THE equation of wilting summer weather plus an abundance of local produce inescapably equals more salads. But not just simple tomato and cucumber side dishes. Big, bright main-course salads that can get us through a meal with nothing else save a loaf of crusty bread and a glass of iced tea. ''We are in the age of main-course salads. It's the way people eat today. They're light and healthy but not fatty,'' says Steven Raichlen, author of High-Flavor, Low-Fat Cooking (Camden House). Raichlen touches on one of the main bugaboos of main-course salads, and salads in general: fat. You load up at the salad bar with ingredients so fresh they scream, ''healthy!'' Raichlen says the key to lowering the fat thermostat with main-course summer salads is to use ingredients with intense flavours, flavours that give the body (and the mind) the same mouth-feel that mayonnaise and sour cream do. Ingredients such as balsamic vinegar, fresh herbs, mustards, garlic, ginger, chillies, lemon grass and star anise. Here are some strategies for flavourful main-course salads with a minimum of fat. Choose quality produce that is at the peak of freshness. Leafy and crunchy vegetables don't always satisfy by themselves, so pair them with grains from rice to barley. When combined with beans, they can be as filling as meat. I asked Raichlen to name his favourite three ingredients that offer maximum flavour and minimum of fat. He said lemon juice (''It brings any dish into focus, like the lens of a camera''), extra-virgin olive oil (''the one fat that has a dynamic flavour component as well as mouth-feel'') and fresh mint (''It's such a cool, refreshing flavour''). I'd add sesame oil, which, ounce for ounce, packs more flavour than any other oil. To compensate for using less oil, crank up the flavour with vinegars, especially sherry vinegar (great with oranges, red onions, olives) and balsamic vinegar. Mayonnaise anddairy products can pile on the fat in a hurry. However, low or non-fat yogurt works as well as regular yogurt. Sometimes a little sweetness can make up for fat. Add a few drops of honey in your dressing or sprinkle the salad (if appropriate) with raisins or currants.