We know how good it is for us, we know how easy it is to throw together and yet—the salad we've been leaning on for years is starting to feel a little tired. (Ours is romaine, half moons of red onion, olive oil, red-wine vinegar and a twist of black pepper.) Servable, yet hardly surprising.

When we searched for a replacement, though, we often found that contenders required too many weird ingredients, took too long to assemble or just didn't go with the entrées in our weeknight repertoire. Until we found this refreshing, crunchy, subtly sweet and just-a-little savory bowl.

We have Cara Mangini to thank; she runs the produce-inspired restaurant Little Eater, in Columbus, Ohio, and has just written The Vegetable Butcher, a root-to-leaf guide to 100 vegetables. Her salad starts with red leaf, which is a little unexpected but still just as accessible as romaine, and available year-round in most supermarkets. Its ruffled leaves are tender, though not as delicate as, say, bibb lettuce, and red-leaf lettuce has a beautiful color that changes from red to green on nearly every piece.

Grilled corn adds another dimension, but if your corn is very fresh, Mangini says you don't need to cook it; just shave the kernels off the cob and toss them directly into the salad. The other ingredients are thinly sliced peaches, diced avocado, toasted walnuts and crumbled feta cheese—so you get a little sweetness, creaminess, some crunch and a touch of tanginess. The dressing Mangini suggests is honey vinaigrette, though lemon vinaigrette works, too.

The best part? This recipe is a great reminder that you can always use lettuce as a base to show off every season's best ingredients. Just follow this basic formula: greens + seasonal vegetable and/or fruit + cheese and/or egg + nuts. Throughout the year, it's an easy way to elevate a simple green salad to one that threatens to upstage the main course.

Get the recipe: Red-Leaf Lettuce Salad with Grilled Corn, Peaches, Avocado and Walnuts


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