• Ildiko

Beach-body ready? Let's talk Salads!



Summer is almost here! That means hotter temperatures, fewer clothes, fresh produce, and beaches! My favorite season. At this time of the year, my LIFE completely transports to the OUTSIDE. For me, that means outside cooking and near DAILY al fresco dining. Summer is MY ideal time to back off those winter carbs and starches and dine on colorful, fresh salads alongside some protein! Now is when SALADS take center-stage in my kitchen, accompanying grilled fish, scallops or calamari, grilled pork tenderloin, beef filets, grilled lamb chops, or grilled chicken. MY 'go-to' summer menu! It's a much faster and simpler existence ... the summer! ☀️ For those who desire a little starch with their meal, a warm, crusty baguette, truffle fries or oven-roasted petite potatoes always make for delicious accompaniments.


The nice thing about salads is that there are so many options. Typically, add a little flavor, a little acid, a little oil, and then mix them all together! Sometimes it's even simpler than that! In this blog, I will share four Go-To salads that I commonly make throughout the summer.


Mandarin Orange Salad with Pommery Mustard Dressing


This tangy vinaigrette is a delicious balance of spicy Pommery mustard, sweet Mango chutney, and a touch of garlic. It complements the juicy mandarin orange slices PERFECTLY. Pommery mustard is a mild French mustard (originated from Meaux, France, east of Paris, in the 19th c.) with a slightly spicy character imparted by both the vinegar and the ground mustard seeds. While uniquely flavored with spices, its exact ingredients have been a guarded secret by the Pommery family. Chutney is a relish common in Indian cuisine, made from fresh fruits and spices. Major Grey's chutney consists of mangoes, tamarind, vinegar, lime juice, onion, raisins, spices, and brown sugar. For the historically interested, Major Grey supposedly was a British army officer in the 19th c. who lived in India when the British controlled the sub-continent. He is said to have loved Indian chutney, inspiring him to create his milder, unique recipe and then market his product throughout Britain.


Dressing:

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup Major Grey's chutney

2 cloves garlic

2 Tbsp French Pommery mustard

1 Tbsp sugar

salt & black pepper to taste



Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a food processor. Mix well to emulsify.



Salad:

Spring mix

~ 5 green onions thinly sliced,

8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced

15 oz. can of mandarin oranges, rinsed and drained

a handful of sliced almonds



Additional options:

fresh mango chunks

slices of avocado

whole-grain Dijon-style mustard can be substituted for Pommery mustard

apricot preserves can be substituted for chutney


I served my Mandarin Orange salad alongside grilled pork tenderloin marinated in a honey-soy sauce.



Greens with Strawberries, Gorgonzola and Poppyseed Dressing


I love this colorful salad with sweet fresh fruit options and a bite of blue cheese. Certainly best when strawberries are in season!


Dressing:

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

3 green onions, chopped

1 Tbsp poppy seeds



Process all the ingredients, except the poppyseed, in a food processor until smooth. Then stir in the poppyseed with a whisk.



Salad:

8 oz. of a blend of Baby Greens and Baby Spinach

2 cups strawberries, quartered

1 cup pecan pieces, toasted

1/2 cup of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese



Additional options:

blueberries

raspberries

use candied pecans instead of toasted pecans

substitute walnuts for pecans

substitute blue cheese for gorgonzola


I served my Strawberry - Gorgonzola salad alongside barbequed grilled chicken.




Caprese Salad


This is the EASIEST salad EVER and it is delicious. It is key, however, to use in-season tomatoes and good quality, fresh, whole mozzarella. The mozzarella used for this salad can be from either cow or water buffalo milk. Buffalo's milk mozzarella is creamier, softer, more flavorful, and of superior quality to that of cow's milk mozzarella, BUT it is also much more expensive and more difficult to find. Hence, this salad is more commonly made with cow's milk mozzarella. Note that the water buffalo, bufala Mediterranea Italiana, is a different animal from the American bison! It IS NOT the same animal from which we make bison burgers!


Dressing:

Balsamic vinegar (I prefer using Balsamic Reduction because it CLINGS to the salad better)


Salad:

slicer tomatoes, cut into 1/4" slices

fresh balls of Mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4" slices

fresh basil leaves

touch of black pepper



Lay the tomato slices flat on a large platter. Put the mozzarella slices on top of the tomatoes and sprinkle with a little black pepper. Then, lay the basil leaves on the very top. Drizzle with the balsamic reduction.



I served my Caprese salad alongside grilled, whole Mediterranean Branzino fish.



Classic Greek Salad


This salad features the Greek superstar ... Feta cheese! It is a salad I only make in the summer when the quality of tomatoes is at its best, for the ripeness of the tomatoes will either make or break the success of this salad.


Dressing:

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste



Salad:

3 large RIPE tomatoes, cut into chunks

2 English cucumbers, cut into thick slices

1/3 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1 cubanelle pepper, sliced

Greek olives, left whole or sliced

chunks of feta cheese, in chunks

Greek oregano, to taste



Layer the salad ingredients in a serving bowl, alternating a little of each and repeating. Finish it off with a drizzle of the red wine vinaigrette emulsion.



I served my Greek Salad alongside grilled beef filets.



So, COMMIT to colorful, flavorful produce!

These are just four of many salads in my arsenal, but they are tried, true and my favorites. EACH is colorful, flavorful and so easy to assemble, hence great for summer parties and gatherings in addition to YOUR daily meals. Salads are understandably more challenging to consume during the cooler, winter months when produce, in MOST places, is not in season, therein, textures are altered and tastes are notably diminished, or altogether absent. But the summer brings a welcomed opportunity to explore the RIPE, JUICY flavors of the season's produce. I encourage you to take advantage of the best the summer has to offer!

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