CATHI LITZENBERGER: Take a break from lettuce

Salads

Salads are a favourite in the summer when vegetables and fruits are fresh and plentiful.

Today I have two recipes that offer a change from the same old, same old. The first is a Tex-Mex favourite chicken taco salad with a creamy reduced-fat dressing which tames the fire of the chipotle peppers in the recipe. You can substitute the hot peppers for a milder pepper if you wish. The second recipe is a Middle Eastern salad that is crunchy and bursting with flavours.

Warm Chicken Taco Salad

Dressing:

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

1 -2 tsp. puréed canned chipotle pepper (or use fresh hot pepper)

1 tsp. ground cumin

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt

Chicken:

1 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

Grated zest of 1 lime

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Olive oil

Salad:

6 cups torn romaine lettuce

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

2 cups lightly crushed corn tortilla chips

1 English cucumber, chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped (about 3/4 cup)

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 can (12 oz) corn kernels, drained and rinsed

Dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients except the salt. Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to 1 day to let flavours develop.

Chicken: Preheat oven to 375 F or barbecue grill to medium-high. In a small bowl, combine paprika, brown sugar, salt and lime zest. Rub over both sides of chicken breasts. Brush chicken lightly with oil. If baking, place on a greased baking sheet. Bake or grill for about 15 minutes, turning once, until no longer pink inside. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Salad: In a large bowl, combine lettuce, tomatoes, tortilla chips, cucumber, green onions, red pepper and corn. Add dressing and toss gently to coat. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and slice diagonally into thin strips. Arrange on top of salad. Serves 4.

Variation: Add a peeled, sliced avocado or mango, or 2 cups drained, rinsed canned black beans. You could also use grilled shrimp instead of the chicken.

Fattoush

Dressing:

4 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. grated lemon zest

4 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. salt

Freshly ground pepper

Salad:

2 pitas, opened

2 romaine lettuce hearts, chopped

3 large tomatoes, cut into large pieces

1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and coarsely chopped

1 bunch radishes, trimmed and quartered (about 1-1/4 cups)

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 large red onion, very thinly sliced

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint

Dressing: In a bowl, whisk together oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Salad: Preheat broiler. Broil pitas, turning once, for about 4 minutes or until crisp on both sides. Let cool and break into bite-size pieces. In a large salad bowl, combine romaine, tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, red pepper, red onion, parsley and mint. Add dressing and gently toss to coat. Sprinkle with pita pieces. Serves 6-8.

Variation: Use a bunch of chopped green onions in place of red onion. You can also use fresh thyme or oregano in place of the fresh mint.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist.