Join Me in the Kitchen: Summer Salad Ideas and Recipes

Vicki McGraw
Vicki McGraw, Jamestown Gazette Contributing Writer

Do I dare say it? Has summer finally decided to grace us with its presence? We do deserve a long, hot spell after having had such a long winter and very wet spring!

With the arrival of summer weather, we tend to think of lighter, cooler foods (rather than soups and casseroles). Summer salads are light, colorful and refreshing, but do require a little thought. Mayo-based salads are especially tough because they should not sit out for long. We don’t want to think about food poisoning! Many salads can be ‘tweaked” and transformed into a refreshing summer salad.

Traditional potato salad is a family favorite, but must be kept on ice when it is warm. I avoid the issue by creating a vinaigrette potato salad. Similarly, traditional macaroni salad has the same salad dressing issue. A vinegar based dressing can withstand the warmer temps and not spoil. I love fresh crunchy salads, and find many veggies can be combined into terrific salads, with or without pastas. And let’s not forget luscious fresh fruit salads! Whether it’s a mix of melons or a beautiful blend of ripe berries, it will appeal to all of the senses!

Get creative…you don’t need to stick to the same old-same old when the markets have so many great veggies and fruits. Nutritionally, fresh is best, so kick up your diet! When making cold salads, I love to add a southwestern flare with corn and black beans, or they can be added to pasta salads or as a topping on green salads. Kick up your plain lettuce salad by adding sliced berries, pecans and a sprinkle of crumbled bleu or feta cheese and topping with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Another great summer side dish that adds a healthy factor is your basic baked beans. This can be kept at room temperature for up to two hours without worry of spoilage, and can be lightened up by omitting the addition of fats (such as bacon or ham) and simply adding different varieties of beans to your standard recipes. My favorite baked beans include not only navy beans, but light and dark kidney beans, as well as butter beans. And we can’t forget good old three bean salad! With fresh veggies available, we can kick this up, too. Fresh beans (that have been blanched), grape tomatoes, corn and sliced celery in a vinaigrette will add color to your plate and crunch to your palette!

Southwest Pasta Salad

1 lb tri-colored bowtie (or other shape) pasta
1 c corn
1 c black beans
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
½ red onion, diced
1 carrot, shredded
1 each, red and green peppers, diced
¼ c olive oil
½ c balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ chipotle or Cheyenne seasoning

Cook pasta according to package direction.  Drain and toss warm pasta with oil, vinegar and seasonings.  Add remaining ingredients;  chill well before serving.

Balsamic Potato Salad

2 lbs potatoes, diced
½ onion, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced thin
1 red pepper, diced small
6 hard boiled eggs, diced
¼ c olive oil
½ c balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes and drain well; mix dressing ingredients together and pour over warm potatoes. Allow potatoes to cool to room temp, gently stirring to evenly coat with dressing. When cool, add remaining ingredients and chill well before serving.