I love salads, making and eating them. With the abundant fresh produce available at farmers’ markets, summer is the perfect time for common and uncommon savory creations. Here are some of my favorites.
1.Beet salad. Start with roasted beets, preferably of different hues for a more spectacular presentation. Add mixed greens, goat or blue cheese, and walnuts. For a contemporary twist, substitute shelled pistachios for the walnuts. A sherry or balsamic vinaigrette will complete the dish. (In a glass jar, combine 2 TB Dijon mustard, 1 TB chopped shallots, ½ cup balsamic or sherry vinegar and 1/2 cup olive oil, and shake vigorously. I prefer more acidity than oil in my dressings, so keep that in mind if you like a more traditional taste.)
2.Mexican Cobb. Combine chopped chicken, avocado, black beans, corn, feta cheese, tomatoes, tortilla chips, and cilantro and toss with a lime dressing. (Whisk together ½ cup lime juice, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 TB honey mustard, 2 TB honey, 4 TB canola oil, salt and pepper). For variety, substitute grilled shrimp or steak.
3. Grilled Asparagus. Starting with a plate of arugula, sprinkle with goat cheese, olives and cooked couscous. Top with asparagus and drizzle with black olive vinaigrette. (In a blender, mix ½ cup of Kalmata or Nicoise olives, 1 TB Dijon mustard, 1 TB honey, 1 TB chile powder, ½ cup sherry or red wine vinegar, and 3/4 cup olive oil). A Bobby Flay original.
4. Caesar. Toss whole leaves of romaine with a touch of olive oil and grill for about 2 minutes until slightly wilted and a bit charred. Arrange on an oblong platter and drizzle with your favorite Caesar salad dressing. Blanket with freshly baked croutons, lots of shaved Parmesan and cracked pepper. To make a complete meal, include grilled chicken or salmon.
5. Chinese Chicken. Chop nappa cabbage and romaine lettuce in a serving bowl. Add wasabi peas, tortilla strips, grated carrots, pea pods, scallions, cilantro and grilled chicken strips. Make your life a bit simpler by using a bottle of Jade’s Sichuan Peanut sauce, available at Better Cheddar. Add lime juice to taste, and you’ll have an easy facsimile of Houston’s.
6. Caprese. Nothing shouts summer like a tomato and mozzarella salad topped with basil leaves and olive oil. Though not a traditional ingredient, I recommend a splash of balsamic vinegar as well. Find the freshest cheese available, that’s milky and creamy.