By By Lisa Tindell
With the heat still a dominating part of most conversations these days, it seems that a nice refreshing salad may just be the ticket to take off a little of the heat. This little side dish can not only calm and cool your spirits, but is great in cutting down on the heat of cooking one more side dish for dinner.
I really began enjoying salads immensely about three years ago when someone explained to me that there is more to a salad than iceberg lettuce and ranch-style dressing.
My favorite salad is simple: mixed spring greens, grape tomatoes, sliced purple (I don't care if they do call it a red one) onion, croutons and LOTS of feta cheese. And you may not care, but I could simply drink raspberry vinaigrette dressing. I prefer the light version of the dressing, but ole Mr. Newman's brand will do in a pinch.
If you prefer something a little different than my salad, I've given you a few choices this week. A bean salad that's great as a side dish at a cook-out, a spinach salad (which I use when I can't find spring greens), a different kind of iceberg lettuce salad and a main course salad. I hope you try at least one.
Sweet and Sour Bean Salad
12 oz. apricot preserves
One-half cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground coarsely ground black pepper
1 16- to 19-oz. can each of black beans, Great Northern beans and red kidney beans
16 oz. can each of wax beans and green beans
1 small red onion
In a large bowl, whisk apricot preserves, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Rinse canned beans and drain well. Thinly slice onion. Add canned beans and onion to preserves mixture. Toss to mix and coat well. Cover and refrigerate for at least six hours or overnight to blend flavors. Stir occasionally to even marination. Serves about 12.
Here's a salad recipe that could be made as a main-course salad. You've got protein, fats, vegetables and starch all in one place. Sounds like a summer lunch winner to me.
Spinach and Pasta Salad
8 oz. penne or corkscrew macaroni
12 oz. fresh spinach leaves
1 16- to 19-oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
4 oz. pitted ripe olives, chopped
4 oz. red-wine vinaigrette dressing
4 oz. feta cheese crumbled
Prepare macaroni as directed on package label. Wash spinach and drain well. In a large bowl, tear spinach into bite-size pieces. To serve, toss spinach with beans, olives, dressing and macaroni. Top with feta cheese.
I have gotten away from eating quite so much iceberg lettuce. I like a little darker color in my salad greens these days. Iceberg just seems like a bland sort of "holder" for the other vegetables and dressing. My mother swears by iceberg. "It's normal and not too fancy," she'd say. At any rate, I just might have to eat a little Iceberg lettuce using this new, sorta fancy recipe.
Blue Cheese-Stuffed Salad
1 head iceberg lettuce
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
One-third cup blue cheese crumbles
2 tbsp. milk
One-fourth tsp. dry mustard
Dash each of ground red pepper, salt and black pepper
Store-bought Italian dressing
Hold lettuce, core end down and tap core on countertop; twist and remove core. Leaving head intact, rinse with cool running water while gently spreading the cut edges of the leaves so that water runs between them. Set aside to drain, core side down. Combine cheeses and seasonings. Spoon mixture into cavity of well drained lettuce. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least eight hours or overnight. To serve, cut lettuce head into six wedges and a few dashes of Italian dressing. Garnish if desired with parsley or additional peppers.
If you're looking for a main course salad with a little pizzazz, this one will probably fill the bill. You can really be creative with those tortilla strips. And a little squeeze of lime juice on top of it all, probably wouldn't be too bad either.
Spicy Shrimp Salad
2 (10 in.) flour tortillas
1 lg. large shrimp, peeled and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp. lemon juice.
Dash of cayenne pepper
Three-fourths tsp. sugar
12 oz. mixed salad greens
One-fourth cup packed cilantro leaves
To prepare tortilla strips: slice tortillas into quarter-inch wide strips. In a non-stick skillet, heat one-half cup salad oil until very hot. Cook strips in small batches until lightly browned. With tongs, remove to paper towels to drain. In same skillet heat one tablespoon oil, toss shrimp, garlic, pepper and salt, stirring until shrimp turn bright pink (opaque throughout). In a large bowl, combine lemon juice, mustard, sugar and salt. Whisk as you slowly beat in three tablespoons oil until slightly thickened. Add greens and cilantro tossing to coat. To serve, divide salad among four dinner plates topping with shrimp and tortilla strips.
This column may seem a little longer than normal this week, but there were just too many great ideas to share. Be sure to check in here next week. I'll give you a run-down on how to make a crowd-pleasing salad dressing that can't be compared to the store-bought kind.
Be sure to email your ideas, questions or recipes to me at email@example.com. I'd sure love to hear from you. Until next week, Happy Cooking!