Summer for my family and me is about spending long days in the pool, returning to the cool of our air conditioned home, eating a refreshing meal, and then doing it all over again. Summers in Arizona are bright, sunny, dry and, ummm, oppressively hot. I know I bangon about the desert heat, but when it’s 115 everyday for months, what else do you
expect me to talk about?
With hot temps and bathing suit season in mind, I thought I would share with you a few of my favorite summer salads. All are delicious when paired with grilled meats or fish. Maybe even with smoked proteins?? I’ll let you know…my new smoker box arrives this week so I’m going to be doing some experimenting!
Also, you’ll note that I haven’t included any measurements for these recipes. When it comes to salads, I feel like you should put in as much of the ingredients as you like…more nuts? Sure! Less cucumber? Alrighty! So bung it all into a bowl, mix it around and then spill it out (neatly, of course) onto a serving dish and dig in!
Raw Almonds, slivers
Look, this salad is not meant to be fussy. It’s a chopped salad, for Pete’s sake! cook the quinoa according to the package instructions, cool to room temp. Toss with arugula, almonds, manchego, jicama*, craisins and a light drizzle of champagne vinaigrette. When it comes to the vinaigrette, I rely on store-bought. There are some dressings I am happy to make, but this is an easy summer salad, so take shortcuts where you can get them!
Watermelon, small cubes
Cucumber, seeded & diced
Fresh Mint, minced
As in the Chopped Salad, cook the couscous according to package instructions, making sure to toss with a fork when it’s finished cooking. Cool it to room temp. Toss with watermelon, cucumber, mint, and feta. Splash with balsamic vinegar – go lightly at first, you can always add more and you may find that the couscous soaks up the liquid pretty quickly. Drizzle with olive oil, just to add a touch of smoothness. A pinch of salt and sprinkling of pepper and you’ll be good to go!
A variation of the Tweaked Greek that is also a nice, quick dish is to leave out the couscous and toss the watermelon, cucumber, feta and mint with red onion (thinly sliced), balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper.
CLASSIC PASTA SALAD
Bell Peppers (red, orange & yellow), diced
Grape/Cherry Tomatoes, halved
Brocoli, trimmed into small florets
Not to sound like a broken record, but cook the rotini according to package instructions, making sure to add a good palmful of salt to the boiling water before adding the pasta. Drain pasta, rinse with cold water and cool to room temp. Mix pasta, carrots, peppers, brocoli, tomatoes and cheddar in a large bowl. Add enough Italian dressing to coat the noodles and vegetables. Chill in refrigerator briefly before serving.
This pasta salad is one that my mother made for my family and that I make all the time for mine. It’s the one thing I request every year for my birthday (you thought I was kidding all those times I said I prefer simple things) and it’s DELICIOUS as a leftover.
Bell Peppers (red & orange), diced
Fresh Cilantro, minced
1 lime, zest & juice
I prefer canned black beans (again, simplicity reigns supreme), so rinse and drain the beans before chucking them into a large bowl. The corn should also be fresh (it’s summer…there’s no excuse). You can either boil the corn (once shucked, obviously) or grill it. Remove the corn from the cob and add to black beans. To the beans and corn add peppers, tomatoes, and cilantro. Add a palmful of cumin, large pinch of salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and add zest and juice of lime. Toss & taste. Add the Tabasco if you’d like a hit of spice.
*Jicama: this is one of my favorite summer veggies. It looks gnarly on store shelves, but it’s worth the minimal effort it takes to strip away the dirty brown exterior. It’s wonderfully crispy and adds great texture to salads of all kinds. Plus, it’s a good one to have on hand for crudite. And for the kids, too…even the pickiest (like my Georgie) will find the flavor and texture enjoyable.
**Texas Caviar: I am not responsible for this name! I made this salad when my sister’s in-laws were in town. After sizing up what I was serving, my sister’s mother-in-law informed me of the name. I think it’s kind of cute, so I’ve referred to it as such ever since.