Lighter Fare

Balance out the rich fare from the Fair and whip up lighter meals at home with a Spinach Tabouli recipe, Lemony Seafood Linguine, and a roundup of more than 12 recipes
Spinach Tabouli

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

I love the cheese curds, corn dogs, turkey sandwich, mini donuts, and chocolate chip cookies out at the Fair. After the excursion is over, however, I find myself craving some vegetables, a salad, or anything lighter when it comes time for the next meal—or maybe for days to come. If that sounds familiar to you after a visit to the Fair, or you are just looking for some lighter meal ideas, here is a take on tabouli that includes some optional chickpeas for a punch of protein, and a seafood pasta that isn’t weighed down with a heavy white sauce, but just a touch of cream to keep it lighter yet carry the flavors through the dish. Plus, I highlight more than a dozen recipes for lighter food in links below–no deep-fried food in the mix.

Spinach Tabouli

Makes 6 Servings | Recipe by Robin Asbell from Real Food

Tabouli is a Middle Eastern salad made with whole-grain bulgur and usually a few handfuls of fresh parsley. In this version, sweet, tender spinach takes the place of parsley for a bright green salad that can even serve as a light meal on its own—especially with the optional chickpeas.

1 cup bulgur
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups water
6 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups (one 4-ounce package) baby spinach, packed, minced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
¾ ounce fresh mint leaves, minced
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

  1. In a small pot, bring the water to a boil, then add the bulgur and salt and return to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes. When all the water is absorbed, take off the heat, fluff with a fork, and let cool. This can be made a day ahead and refrigerated, tightly covered.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add the bulgur and toss to mix.
  3. Add the spinach, cucumber, pepper, mint and chickpeas, and mix well.
  4. Serve at room temperature, or chill for up to 3 days.

Nutrition info Spinach Tabouli (per serving): Calories: 340, Fat: 20g (Sat: 3g), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 390 mg, Carb: 36g, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 3g, Protein: 7g

Lemony Seafood Linguine

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

Lemony Seafood Linguine

Makes 6 Servings | Recipe by Robin Asbell from Real Food

Succulent shrimp and crab tossed with a creamy, lemon-kissed sauce make this pasta a treat. Instead of a heavy white sauce, you’ll add just enough cream to coat the pasta and veggies and carry the flavors through the dish. In Italian tradition, seafood pastas are not sprinkled with Parmesan, but if you want to start your own tradition, feel free to add some.

12 ounces linguine
2 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 (5-inch) carrots, scrubbed and quartered lengthwise, then cut in 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons salted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound large shrimp (fresh or frozen and thawed), peeled and deveined
6 ounces refrigerated canned lump crab meat, drained (or 12 ounces king crab leg, flesh removed and torn)
¾ cup heavy cream
½ cup fresh dill, chopped, plus more for garnish

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Prep vegetables and reserve.
  2. Put pasta in boiling water to cook; it should take about 10 minutes. Drain well.
  3. Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat, then add the carrots, mushrooms, red bell pepper and lemon zest and sauté, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and shrimp to the pan and stir, increasing the heat to medium-high until the shrimp turn pink, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and bring to a boil, stirring until the liquids thicken, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add the drained pasta, crab and dill to the pan and toss to mix. Stir until the crab is just heated through. Serve hot, garnished with dill sprigs.

Nutrition info Lemony Seafood Linguine (per serving): Calories: 420, Fat: 17g (Sat: 10 g), Cholesterol: 160 mg, Sodium: 860 mg, Carb: 46g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 4g, Protein: 24g

Recipe Roundup

Check out these recipes for lettuce wraps, salads, and dressings I have highlighted on this site.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps Three Ways:

Chicken Teriyaki Lettuce Wraps Recipe

Deliciously glazed chicken combines with plenty of crunchy raw vegetables to make a refreshingly bright summer meal—in lettuce or atop rice or noodles.

Hawaiian Chicken in Lettuce Leaves Recipe

This tangy sweet chicken in lettuce leaves is fresh and light and comes together in a snap—it’s perfect for dining al fresco at home or on a picnic

Roasted Vietnamese Lettuce-Wrap Chicken Recipe

A make-ahead dish brings juicy roasted chicken to the table for a lighter bite.

Whole-Meal Salads

Spiced Chicken and Couscous Salad + More Cool Salad Recipes

A cool, whole-meal salad is just the ticket for lunch or dinner—but it doesn’t have to be the same-old salad and toppings thrown together. Check out this recipe and more.

Popcorn Salad Recipe

Gluten-free popcorn brings a different crunch to savory salad

Autumn Harvest Salad

Apples join spinach, dried cranberries, and a little bacon—which makes everything better—in a nutrient-packed salad.

Chicken Florentine Salad with Lemon-Parmesan Vinaigrette

This Italian-inspired spinach salad with orzo makes a light and delicious one-dish meal.

Grilled Vegetable and Bratwurst Salad Recipe

Think “outside the bun” and enjoy summer’s favorite grilled brats in a fresh veggie salad for a low-carb alternative

Chicken and Blueberry Farfalle Salad Recipe

A quick and easy fresh take on chicken pasta salad mixes in fragrant fruitiness and a crunch of walnuts

Curry Chicken and Mango Salad with Couscous Recipe

Can your usual repertoire of salads use a little mixing up? Here is an idea to turn everyday chicken salad into a sumptuous and tantalizing meal-in-one dish

Greek Wheat Berry Salad with Oregano Chicken and Halloumi Cheese Recipe

A medley of flavors and textures keep salad season interesting

Creamy Bacon Vinaigrette + Creamy Lemon Tahini Dressing Recipes

You need some solid salad dressing recipes in your repertoire—these easy-to-make flavorful options will liven up summer salads

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.