Make-Ahead Salads for Dinner: A Handy Chart from Jeanne Kelley

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When the weather warms up, we start craving big bowls of cool, crunchy salad for dinner. But a good dinner salad is more than just greens and dressing; it should be full of satisfying goodies like meat, cheese, nuts, cooked vegetables and grains, which can all be prepped beforehand. How far ahead of time can you wash, chop and cook all the components of a great main-course salad? I talked to Jeanne Kelley, author of Salad for Dinner, who shared her handy schedule for keeping your fridge and pantry stocked with ready-to-use ingredients for fun and sophisticated salads for dinner.

"Many green salads come together quickly," says Jeanne. "But in order to create more varied, fun and sophisticated salads, you’ll have to log a little more kitchen time." Luckily, all that washing, chopping, marinating and roasting can be done up to a week ahead of time and kept on hand for salads throughout the week. Here is Jeanne's handy chart for prepping common ingredients, which makes multi-component salads a quick weeknight meal option or an easy addition to a summer dinner party.

Schedule for Great Make-Ahead Salads

ONE WEEK AHEAD

  • Roast and chill beets.
  • Hard-boil and chill eggs.
  • Glaze nuts and store in a jar.

THREE TO FOUR DAYS AHEAD

TWO DAYS AHEAD

  • Prep vegetables that need to be cooked and chilled. Green beans, asparagus and potatoes can be boiled or steamed. Carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, eggplant and peppers can be roasted.
  • Cook and chill grains such as barley, farro and bulgur.
  • Roast chicken.
  • Bake croutons and crostini.

ONE DAY AHEAD

  • Marinate meats and chicken for grilling.
  • Chop and slice durable vegetables such as celery, radishes, bell pepper and jicama.
  • Tortilla and wonton strips can be fried and kept at room temperature.
A FEW HOURS AHEAD
  • Crumble, grate, slice, dice or shave cheese
  • Slice or dice cured meats such as ham, chorizo and salami. 
  • Fry, cool and crumble bacon
  • Tear or chop washed greens.

Just looking at this list is inspiring me to stock my fridge with lots of yummy salad mix-ins this week. Thanks, Jeanne!

Check out Jeanne Kelley's website
→ Find her book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Salad for Dinner: Complete Meals for All Seasons

What are your favorite salads to eat for dinner?

(Image: Thai Grilled Steak Salad/Anjali Prasertong)