Now that we’re in full Summer swing, I think it’s time to take advantage of the fresh produce that is available in some of our backyards and local farmers’ markets. My goal was to provide you with no-cook salads to help keep you cool and comfortable on a hot summer night. But I felt I would be doing you all a disservice by not giving you classic salads that work for dinner or as sides at a picnic or BBQ. That includes potato salad and pasta salad. You HAVE to turn on the stove for both of those, but it is worth it in the end.
The first recipe is for a Mediterranean Salad with Prosciutto, Fennel and your fruit of choice. This is an incredibly easy salad to execute with minimal chopping/prep and the flavors are bright and clean. The best thing about this salad is it is delicious year round depending on the fruit you use. For the summer I suggest using fresh picked sliced strawberries or balled cantaloupe. The sweetness balances with the tartness of the vinaigrette and saltiness of the prosciutto. In the fall or winter you could use pomegranate seeds. The bright color and sweet/tart pop and crunch of the seeds add a fun dimension to the salad.
Mediterranean Salad with Prosciutto, Fennel
and Cantaloupe, Cherries, or Pomegranate
2 cups very thinly sliced fennel bulb
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
6 cups arugula (about 4 ounces)
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup thinly sliced mint leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 3-ounce packages thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into strips
1/2 cup cantaloupe (cubed or balled) or cherries (pitted and halved) or pomegranate seeds
Toss fennel and 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium bowl. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Combine arugula, green onions, mint, vinegar, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in large bowl; toss. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide greens among plates. Top with fennel, then drape with prosciutto. Sprinkle fruit over.
Yield: Makes 4-6 servings.
The next salad I’d like to feature is my favorite spin on classic potato salad. It is a Potato and Blue Cheese Salad. I know blue cheese isn’t for everyone, but if you try it in this salad you may actually like it. The creamy nature of the potatoes balances the sharp stinkiness of the cheese (especially if you’re using a quality blue like Roquefort or Maytag). That balance topped with the dressing of cider vinegar, Dijon and honey makes the perfect flavor profile. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by this potato salad. Serve it at room temperature or a little warm. The flavors will really pop!
Potato and Blue Cheese Salad
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon coarse-grained Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
3 pounds small red-skinned potatoes, quartered
8 bacon slices
12 romaine lettuce leaves
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (~2 1/2 ounces) – such as Roquefort or Maytag
1 hard-boiled egg, grated
Whisk oil, vinegar, shallots, parsley, 1 tablespoon chives, mustard, honey and lemon peel in large bowl until well blended. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water (taste the water, salty like the sea) until just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain. Add warm potatoes to dressing; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Crumble into small pieces. Arrange lettuce around edge of platter; mound potato salad in center. Sprinkle with bacon, blue cheese, egg and remaining 1/4 cup chives.
Yield: Makes 8 servings.
What salad list is complete without a pasta salad? Not this one! This pasta salad takes advantage of the wonder that is summer heirloom tomatoes. If you grow them, then you probably have an abundance of them. If you go to the farmers’ market, you’re starting to see them pop up everywhere. This Heirloom Tomato Herb Pasta Salad is a classic pasta salad with the sweet tomatoes matched with your garden herbs. Don’t be shy with the herbs, mix and match until you find the combination that suits your palate. You’re the cook! I have a ton of basil and mint, marjoram, thyme and rosemary growing in my garden. Basil should definitely feature in this salad. (Tomatoes and basil, HELLO!) I think fusilli is my favorite pasta salad pasta because the spiral holds vinaigrette flawlessly. If you want to make a meal out of this, add grilled chicken or shrimp. I think you’ll find yourself looking for a picnic to go to just to bring this salad!
Heirloom Tomato Herb Pasta Salad
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup creme fraiche
1 Tbsp white-wine vinegar
1 to 1.5 tsp sugar (optional)
2 lbs mixed heirloom tomatoes
2 Tbsp finely chopped shallots (~1 medium shallot)
1 lb fusilli or other short spiral pasta
3/4 cup chopped mixed herbs such as basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, & tarragon
Whisk together oil, creme fraiche, vinegar, sugar (if using), 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper in a large bowl. Coarsely chop tomatoes and toss with shallot and dressing. Marinate until ready to use, at least 10 minutes.
While tomatoes stand, cook fusilli in a pasta pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente. Drain in a colander and immediately add to tomato mixture, tossing to combine. Cool to warm or room temperature (do not chill), tossing occasionally, then stir in herbs.
Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings.