Raw vegetable salads lend simplicity, convenience, elegance and a good dose of vegetables to a meal all at the same time. The basic formula is easy: choose three or four different vegetables you’d eat raw (corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, fennel, carrots, radishes, cabbage, radicchio, endive, sweet or green onions), add in some cheese (feta, mozzarella, Swiss, cubed parmesan) and / or toasted nut or seed (pecans, almonds, pine nuts), and toss it all with any simple vinaigrette and some chopped fresh herbs (parsley, marjoram, chives, thyme).
Raw vegetable salads are especially good in summer when the garden and farmers markets are bountiful. They’re refreshing and light, contrast nicely with grilled meats and simply cooked grains (rice, couscous, quinoa), and can even serve as the main taste and flavor component of a meal. They can be made ahead and chilled so their flavors have time to meld, then brought out an hour or so before you serve dinner to come to room temperature. Cut the vegetables into large pieces for a more traditional “salad,” and into smaller pieces for more of a relish feel.