Even if summer didn’t mean bountiful harvests, the season’s soaring temperature increases the desire for cool, light and crisp dishes – like green salads.

And, for those of us who live solo, a salad often makes the easiest and quickest meal. The first trick is having enough ingredients on hand to make an interesting combination. The second is using them up before they’re past their prime.

As supermarkets focus increasingly on selling pre-packaged produce, I find that farmers markets offer the solo cook greater access to the tastiest seasonal choices, including those not easily found in large chains. And, since most of their produce is not pre-packaged, farmers markets make it easy to buy small amounts of many offerings.

Local farmers can present endless ways to vary your salad’s ingredients: fresh-from-the-earth coriander, tiny heads of lettuce just large enough for one, different types of garlic (including one that’s green) ranging from mellow to assertive, lamb’s quarters (wild spinach), celeriac and delicate but edible and delicious squash blossoms.

In addition to making summer salads fun and innovative, the variety of ingredients eaten at a meal has been found to be healthful in a way we are just beginning to appreciate. Researchers have found that when the health-protective substances in produce – called phytochemicals – are joined together, they boost each other’s power and produce more than a double effect in warding off disease. In other words, one plus one can equal three.

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I use several tactics for buying and storing ingredients for my salads. They save me time and minimize waste. I buy one kind of lettuce at a time, varying my choice among crisp romaine, bright green-leaf, soft red-tipped and tender Boston. Taken apart, with the leaves unwashed and rolled like a jellyroll in dry paper toweling, a lettuce head keeps a few days.

Other ingredients I like are Kirby cucumbers, which taste great and serve one; cherry tomatoes, which also taste wonderful and don’t leave a cut-up piece to spoil in the fridge; and loose baby spinach or other greens. So buy small amounts, store ingredients with care and enjoy the best single-serving green salads.

Green Salad for One

  • 2 romaine lettuce leaves, torn in bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup washed spinach leaves
  • 1/2 small green bell pepper, cut in rings
  • 1 medium mushroom, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup grated carrot
  • 3 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 oz. reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 Tbsp. roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/8 tsp. salt or to taste, if desired
  • Freshly-ground black pepper, if desired
  • Juice of 1/2 small lemon
  1. In a large bowl, toss lettuce and spinach. Arrange pepper rings, mushroom slices, carrots and cherry tomatoes in layers over greens.
  2. Sprinkle cheese over salad, then pumpkin seeds.
  3. For dressing, sprinkle salt over salad, then drizzle with lemon juice. Or, use your favorite fat-free bottled salad dressing.

    Makes 1 serving.
    Per serving: 83 calories, 3 g. fat (1 g. saturated fat), 12 g. carbohydrate, 5 g. protein, 3 g. dietary fiber, 215 mg. sodium.

Credits: Dana Jacobi, AICR