The Foodie: Summer Salads
Summer means soaring temperatures, casual gatherings and lighter meals served outdoors. Unfortunately, it can also mean the same old potato salad, macaroni salad and coleslaw, all swimming in mayonnaise. Looking for some new ideas to bring to the picnic table? Add flair to your summer menus with an abundance of fresh produce, and some unlikely combinations and ingredients. Oh, and hold the mayo.
Nothing says summertime quite like watermelon. Refreshing watermelon and cantaloupe, combined with mint, basil and just a hint of amaretto, give this salad recipe from the Food Network a surprisingly complex flavor—surprising, because it’s so easy to make. Serve it in the hollowed-out watermelon shell with more sprigs of mint and basil. The finished product makes an eye-catching, festive addition to the usual picnic or barbecue fare.
For a new take on the standard potato salad, one need only look to a country with a long history of potato appreciation: Germany. A German potato salad shuns mayonnaise in favor of a dressing made, variously, of vinegar, sugar, mustard and bacon. Corby Kummer, a food writer for The Atlantic, wrote an ode to German potato salad in September 2001. The lengthy article examines different kinds of potatoes, compares cooking methods and chronicles dueling twin grandmothers as they vie for the title of best German potato salad.
Pesto, that glorious green blend of basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and parmesan—transforms the humble macaroni salad from a mere side dish to a show-stealing star. Get creative with the pasta shapes—farfalle (bowties), fusilli (spirals), rotelle (little wheels)—for added visual appeal, and to capture that luscious pesto sauce. The Razzle Dazzle Recipes Web site offers a recipe for a classic pesto salad and suggests some tasty additions—crumbled feta cheese, olives, asparagus tips or tomatoes—which all help to make this salad a meal in itself.
Think you don’t like cabbage or coleslaw? This recipe just might change your mind. Heidi Swanson, host of award-winning food blog 101 Cookbooks, recognizes that thinly shredded cabbage is of paramount importance in making coleslaw; she spends an entire paragraph discussing the hows and whys of cabbage shredding. Begin with cabbage that is shredded “into ribbons that are thin as can be,” and then add a healthy mist of lime, some chopped cilantro, roasted peanuts and sweet cherry tomatoes. Lime & Peanut Coleslaw is a bright, crunchy delight that makes the perfect pairing to something hot off the grill.
Raw broccoli on the buffet table screams “healthy”—and usually gets the cold shoulder. Even a robust dollop of calorie-laden dip does little to make this vegetable more appealing. This New York Times recipe for Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad suggests marinating raw broccoli in a splash of red wine vinegar, roasted sesame oil, cumin and loads of plump, finely minced garlic cloves. The combo brings out the brightness of oft-neglected broccoli. For added color, toss in some thinly sliced red bell pepper; to make the salad more filling, try adding soba (buckwheat) noodles, found in the Asian or health food section of most grocery stores.
After the hearty lentil soups of fall and winter, lentils are usually left on the shelf in the summer. Yet this healthy legume can also be wonderful served chilled or at room temperature. Better Bites, a food blog, offers a recipe for a lentil salad with an unlikely combination of ingredients. Red onion and mint provide a refreshing contrast to the woodsy backdrop of the lentils, while creamy goat cheese melts in your mouth, tying it all together. For extra zing, add balsamic vinegar to taste.
To get the daily required intake of fiber in the most delicious way possible, consider this salad from delicious:days, a food blog by a German couple based in Munich. Referred to as “The-Salad-You-Must-Make,” it features bulgur, cranberries, pine nuts, lemon juice and onion. Quinoa or couscous would work in place of the bulgur. Sound too minimalist, too healthy? One look at the photo may change your mind.