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Arugula salad
Pesto gives this salad a delightful punch. Photo Credit: Renee Comet /USA WEEKEND. Food Styling /Lisa Cherkasky.

Turn this salad into a main dish!

Top with one of the following:
• Slices of rotisserie chicken
• A handful of drained cannellini beans
• Canned, flaked tuna (packed in water or olive oil)

More

Tired of your typical ho-hum lettuce, tomato and cucumber salad? With the same few ingredients and minimal effort, you can have one that is bursting with flavor; all you need to do is break out of the ordinary.

First, swap out your usual lettuce — try baby spinach, watercress, mesclun or, as I have here, peppery arugula — the darker the better, because deeply hued greens pack more nutrition.

Then add two toppers. On the raw front consider radishes, avocado, grated carrot, red cabbage or even cut fruit like grapes, peaches, plums or berries. Also try cooked vegetables that may be in your fridge from an earlier meal, like roasted beets or steamed green beans and asparagus. And don’t rule out jarred items like roasted red peppers, marinated mushrooms and the artichoke hearts that add so much appeal to this dish.

The other star of this salad is pesto (use fresh or already prepared), which when mixed with a touch of vinegar transforms into a punchy herbaceous dressing. It is as simple as can be, yet delightful.

Peppery Arugula Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette

• 1 medium ripe tomato, cored and chopped (about 1 cup)
• 1 cup jarred artichoke hearts packed in water, drained, rinsed and quartered
• 5 ounces baby arugula (about 5 cups lightly packed)
• 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
• 2 Tbs. Simple Basil Pesto or purchased basil pesto

Arrange the tomato and artichoke hearts over a bed of arugula. Whisk together the vinegar and pesto, drizzle over the salad and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Per serving (includes 1 Tb. dressing): 60 calories, 4g carbohydrates, 3g protein, 4g fat (1g saturated), 1.5g fiber, 2.5mg cholesterol, 73mg sodium

Simple Basil Pesto

• ¼ cup pine nuts
• 1 clove garlic, peeled
• 3 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
• ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• 1 Tb. fresh lemon juice
• ¼ cup olive oil
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Toast the pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and golden brown, shaking the pan frequently, about 3 minutes. In a food processor, process the pine nuts and garlic together until minced. Add the basil, Parmesan and lemon juice and process until finely minced. With the machine running, slowly pour the oil in a steady stream through the feed tube and process until well blended. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes: ¾ cup

Per serving (3 Tbs.): 207 calories, 3g carbohydrates, 3g protein, 21g fat (3g saturated), 1.5g fiber, 1mg cholesterol, 62mg sodium

Recipe reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Taunton Press Inc., from The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life, by Ellie Krieger. Copyright by Ellie Krieger.

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Ellie Krieger is host of the The Food Network’s hit show “Healthy Appetite,” which airs on The Cooking Channel. The author of three cookbooks, her latest is Comfort Food Fix: Feel Good Favorites Made Healthy. A registered dietitian, Ellie has helped out with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and has teamed up with New York City SchoolFood initiative, where she created healthy, delicious menu items for students citywide.