It’s funny how salads taste better in the summer.
In part, we have better access to fresher vegetables this time of year. In part, avoiding firing up the stove is a good way to combat the heat.
All year, they provide a good venue for combining a variety of foods and help us satisfy our nutritional needs.
It’s good to get a different take on salads and sometimes, that requires some expert advice.
Chef Heather Hunsaker, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and a recipe developer for the website foodonthetable.com, has some suggestions and some recipes revolving around salads.
‰The Greens: Start your salad with a strong foundation of hearty greens. Iceberg, romaine, or green leaf lettuce are all a great start. But to add extra flavor, texture and nutrients mix in some spinach, arugula, bibb lettuce, radicchio, escarole or endive. To prepare salad greens, wash them under cool running water and dry on paper towels or using a salad spinner. After drying, chop or tear lettuce into bite size pieces.
‰Pile on the produce: Don’t be afraid to load your salad with the freshest summer produce. Fruits and vegetables are low in fat and calories and will add exceptional flavor. Topping a salad with raw produce is common, but grilled or roasted fruits and veggies add extra flavor and texture.
‰Add protein: Take a light salad to a satisfying and filling meal by adding some protein. Grilled steak, chicken, shrimp and fish are all obvious salad proteins. Other flavorful protein options include, ham, bacon, sausage, canned tuna, deli meats, or hard boiled eggs. To keep your salad vegetarian/vegan, add protein with cubed tofu, quinoa, chick peas, black beans, edamame or other legumes.
‰Top it off: A well-built salad combines slightly soft yet crunchy ingredients to make texturally pleasing fare. Croutons, French-fried onions, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, olives, crushed chips, rice, couscous, pasta, or cheese, can make a classic salad an over the top sensation.
‰Dress it lightly: While vinaigrettes and salad dressings can add and enhance the flavors of a salad, a little goes a long way. Over pouring the dressing can take an otherwise nutritious salad to an unhealthy mess. Also keep in mind, that vinaigrettes should be added right before serving as the oil will cause the lettuce to become limp.
WARM AVOCADO SALAD WITH SPICY CHORIZO
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
8 (ounce) package cherry tomatoes, halved
1 pound chorizo sausage, sliced
1 avocado, halved and sliced
8 (ounce) package salad greens
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the sausage and fry for six to eight minutes, until crisp, brown and cooked through.
Mix thoroughly the remaining olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar, and season with salt and pepper to form dressing.
Gently toss the avocado, salad greens, tomatoes, sausage and dressing. Serve immediately. Optional: Top with croutons.
Thousand Island dressing is my least favorite for a salad. I like it on very specific sandwiches, including a Reuben, but it contains pickles and I see no reason to involve pickles in a standard garden salad.
I was never even willing to try it; it looks unappealing in addition to being a strange mixture of “stuff.”
One thing you have to learn as an adult, especially one who cooks: don’t think just because you have a strange mixture of “stuff” that the end product isn’t going to be good. This is especially try of barbecue sauce and salad dressing.
While visiting some relatives in Savannah, my uncle asked if I liked Thousand Island dressing because he had made some that day. I wisely said I’d love to try it; I know he’s a good cook and I’m usually willing to try something new.
I loved this dressing and had to have it every day while visiting, plus I had to have the recipe.
I wanted to share it in this column because if anyone had told me I’d love Thousand Island dressing, I would have bet and expected to win. However, this is truly delicious and simple.
THOUSAND ISLAND DRESSING
1 cup mayonaise
2 tablespoons chili sauce
1 tablespoon chopped dill pickles
1 teaspoon minced onion
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
Mix, chill and serve with vegetable salad.
Hostesses take note: Taste of Home magazine is looking for an official Ambassador of the Holidays. The winner selected as “Mrs. Holiday” will receive $50,000 and a role representing the company.
Between now and Sept. 7, women 18 and older are invited to log on to Facebook.com/TasteofHome and upload a short video and signature recipe that demonstrates how they bring the holidays to life in their homes. Full entry rules and instructions are provided at Facebook.com/TasteofHome. All entries will receive a free chocolate chip cookie recipe as a thank you for auditioning.
Consumers may vote for their favorite contestant at Facebook.com/TasteofHome starting on June 4 and ending on Sept. 7. Mrs. Holiday will be selected from among the top 100 vote getters by a panel of experts.
While I don’t claim to be an expert cook, I do like to cook and love to eat. Readers are encouraged to send questions about food and cooking; I’ll try to find the answers. Also, if you’re looking for a specific recipe, send your request, or if you can offer a recipe to someone looking for something specific, please send e-mail to email@example.com.