Summer Salads

July 16th, 2010

I found this piece about summer salads searching The New York Times website. I love salads, and because I eat so many of them I’m always looking for new and creative salad ideas to add a little variety and spice-up my diet. I thought all of these summer salads sounded delicious and interesting (below you’ll find the recipes for three that sparked my taste buds the most), and so I thought you might too.

Summer Salads as the Main Attraction

Recipes for Health columnist Martha Rose Shulman delivers the perfect mealtime antidote for the dog days of summer: main course salads, served warm or cool. Whether they are made with quinoa or wheatberries, pasta or beans, most of the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time, then tossed together for an easy picnic or outdoor get-together.

When it’s steaming outside, the last thing you want to do when you arrive home from work is cook. But you won’t have to turn to take-out if you organize your summer meals around main dish salads and prepare most of the ingredients ahead of time.

Summer Pasta Salad on a Bed of Arugula:

The trick to making a successful pasta salad is to undercook the pasta slightly so that it doesn’t become soggy if you don’t serve the salad right away.

1 large red bell pepper

2 large garlic cloves, minced or pureed (more to taste)

Salt to taste

1 to 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, to taste

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 1/4 pounds ripe tomatoes

Freshly ground pepper

1 cup fresh peas or 1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and broken into 2-inch pieces

3/4 pound fusilli

1/3 cup freshly grated or slivered Parmesan, or a combination of Parmesan and Pecorino

1 bunch, or 1 six-ounce bag arugula, preferably wild arugula, rinsed and dried

1. Roast the pepper. When cool enough to handle, peel, seed and slice thin. Combine in a bowl with one of the garlic cloves, salt to taste and 2 teaspoons of the olive oil. Set aside while you bring a large pot of water to a boil. Use a pasta insert if you have one.

2. To peel the tomatoes, drop them into the water after it comes to a boil and leave for 30 seconds. Transfer the tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cold water. (Do not drain the water from the pot.) Peel the tomatoes, and cut in half across the equator. Place a strainer over a bowl, and squeeze out the seeds over the strainer. Rub the seed pods against the strainer to extract the flavorful juice, and discard the seeds. Chop the tomatoes very finely, and add to the bowl with the juice. Add the peppers, balsamic vinegar, remaining olive oil, salt and pepper. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, if possible. Taste and adjust seasonings.

3. Bring the water back to a boil, salt generously and add the peas or green beans. Parboil for four or five minutes until just tender. Remove from the water with a skimmer (or lift out with the pasta insert) and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Drain and add to the tomatoes.

4. Bring the water back to a boil, and add the pasta. Cook until just al dente and firm to the bite. Drain and toss with the tomato mixture. Add the basil and Parmesan. Toss again. Line a platter, bowl or individual plates with a bed of arugula. Top with the pasta and serve.

Yield: Serves four.

Advance preparation: You can make the dish through step 3 several hours before serving. You can cook the pasta and toss with the tomato mixture up to an hour before serving, but make sure to undercook the pasta slightly so that it doesn’t become soggy.

If you want to cook the pasta the night before, toss with a tablespoon of olive oil (reduce the olive oil in the tomato sauce by 1 tablespoon) and keep in the refrigerator.

Nutritional information per serving: 505 calories; 14 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 6 milligrams cholesterol; 79 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams dietary fiber; 130 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during cooking); 19 grams protein

Quinoa, Corn and Edamame Salad:

Quinoa and edamame contribute lots of protein to this mildly spicy, highly textured summer salad.

1 cup quinoa, cooked

2 ears sweet corn

1 small red onion, finely diced

1 red bell pepper cut in small dice

1/2 cup thinly sliced celery, from the tender inner stalks

4 or 5 radishes, sliced

1/2 cup fresh or thawed frozen edamame

2 ounces feta cut in small dice (about 1/2 cup, optional)

1 jalapeño or serrano chile, minced

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 garlic clove (more to taste), finely minced or pureed

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

1. Cut the corn kernels away from the cobs. Discard the cobs (or use for stock), and place the kernels in a steamer above 1 inch of boiling water. Cover and steam for four minutes. Remove from the heat, rinse with cold water and drain.

2. Soak the onion in cold water to cover for five minutes. Drain, rinse and drain on paper towels.

3. Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and toss with the salad. Serve.

Yield: Serves four to six.

Advance preparation: The quinoa freezes well and the assembled salad will keep for a day in the refrigerator.

Nutritional information per serving (four servings): 359 calories; 18 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 43 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams dietary fiber; 25 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during cooking); 10 grams protein

Spicy Quinoa, Cucumber and Tomato Salad:

This refreshing summer salad can sit in the refrigerator for a few hours without deteriorating, so it makes a great choice for bringing to work or to a summer picnic.

1 cup quinoa

3 cups water

Salt to taste

2 cups diced cucumber

1 small red onion, finely minced (optional)

2 cups finely diced tomatoes

1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers (to taste), seeded if desired and finely chopped

1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 avocado, sliced, for garnish

1. Place the quinoa in a bowl, and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes. Drain through a strainer, and rinse until the water runs clear. Bring the 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add salt (1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon) and the quinoa. Bring back to a boil, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and translucent; each grain should have a little thread. Drain off the water in the pan through a strainer, and return the quinoa to the pan. Cover the pan with a clean dishtowel, replace the lid and allow to sit for 10 minutes. If making for the freezer, uncover and allow to cool, then place in plastic bags. Flatten the bags and seal.

2. Meanwhile, place the finely diced cucumber in a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Toss and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Rinse the cucumber with cold water, and drain on paper towels. If using the onion, place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes, then drain, rinse with cold water and drain on paper towels.

3. Combine the tomatoes, chiles, cilantro, vinegar, lime juice and olive oil in a bowl. Add the cucumber and onion, season to taste with salt, and add the quinoa and cilantro. Toss together, and taste and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with sliced avocado and cilantro sprigs.

Yield: Serves six.

Advance preparation: The quinoa freezes well, and the assembled salad will keep for a day in the refrigerator. The leftovers will be good for a couple of days.

Nutritional information per serving: 236 calories; 14 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 25 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams dietary fiber; 12 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during cooking); 6 grams protein

Toby Bilanow
The New York Times

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