The salad days of summer are one of my favorite seasons to cook. Off goes the oven and stovetop. In their place are fresh, light entrees with a big flavor punch. Salads offer a nearly endless array of possibilities because you can easily swap in and out veggies, grains and dressings to suit your mood and the weather.

That’s really the premise of Chef Ilene Rosen’s inspiring “Saladish“. Salads can be fun, whimsical and still satisfying. They can reflect your personality and your mood. And – this is a reminder that I personally need! – salads are a year around affair. And no, that doesn’t mean six months of sad grocery store iceburg lettuce and pale, woody tomatoes.

Before We Start

Growing up, salads were incredibly simple dishes: lettuce, tomato and the bottled salad dressing of your choice. More exotic ingredients like croutons and black olives would appear for special meals. Salads were relegated to a plate on the side, away from the main action of the entree. In other words, salads were mostly boring sides only saved thanks to rich, fatty and salty pre-packaged dressings.

With the abundance of veggies in produce sections and farmers markets, today’s salad is a take-no-prisoners, star-of-the-show dish. The basics are simple to master and once you have them down, the only limits are your creativity. Chef Rosen provides scores of recipes that are easy to follow but that can also serve as springboard for your own designs.

Salad?! Where’s the Lettuce?

The first thing that you’ll probably notice about Ilene Rosen’s book is that it is divided into four seasons – yes, four. Saladish will convince you – like no other book I’ve seen – that salads can be a year-round delight if you focus on seasonally available ingredients and use a bit of creativity.

Take, for example, the summery Smoky, Spicy Okra and Cherry Tomatoes salad. Chipotle chilies in adobo offer a spicy, savory base to a salad that is sure to melt any iceberg that gets too close. Likewise, the Watermelon with Chrysanthemum and Shiso is refreshingly bright and herbaceous without a lettuce leaf anywhere to be seen. (Lettuce lovers, fear not! There are LOTS of recipes that include leafy greens as well!)

Healthy, satisfying and simple to prepare, salads can be made from anything and everything – and a salad makes a meal.

– Chef Rosen

And that brings us to the second thing that you’ll likely notice about Saladish. The recipes are – by and large – easy and quick to prepare. The okra and tomato salad, for example, has six ingredients (two of which are salt and pepper) and six steps. The watermelon salad? Seven ingredients (yep, two of them are salt and pepper) and one – you read that right, one! – step. Even more elaborate recipes – like the Acorn Squash with Green Olives and Curry Dressing – are easy to follow, even if the list of ingredients is slightly longer.


Best of All

Not all the recipes in Chef Rosen’s book are vegan, or even vegetarian – and that’s ok. At the end of the book, she includes a wonderful table that notes “vegetarian,” “vegan,” and “gluten free” so that you can quickly find recipes that match your dietary preferences. Better yet, the table also include easy tweaks you can make to transform a recipe into v, v, or gf if the recipe wasn’t originally designed that way.

Use these recipes as a point of departure for your own creative journeys.

– Chef Rosen

Joseph De Leo’s stunning photos perfectly capture the spirit and beauty of the recipes in Saladish. The photos capture the ease and colorful beauty of Chef Rosen’s dishes and will definitely have you dreaming of your next salad. For countless hours of inspiration and fantastic meals, you can’t go wrong with Saladish!