Embracing Salad Season
Served alone or with your favorite grilled goodies, these salads will help keep you out of the heat of the kitchen
These are the dog days of summer when appetites wane and sweating over a hot stove is the about last thing anyone wants to do. In other words, it’s salad season. Fill up the salad bowl, pour a cold beverage and throw something on the grill. This month’s salads are ideal accompaniments for the grilled meats, poultry and seafood that are frequently the centerpieces of summer dining. Some of these recipes do require a little cooking, but it is minimal. One of these salads, along with crusty bread and some cheese, can constitute a meal on its own.
At the heart of a good salad is a fresh vinaigrette. The essential ingredients are oil, vinegar or lemon juice, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Often the oil is extra virgin olive oil, but consider nut oils like walnut, too. Vinegars re a matter of personal preference. Proportions of oil and vinegar vary, depending on the source. The ratio of three to one, oil to vinegar, is often cited, but, depending on the salad ingredients and the acidity of the particular vinegar, I often find that too acidic. I usually prefer four parts oil to one of vinegar, and some like an even higher proportion of oil. Again, it’s a matter of personal taste. Some like to add a bit of Dijon mustard. Others will incorporate the yolk of a hard boiled egg. Either produces a smooth and creamy dressing. Add herbs and garlic or shallots, depending on taste, the ingredients in the salad and the other parts of the meal.
The arugula salad featured this month is one of my favorites because of its contrasting flavors and textures — peppery arugula, sour cherries with their hint of sweetness, crunchy, slightly bitter walnuts and the rich, sweet saltiness of Parmesan.
The wild rice salad also offers various flavors and textures — the nutty wild rice, the slightly resinous taste of pine nuts, the crunch of apples, the herbal sweetness of parsley and mint.
The potato salad made with a mustard vinaigrette is a change of pace from our usual version made with mayonnaise. The amount of vinaigrette required for this salad will vary, depending on the type of potatoes. I like Yukon Gold here; red potatoes are another good choice.
And finally, the simplest and most elegant salad of all — a fresh crab salad that anyone would be happy to make the entire meal.
Wild Rice Salad
1½ cups chicken broth
½ cup wild rice
¼ cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup diced red onion
¼ cup diced celery
1 cup green peas
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 apple, cored and diced
1 tablespoon chopped scallions (green part only)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped mint
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine chicken broth and wild rice in a small pot, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool, then transfer to serving bowl.
Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add pine nuts to wild rice. In the same skillet, cook onion and celery in olive oil until barely softened. Add to rice mixture. Blanch peas in boiling salted water for 1 minute, drain, refresh under cold water and add to the salad. Add vinegar, apple, scallions, parsley and mint and combine well. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.
Potato Salad With Vinaigrette
6 medium potatoes
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons hot water
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup chopped scallions (green and white parts)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped chervil (optional)
Cook potatoes in lightly salted water to cover until tender. Drain and set aside until just cool enough to handle. Peel warm potatoes and slice into mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine mustard, vinegar and boiling water and whisk until combined, then slowly add oil, whisking to create a creamy emulsion. Pour dressing over warm potatoes and turn gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Add scallions, parsley and optional chervil, if using, and combine. Makes 4 servings.
Arugula, Walnut, Dried Cherry And Parmesan Salad
6 cups loosely-packed arugula
½ cup walnut pieces
¼ cup dried sour cherries
1½ tablespoons olive oil
1½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine arugula, walnuts, and cherries in a salad bowl. Whisk olive oil and vinegar until emulsified; add to salad ingredients and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss again. Divide salad among 4 plates. Using a vegetable peeler, shave strips of Parmesan over the salad. Makes 4 servings.
1 pound lump crab meat
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
cayenne pepper to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, combine crab, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and parsley. Toss gently to combine and season with cayenne, salt and pepper. Makes 2 to 4 servings.
½ pound pasta
1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
6 anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons capers, drained and rinsed
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package instructions. Meanwhile, chop artichoke hearts and anchovies and place in mixing bowl, along with olive oil and capers.
When pasta is ready, drain in a colander, then add to mixing bowl and toss to combine. Add grated Parmesan. Toss. Season with salt and pepper, add parsley and toss. Cool to room temperature. Makes 4 servings.