For Michael Symon, great salads go far beyond a pile of greens. And they need to earn their keep.
"For me, a great salad is much more than just greens. It should be something that really highlights the season and the vegetables that are at their peak at that time," Symon, an award-winning restaurateur and Food Network Iron Chef, said in an email interview.
Just don't include iceberg lettuce.
"I can't stand iceberg," he said. "It has no flavor or personality. It's like eating chopped green ice."
Symon - who also favors sharply acidic dressings like his mom used on her tomato salads - relies on salads to play a specific role in his cooking.
"Since I tend to cook with a lot of fattier proteins, I like to serve them topped with or accompanied by a salad, as opposed to a heavier starch," he said. "It keeps things crisp and fresh and helps cut through the richness of the protein."
Symon offered a simple summer salad inspired by what grows in his home garden and dressed with a spicy jalapeno-yogurt blend.
"I know I'm going to be grilling out a lot, so I want to create a salad that goes great with a big piece of grilled meat," he said. "I love serving this either with a grilled half of a chicken, grilled lamb chops or a rib eye."
Michael Symon's Summer Salad
Start to finish: 20 minutes
For the dressing:
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (remove the seeds first for less heat)
1 tablespoon plain Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
To make the dressing, in a small bowl combine the garlic, jalapeno, yogurt and vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, then stir in the mint and parsley. Set aside.
For the salad:
2 cups arugula
1 pound assorted heirloom tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 cup diced cucumber
4 scallions, grilled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup marcona almonds, roughly chopped
2 cups of cooked faro (a grain sold alongside the rice and couscous)
In a large bowl, combine the arugula, tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, almonds and faro. Drizzle with the dressing, tossing gently to coat evenly.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 351 calories; 221 calories from fat (63 percent of total calories); 25 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 27 g carbohydrate; 11 g protein; 7 g fiber; 118 mg sodium.