Every year when the lazy hot days of summer are upon us we search for ways to make meals that are lighter and help to cool us down in the heat. In many cultures closer to the Equator spicy hot foods are used to help cool us by making our bodies perspire more. In this country we also like to fire up the BBQ to grill and smoke foods then offer them with chilled salads and fresh fruits.
In this post I offer ideas for salads that go great as a side dish for your outside grilling or as accompaniment for a sandwich or soup. Two of my favorite composed salads are: Greek orzo with grapes and feta, and poached pear, sweet potato, and parsnip salad. I developed these recipes to use in my club’s kitchen and have adapted them to a smaller version which can be made at home. These two photos were taken by Madeline Bayer. To close this post I include an alternative method for presenting a tossed green salad on a platter instead of the normal way of serving it in a bowl.
Orzo is a Greek pasta and can be purchased as plain or as tri colored which is the type used in the photo. It is tossed with split seedless grapes, feta cheese and fresh herbs in a light lemon olive oil dressing. It goes great with grilled lamb kabobs, chicken or fish.
Greek Orzo Salad
Yield 18 servings – approximately 12 cups
2 quarts Orzo, cooked
2 cups Seedless grapes, split
1 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup Lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons Lemon zest, grated
1 cup Mayonnaise
½ cup Olive oil
½ cup Fresh basil, chopped
½ cup Fresh mint, chopped
To taste Salt and pepper
- Whisk together the lemon juice, zest, mayonnaise, and slowly add the oil while whisking.
- Add the basil, mint, salt and pepper.
- Toss with the orzo, grapes, and feta cheese. Reserve some grapes and feta to garnish the top.
- Chill until served.
This salad can be served in the summer or fall as a tasty side dish to chicken or pork (smoked, grilled, or roasted). The poached pears are lightly grilled and then tossed with roasted parsnips (a root vegetable somewhat like a white carrot), roasted sweet potatoes, celery and golden raisins in a light dressing. To minimize the heat in the kitchen roast the vegetables early in the morning before the heat of the day is at its height.
Pear, Sweet Potato, Parsnip Salad
Yield: 18 servings – Approximately 12 cups
1 quart Sweet potatoes, roasted, diced (¾ x ¾)
2 cups Parsnips, roasted, diced (¾ x ¾)
2 cups Pears, poached, grilled, diced (¾ x ¾)
2 cups Celery, peeled, diced ½”x ½”
1 cup Golden Raisins
½ cup Honey
½ cup White balsamic
½ cup Parsley
1 ½ cup Vegetable oil
¼ cup Tarragon
1 ½ teaspoons Cumin powder
To taste Salt and pepper
Prepare the dressing by whisking the honey and white balsamic vinegar with the herbs and cumin.
- Whisk in the oil in a slow stream to make a vinaigrette
- Toss with the vegetables, pears and raisons then chill and serve.
Lastly I offer this idea for a green salad. Instead of tossing the ingredients in a bowl, as is the typical procedure, lay out the greens with the condiments on a tray. This creates a more eye appealing presentation. In this example I used summer greens, radishes, thin sliced cucumbers that I rolled up, lightly blanched asparagus, watercress, and some thin mandolin sliced baby carrots that I rolled up as well. To finish the tray I placed some accents of micro greens and then drizzled the tray with white balsamic vinegar and Spanish olive oil.