3 tablespoons roasted salted peanuts
4 steaks
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic
¼ ounce ginger
2 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce
8 ounces mixed lettuces
1 cup shredded red cabbage

1. Preheat oven to 450ºF. Rinse all produce. Halve sweet potatoes lengthwise and arrange cut-side down on cutting board. Then, cut each half lengthwise into 6 equal wedges. If you have a zester and want to infuse your dressing with even more flavor, zest up to 1 lime, then halve. Roughly chop peanuts, or leave in bag and gently crush with the bottom of a heavy pan.

2. On a baking sheet, toss sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired; transfer half to a separate sheet. Arrange in a single layer and roast, rotating sheets halfway through, until browned and tender, 20–25 minutes total.

3. While sweet potatoes roast, pat steaks dry with paper towel and season all over with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper as desired. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add steaks to pan and sear, working in batches and adding oil as needed, until browned and medium-rare, 4–6 minutes per side. Transfer steaks to a cutting board and set aside to rest.

4. Place peanuts in a small nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Toast, stirring, until light golden, 1–2 minutes. Add sugar to pan and cook, stirring frequently, until sugar begins to melt and cling to peanuts, 1–2 minutes. Add sesame seeds and pepper as desired, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds more. Remove pan from heat. Transfer sesame peanuts to a plate.

5. Mince garlic. Trim and discard skin of ginger and mince. Still on cutting board, combine minced garlic and ginger, then sprinkle over ⅛ teaspoon salt. (Here are our cheffy tips for mincing garlic and breaking down into a paste). Using a large knife, carefully scrape over mixture at a 45° angle, pressing down. Repeat until broken down and a paste forms. Transfer garlic-ginger paste to a large bowl (big enough for the salad), then add soy sauce, juice of 2 limes, lime zest (if using), and ¼ cup olive oil and whisk to combine.

6. Pat mixed lettuces dry with paper towel. Once rested, cut steaks against the grain into ¼-inch slices. Cutting meat against the grain ensures tenderness. Find the direction of the grain (muscle fibers) and slice across it, rather than parallel. To bowl with garlic-ginger vinaigrette, add cabbage, mixed lettuces, and roasted sweet potatoes and toss to coat. Divide salad among serving plates. Top with sliced steak and garnish with sesame peanuts.

Za'atar Carrot, Kale and Bulgar Salad

Tuesday: Za’atar Carrot, Kale, and Bulgur Salad

(Serves 4)

2 15-ounce cans white beans
12 ounces red beets
1 English cucumber
2 lemons
2 shallots
¾ cup shredded carrots
2 teaspoons za’atar spice mix
1 cup bulgur wheat
10 ounces curly kale
3 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic

1. Preheat oven to 450ºF. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Drain and rinse white beans and pat dry with paper towel. Rinse all produce. Peel beets and cut into ½-inch dice. Hold each beet in 1 hand with a paper towel (to keep from staining) and peel with the other. No peeler? Trim ends of beets and stand on your cutting board. Then, cut downward, following the curve of the beet. Halve cucumber lengthwise, then cut crosswise into ¼-inch halfmoons. If you have a zester and want to infuse your hummus with even more lemon flavor, zest up to ½ lemon, then halve lemons. Peel shallots, halve, and thinly slice.

2. Place shallots in a large bowl (big enough for the salad) with juice of ½ lemon and set aside to marinate until Step 5. On 1 half of a baking sheet, toss carrots and half of white beans with za’atar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¾ teaspoon salt, and pepper (a helper can do this part). On other half of sheet, toss beets with 1½ tablespoons olive oil. Arrange in a single layer and roast until vegetables are tender and white beans are crispy, 13–15 minutes.

3. While vegetables and white beans roast, season boiling water generously with salt. Stir in bulgur and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Using a fine-mesh sieve (the tiny grains will slip through most colanders), drain bulgur and return to pot, off heat. Meanwhile, pat kale dry with paper towel, stack leaves, and thinly slice, discarding long stems.

4. Once roasted, reserve ⅓ cup beets and set aside for Step 6. In a blender or food processor, add remaining roasted beets and pulse until almost smooth. No blender? Mince roasted beets (not reserved ¼ cup), garlic, and remaining white beans, combine in a bowl with remaining hummus ingredients, and mash with a fork or potato masher until smooth. Add tahini, whole garlic cloves, lemon zest (if using), remaining white beans, juice of ½ lemon, ¼ cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired. Blend until smooth. Use remaining lemon to brighten a glass of water.

5. To bowl with marinated shallots, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired and stir to combine. Add kale to bowl with dressing and, using your hands, massage until beginning to soften and darken, 30–45 seconds—this is a great task for a helper. Add cucumber and bulgur and toss to combine.

6. Divide kale and bulgur salad among shallow serving bowls. Top with roasted carrots and white beans and reserved roasted beets. Dollop over beet and white bean hummus or serve alongside (to get the look above, drag the back of a spoon through the hummus in each bowl).

Save this recipe and mix it up for a bright, colorful weekday lunch!

Crispy Tilapia

Wednesday: Crispy Tilapia

(Serves 4)

8 ounces plum tomato
1½ English cucumbers
3 red bell peppers
4 scallions
1 red onion
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 lemon
¾ cup rice flour
1¼ pounds tilapia

1. Rinse all produce. Roughly chop tomatoes and place in a blender or food processor. Quarter cucumber lengthwise, then cut crosswise into ¼- inch slices. Add half of sliced cucumber to blender with tomatoes; place remainder in a large bowl. Halve bell peppers lengthwise, discarding seeds and stem. Cut into ½-inch pieces and add to bowl with cucumber. Trim and discard scallion roots and thinly slice. Peel onion and cut into small dice.

2. Add sherry vinegar, cumin, and ⅓ cup diced red onion to blender with tomatoes and cucumber, and pulse until blended but still somewhat chunky. With motor running, stream in 3 tablespoons olive oil and pulse until mostly smooth. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and set aside. Don’t have a food processor or blender handy? Instead of roughly chopping your tomatoes and cucumber, chop them as finely as possible. In a large bowl, whisk together sherry vinegar, diced onion, cumin, olive oil, and salt until fully combined. Add finely chopped tomatoes and cucumber to bowl and stir to combine.

3. Halve lemons. Add remaining diced onion, half of scallions, juice of 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt to bowl with diced vegetables and toss to coat. Set aside to marinate in dressing until ready to serve.

4. Pour rice flour onto a large plate. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper as desired. Pat tilapia very dry with paper towel—doing so will help the rice flour stick to the fish in a thin layer, creating an evenly browned crust in the pan. Dredge tilapia in seasoned flour, pressing to adhere.

5. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add tilapia. You should hear it sizzle—if not, let the oil get a little hotter. Fry, working in batches and adding more oil as needed, until crust is crisp and fish is opaque, 3– 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, and sprinkle over ½ teaspoon salt.

6. Divide crispy tilapia among serving dishes. Spoon over gazpacho sauce, garnish with remaining scallions, and serve alongside summer salad.

Take advantage of this summery, refreshing dish before the warm weather slips away!

Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Spinach Salad

Thursday: Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Spinach Salad

(Serves 4)

4 boneless skin-on chicken breasts
8 ounces baby spinach
2 plums
2 celery stalks
3 dates
4 shallots
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
2 ounces goat cheese

1. Pat chicken very dry with paper towel. Patting the chicken very dry before seasoning and cooking will help the skin crisp up in the pan. Season all over with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add chicken skin-side down. If all the chicken doesn’t fit in the pan at once, work in batches, adding oil in between as needed. Sear until skin is golden and easily lifts from pan, 6 minutes. Flip; sear until cooked through and no longer pink, 6 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a cutting board. Set aside to rest; reserve pan, off heat.

2. While chicken cooks, rinse all produce. Pat spinach dry with paper towel. Slice off rounded sides of plums, discarding pits; thinly slice. Halve celery stalks lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise on a diagonal (see recipe tip). Roughly chop dates. Peel shallots, halve, and thinly slice.

3. Return pan from chicken to medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil. When oil is shimmering, add shallots and cook, stirring, until caramelized and tender, about 5 minutes. Add dates and ¼ cup water; reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring continuously and scraping up browned bits from pan, until shallots are browned, dates are soft, and water has evaporated, about 3 minutes more. Remove pan from heat.

4. To pan with caramelized shallots, still off heat, stir in butter, half of white balsamic vinegar, ¾ teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired to fully combine. Set chutney aside until ready to serve. In a large bowl (big enough for the salad), whisk together remaining white balsamic vinegar, ¼ cup olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired to combine.

5. Cut rested chicken into ¼-inch slices. To bowl with vinaigrette, add spinach, plums, and celery. Crumble over goat cheese and toss to coat.

6. Divide spinach salad among serving plates. Top with sliced chicken and dollop over shallot-date chutney.

Grilled Pork Chop

Friday: Grilled Pork Chop

(Serves 4)

3 peaches
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
12 ounces sugar snap peas
4 boneless pork chops
¼ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon fennel seed
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
½ ounce fresh basil
6 ounces baby arugula
2 ounces shaved Parmesan cheese
2½ tablespoons balsamic glaze

1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. No outdoor grill? Preheat a grill pan at the end of Step 3. Or, use a regular medium pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Sear pork, 3–5 minutes per side, working in batches and adding oil as needed. Then, sauté snap peas until bright green and tender, about 2 minutes. Skip cooking peaches—just slice into wedges for your salad! Rinse all produce. Rinse peaches and slice off rounded sides, discarding pits.

2. In a large bowl (big enough for the salad), whisk together white balsamic vinegar, mustard, ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired to combine, then set aside.

3. Place a large piece of foil on a clean, dry surface and add snap peas. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Fold edges of foil up together and crimp to seal pouch. Pat pork dry with paper towel, then rub all over with 1 tablespoon olive oil, spice mix, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Set aside to marinate at room temperature. If using a grill pan, place over medium-high heat now.

4. When grill is just smoking, add pouch of snap peas along with peaches, cut-side down. Grill peaches until charred and softened, about 2 minutes, then transfer to a plate, keeping peas on grill. Add pork to grill. Cook until pork is lightly charred, cooked through, and no longer pink, and peas are tender, 2–3 minutes per side. Transfer to plate with peaches, and cover pork loosely with foil to keep warm.

5. Cut grilled peaches into wedges and add to bowl with white balsamic vinaigrette. Roughly tear or chop basil leaves, discarding stems, and add to bowl with peaches, along with arugula, Parmesan, and grilled snap peas. Toss to coat with vinaigrette.

6. Divide peach salad among serving plates. Thinly slice grilled pork chops and arrange on top of salad. Drizzle over balsamic glaze.

Friday date night? Try this salad for two.

Love experimenting in the kitchen? Try Plated!

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