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Springtime means colorful salads

By Channing Fullaway-Johnson, culinary coordinator, Community Education, Lincoln Land Community College

As the weather keeps getting warmer, it's time to start including more salads in our weekly meal planning. Keep in mind that greens and dressing are not the only ingredients that make a salad great. Salads come in a plethora of varieties that can be nutritionally dense, well-balanced and fill our plates. A better salad incorporates a wide range of colors and vegetables!
It's a terrific time to find fresh vegetables, honey and other items from local farmers and businesses as the local farmers market opens around Springfield. Remember that rainbow-colored salads are ideal for summer. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, have a crunch and come in a range of colors. Red, yellow and orange bell peppers can have vivid colors and a high vitamin C content. A salad can be made heartier and more filling by adding cooked grains, like quinoa and farro. Cooking grains in advance is simple, and they keep well in the refrigerator for several days when cooled and kept in an airtight container. Another excellent easy source of fiber, protein and other vitamins and minerals is low-sodium canned beans, including chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans. 
Preparing vinaigrettes is very simple. Don’t stress, and keep in mind that simplicity is best when it comes to dressings and vinaigrettes. The classic French technique, which calls for one part vinegar and two parts oil, is my personal preference. Take, for example, one tablespoon of red wine vinegar and two tablespoons of olive oil. This is the foundation for most vinaigrettes, and you can personalize it from there. When you emulsify the vinegar and oil together, you can reduce the amount of dressing separation by adding a little mustard or honey. To enhance the taste of freshness in any vinaigrette, incorporate fresh herbs and citrus.

Grilled chicken or steak pairs very well with the fun, fresh salad I included below. It is time to get that grill ready and have fun adding the rainbow to your next meal.


  • 1/2-pound, trimmed asparagus (you want to trim the lower 1/3 off)
  • 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and medium diced
  • 5-6 radishes, trimmed and cut into small wedges
  • 1 English cucumber, quartered long ways and chopped
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onion, minced
  • 1 pint package of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup any olives (my favorite to use is kalamata, pitted)
  • 1/4 cup jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese or gorgonzola


  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 cup white wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme or 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 tsp. stone-ground mustard
  • Pinch of salt and pepper


First, blanch the asparagus ever so briefly to take the raw edge off. I bring a pan of salted water to a boil, add the asparagus to the water and remove after about 60 seconds. It is best to set a timer, so they do not overcook. Submerge the asparagus into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and preserve the color. Once completely cooled, dry on a clean towel. Slice into 2-inch pieces.

To make the vinaigrette: Vigorously whisk together the ingredients until emulsified together. Always taste and adjust as needed. Set aside.

Add the asparagus, chickpeas, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, bell pepper, red onions, tomatoes and the olives to a large mixing bowl. Toss with enough dressing to thoroughly coat, and season with salt and pepper as needed. For the best result of flavor, let the salad chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour until it is ready to serve.

Toss the salad, and add more dressing if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl, and top with the feta cheese.


Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management and Baking/Pastry, and non-credit cooking and food classes through LLCC Community Education.

Cooking or food questions? Email