Chaya's chopped salad

Chaya's chopped salad (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Honestly, could it get any better than salad sometimes? Big, beautiful, colorful -- and so often simple -- salads are a perfect choice when you're planning dinner in a pinch. Tailor the components just so to please picky dinner guests, or fix one as a vehicle to use up leftovers in the fridge -- salads are easy that way.

Go for a spin with the chopped salad from Chaya. Chopped romaine lettuce tossed with fresh corn, avocado, cucumber and nicely spiced shrimp, this Chaya's chopped salad is fresh and bright, and it packs no shortage of heat from its jalapeño-spiced dressing.

Or try the tricolore salad from Nancy Silverton. A simple yet colorful blend of nicely assertive lettuces (arugula, frisée and endive), the salad is tossed with a homemade anchovy dressing and topped with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

PHOTOS: 15 easy dinner ideas, from pasta to enchiladas, shrimp skewers and more

Craving chicken? Try Nordstrom's chopped chicken salad. Both tart fresh apple slices and dried apple chips flavor this salad, tossed with sliced onion, lightly spiced candied almonds, julienned strips of chicken and creamy goat cheese. The salad is tossed with a bright Champagne vinaigrette. The whole recipe, including the candied almonds, comes together in about an hour, perfect as a side or a light meal.

For more easy dinner recipes, click through our photo gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less.


Total time: 50 minutes

Servings: 4

Note: Adapted from Chaya. For the celery seed powder, grind celery seeds in a spice or coffee grinder, or use a mortar and pestle.


2 jalapeños

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Juice from 1 lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

1. Roast the jalapeños: Place the jalapeños on a rack set over a stove-top burner and roast until charred on all sides. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then peel and seed.

2. In a blender, combine the jalapeños, mayonnaise, lemon juice and olive oil, and blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This makes about 1 cup dressing. Cover and chill until needed.

Sautéed shrimp

1 tablespoon chili powder