Five Weeknight Dishes: This chopped salad is flexible and fun

By Emily Weinstein, The New York Times

There are times when you don’t want to cook, and there are times when you can’t bear to cook — that extra tablespoon of desperation keeps you from walking into the kitchen and turning on the stove. I feel that most acutely at the height of the summer, when it’s just too hot to do much of anything.

So: Don’t cook! And if you do decide to cook, keep it minimal. The recipes below are fast, summery and require little in the way of effort.

1. Chopped Salad With Jalapeño-Ranch Dressing

This chopped salad is fresh, festive and excessive in a celebratory way. While most salads opt for the lightest layer of dressing to optimize the produce’s flavors, this one calls for the dressing to generously coat the crisp ingredients. Inspired by Caesar salad, ranch dressing and the dinner-worthy salads popularized at chain restaurants such as California Pizza Kitchen, this salad is punchy and satisfying, thanks to rich ingredients, including avocado, Cotija and a mayonnaise-thickened dressing, plus those with bite, including radishes, corn kernels and tortilla chips. Pair the salad with grilled tofu, chicken, shrimp or burgers — or nothing at all. This salad eschews subtlety, and hits all the right notes.

By Alexa Weibel

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 20 minutes


For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 large scallions, trimmed and finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeño with its seeds (or to taste)
  • 1 lime, zested
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal) and black pepper

For the salad:

  • 3 romaine hearts (about 1 pound), trimmed and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 3 fresh ears of corn, shucked, kernels removed from cobs
  • 8 radishes, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into half-moons
  • 2 large, ripe avocados, pitted and diced
  • 5 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced at an angle
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Cotija (or grated Parmesan)
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro, leaves and tender stems
  • 2 cups crumbled lime tortilla chips (optional)


1. Prepare the dressing: In a large measuring cup, whisk all of the dressing ingredients together to combine. Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. (Makes 1 1/4 cups. It will taste quite salty at this point, and that is intentional. You want it to hold up when tossed with a big pile of vegetables.)

2. In a large shallow bowl or platter, toss the romaine with half of the following ingredients: corn, radishes, avocado, sliced scallions, Cotija and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add 1/2 cup dressing and toss to coat. Season again with salt and pepper.

3. Top with the remaining corn, radishes, avocado, scallions, Cotija and cilantro, scattering the garnishes on top or arranging them in stripes or piles. Sprinkle some crumbled tortilla chips on top, if using. Drizzle the salad with an additional 1/4 cup dressing, and serve immediately, serving any remaining dressing and additional tortilla chips alongside.

2. Grilled Salmon

Salmon is the perfect fish for grilling: It’s rich-flavored and intrinsically fatty, which keeps it from drying out when exposed to the high, dry heat of the fire. So why do so many cooks leave half the fish stuck to the grate when grilling it? Nerves are part of it: The moment you put the fish on the grill, you may feel compelled to move it, thereby proving to yourself it hasn’t stuck. When fish first hits the grill, it will stick — that’s the nature of piscine protein. The secret is to let it grill for a few minutes without touching it, after which the proteins will release from the hot metal. These two other techniques guarantee stick-free fish: First, select fish steaks, which are less prone to falling apart than fillets. Second, slather the fish with mayonnaise-mustard sauce before grilling. The mayonnaise acts as a lubricant to keep the fish from sticking.

By Steven Raichlen

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 35 minutes


  • 4 center-cut salmon steaks, each 3/4- to 1-inch thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup grainy mustard or Dijon-style mustard
  • Neutral oil, for greasing the grill grate


1. Season the salmon steaks on both sides with salt and pepper.

2. Combine the mayonnaise and mustard in a small bowl and whisk to mix. Using a spoon, spread some of the mixture on the fish on both sides (about 2 tablespoons per side).

3. Light your grill and heat to high. Brush or scrape the grill grate clean and oil it well: Fold a paper towel into a tight pad. Dip it in a small bowl of oil, and, holding it at the end of your grill tongs, draw it over the bars of the grate.

4. Arrange the salmon steaks diagonally on the hot grill grates and lower the lid to cover. Grill the fish on one side, undisturbed, for 3 to 4 minutes. By the time the bottoms of the salmon steaks show grill marks, they will release easily from the hot grates; turn them over with a thin-bladed spatula.

5. Spoon the remaining mustard mayonnaise on top, in the center of each salmon steak. Close the grill lid and grill the second side until the grill marks are browned on top and the salmon feels semi-firm when pinched between your thumb and forefinger on the sides.

6. Transfer the salmon to a platter or plates and serve.

3. Grilled Chicken With Charred-Scallion Chimichurri

Bright and tangy chimichurri gets a deep smoky hit from charred scallions. This entire weeknight meal is prepared on the grill, taking advantage of tender chicken cutlets that cook up in just 5 minutes. Grilling lettuce brings out its inherent sweetness, and here, romaine gets caramelized on the outside to complement cool, crisp centers. Any leftover scallion chimichurri makes a tasty sandwich spread, or pairs beautifully with roasted salmon or steak.

By Kay Chun

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 30 minutes


  • Vegetable oil, for greasing
  • 2 large heads (about 1 1/2 pounds) romaine lettuce, trimmed and quartered
  • 12 scallions, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved and pounded 1/4-inch-thick
  • 1/2 cup packed parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


1. Heat grill to medium-high and lightly grease grates with vegetable oil.

2. Meanwhile, toss romaine and scallions with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in an even layer and grill, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and softened all over, about 5 minutes for the romaine and scallion greens, and about 10 minutes for the scallion bulbs. Transfer romaine to a large serving platter. Transfer scallions to a cutting board and let cool, then coarsely chop.

3. Rub chicken with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until golden underneath, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until chicken is golden and cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a platter.

4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, prepare the chimichurri: Combine parsley, vinegar, garlic, oregano, red-pepper flakes, chopped grilled scallions and the remaining 3/4 cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Divide chicken and romaine among plates and drizzle with some of the chimichurri. Serve with lemon wedges and extra chimichurri on the side.

4. Soy-Butter Corn Ramen

This easy, one-pot noodle recipe employs the sweetness of summer corn to balance out the umami of the butter and soy sauce. It’s a nod to wafu pasta dishes, which fuse Japanese and Italian cooking traditions, flavors and ingredients. Corn cobs are used in this recipe to create a quick, sweet corn-infused water to cook the noodles. (Don’t be tempted to add more water, as the amount specified will yield perfectly al dente noodles with just the right amount of broth, which intensifies as it concentrates.) The corn kernels go in at the last minute, which mutes any raw notes while maintaining sweetness and crispness. Although light enough for summer, this dish has depth.

By Hetty Lui McKinnon

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 35 minutes


  • 4 ears corn, husked
  • 4 scallions, trimmed, white and green parts thinly sliced and separated
  • 4 blocks/12 ounces instant dried ramen noodles, flavor packets discarded
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup vegan or regular unsalted butter


1. Snap each corn cob in half to make them easier to handle. Slice the corn kernels off the cobs, and add the cobs to a large pot, along with the white parts of the scallions. Add 5 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, until the smell of corn permeates the kitchen.

2. Uncover and discard the cobs. Add the noodle blocks to the water and, using chopsticks or tongs, turn the noodles until they loosen up and then cook until most of the water has been absorbed, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the corn kernels, soy sauce and butter and toss for 1 to 2 minutes, until the noodles are tender, and the corn is barely cooked and still sweet.

4. Divide among bowls, top with the scallion greens and serve immediately.

5. Tuna Mayo Rice Bowl

This homey dish takes comforting canned tuna to richer, silkier heights. Mayonnaise helps to hold the tuna together and toasted sesame oil lends incomparable nuttiness. You can adjust the seasonings to your taste: Use as much or as little soy sauce as you’d like for a savory accent. You can lean into the nuttiness of this rice bowl by sowing the top with toasted sesame seeds, or amp up the savoriness with furikake or scallions. A staple of home cooking in Hawaii and South Korea (where it is sometimes called deopbap), this simple meal is a workday workhorse.

By Eric Kim

Yield: 1 serving

Total time: 5 minutes


  • 1 (5-ounce) can tuna (preferably any variety stored in oil), well drained
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 cup cooked white rice (preferably short- or medium-grain)
  • Toasted white or black sesame seeds, furikake or chopped scallions, for topping (optional)


1. In a small bowl, stir the tuna, mayonnaise, sesame oil and soy sauce to combine.

2. Add the white rice to a bowl and spoon the tuna mixture on top. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, furikake or scallions, if using.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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