Cool off with refreshing salads for lunches, light suppers

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Photo by Ann Cipperly

By Ann Cipperly

When temperatures soar during summer in Opelika, plan on serving a variety of salads for lunches and light suppers. Chicken or shrimp salad, green salad tossed with cheese and toasted pecans or a salad enhanced with fresh fruits provide delectable dishes for summer family meals.

On hot days, salads are appealing. One of my favorites is a caprese salad with fresh mozzarella and fresh sliced tomatoes with basil, drizzled with reduced balsamic vinegar. I sometimes add chopped avocado and serve olive oil on the side. The salad goes together quickly and looks attractive.

This past spring I took a class on making fresh mozzarella at CalyRoad Creamery in Sandy Springs, Ga. Now, I can make my own fresh mozzarella. I was really surprised how easy it is to make. The creamery is one of Georgia’s first micro-creameries for artisan cheese and makes up to 300 pounds of different cheeses in one day.

While it is fun to attend a cheese making class, you can also learn how by watching classes on Youtube.

This year I have been on culinary tours to see what chefs are now preparing across the South. While they talked about farm to table for years, now they are using the term farm to fork. They are talking about getting the freshest food directly to their customers. Chefs are working more and more with local farmers, and some are growing their own fresh produce.

Although other areas don’t have as many farmers’ market options as Lee County, Saturday morning markets are popular in many areas. Above Atlanta in Alpharetta and Sandy Springs, the Saturday morning farmers’ markets are drawing large crowds. In addition to fresh produce, more baked items are being offered, from breads to cookies and pies.

When we visit family in Tampa, FL, we spend Saturday mornings at the farmers’ market in St. Pete. The large market offers breads, dried pastas, teas, as well as different produce, including organic. There is always live music and restaurant vendors. The aromas are amazing and it is difficult to resist trying a small dish before leaving.

When I was growing up, we had a garden, and I can still remember the joy of pulling up baby carrots with the earth still clinging to them and picking a big, juicy tomato. I didn’t realize until later how fortunate I had been to savor these garden fresh foods.

Along with green and vegetable salads, chicken salad is a southern favorite and has been the classic dish for ladies’ luncheons for generations. The salad is a cinch to prepare by boiling a whole chicken, chicken breasts or tenders, and even easier if picking up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store.

Chicken salad has come a long way since our grandmothers mixed up chicken with mayonnaise and pickle relish. Start with chopped chicken and finely minced celery. Then add personal favorites, selecting toasted nuts, dried cranberries, halved grapes, diced apple, pineapple chunks, mandarin oranges or chopped boiled eggs.

While high quality mayonnaise is the traditional choice, reduce fat by substituting Greek yogurt or low fat sour cream for a portion of the mayonnaise.

Serve chicken salads on lettuce with fresh fruit or piled high onto sandwiches with a slice of fresh tomato. For a festive luncheon, stuff chicken salad in a hollowed tomato or present in pineapple halves.

Laurie Gilbert’s Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad is one of my favorites to have on hand for lunch. I make it using whole wheat or brown rice pasta for added nutrition. You don’t have to add all the peppers, but the red and orange provide color.

Laura McKay makes a tasty shrimp salad embellished with chopped boiled eggs and serving it on lettuce, while Emily Smith creates Muffuletta Pasta Salad with ham, salami and cheese.

For other easy summer suppers, offer a hearty salad as an accompaniment to grilled chicken, steak or fish. Try the Layered Spinach Salad or Greek Salad.

As summer settles into hot, hazy days, a refreshing salad is ideal, whether it is composed of greens, fresh vegetables, fruits, chicken or seafood.

Ann Cipperly can be contacted at recipes@cipperly.com.

Recipes:

Layered Spinach Salad
Janine Simmons
1 pkg. fresh spinach (depending on size may not need the entire pkg.)
4 hard-boiled eggs
½ lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
½ red onion, chopped
1 pkg. frozen green peas, thawed
8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts, optional
1/3 head Romaine lettuce
1 ½ to 2 cups mayonnaise
½ pkg. ranch dressing mix
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Combine mayonnaise and ranch dressing mix; set aside. Layer remaining ingredients in a large bowl in order given. Top with dressing; sprinkle with cheese. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Caprese Salad
Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced (available in local stores)
Tomatoes, sliced
Basil
Reduced Balsamic Vinegar
Make Reduced Balsamic Vinegar by pouring 1 cup of good quality balsamic vinegar in a saucepan and gently simmer until reduced by half. Can add a teaspoon of brown sugar, if desired.
Layer cheese slices and tomatoes on a small platter. Garnish with fresh basil. When ready to serve, drizzle reduced vinegar over top. Can also add a sliced avocado.

Grilled Chicken Salad
4 chicken breasts, grilled and cubed
4 oz. Swiss cheese, cubed
2 to 3 green onions, chopped
½ red pepper, chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise or more
2 tsp. Dijon mustard or to taste
Combine ingredients. Chill until ready to serve. Serves 4.

Shrimp Salad on Lettuce
Laura McKay
2 lb. boiled shrimp, chopped (save a few to garnish)
1 cup chopped celery
1/3 to ½ cup chopped green onions
3 to 4 boiled eggs, chopped, optional
3/4 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup chili sauce
2 tsp. horseradish
Salt to taste
Leaf Lettuce
Combine shrimp, celery, onions and boiled eggs (optional). In another bowl mix together mayonnaise, chili sauce and horseradish. Toss sauce mixture with shrimp; season with salt to taste. Serve on a bed of leaf lettuce. Garnish with whole shrimp and green onions or parsley. Serves 6 to 8.

Muffuletta Pasta Salad
Emily C. Smith
1 lb. pasta shells of choice, cooked until soft
8 oz. muffuletta mix (olive salad mix)
8 oz. salami, cut into small cubes
8 oz. ham, cut into small cubes
6 oz. provolone cheese, cut into small cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded Parmesan cheese for topping
Drain pasta and place in large serving bowl. Add cubed meats, cheese and muffuletta mix. Toss to combine. Cover and allow to rest in refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Toss and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Serve chilled.

Marinated Greek Salad
Duffy Stewart
2 tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 green pepper, seeded and diced
1 onion, peeled and cut into strips or chopped
1 Tbsp. each: lemon juice, vinegar and oregano
2 Tbsp. parsley
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
½ cup olive oil
4 oz. pkg. feta cheese, optional
Combine tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper and onion in bowl.
Whisk lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper until salt dissolves. Whisk in oil, one Tbsp. at a time. Pour over vegetables. Stir to coat. Add feta cheese if desired. Cover and chill several hours.

Layered Southwestern Chicken Salad
Linda Spain
Dressing:
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup olive oil
Salad Ingredients:
1 pkg. (10 oz.) hearts of romaine salad mix
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 lb. grilled chicken tenders, chopped
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 can (11 oz.) Mexicorn, drained (or use fresh corn)
1 can (6 oz.) sliced ripe olives, drained
2 cups coarsely crushed tortilla chips
Additional fresh cilantro leaves
For dressing, combine first 5 ingredients in a blender; cover and process until smooth.  While processing, gradually add oil in a steady stream.  Transfer to a small bowl; cover and refrigerate until serving.
In a 4 qt. glass salad bowl, layer the remaining ingredients in the order listed.  Serve with the dressing.  Yield: 8 servings.
Note: This salad can also be made with steak strips or even leftover pork chops substituted for the chicken. The recipe called for ready-to-use southwestern chicken tenders, but Linda substituted chicken tenders, dredging them in Mesquite grill mates seasoning, and cooking them on a small grill. This needs to be the first thing prepared if ready-to-use strips are not going to be used.

Grape and Toasted Almond Chicken Salad
3 cooked and chopped chicken breasts
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 scallion, minced
½ to ¾ cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup sliced red or green grapes
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
Lettuce
Combine chicken, celery, scallion and mayonnaise in a bowl and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste. Fold in grapes and almonds. Serve on lettuce. Makes 6 servings.

Salad with Caramelized Vidalia Onions
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 large Vidalia onions, sliced
1 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp. kosher salt
Dash of black pepper
5 cups romaine, chopped
5 cups mixed field greens
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 to 6 oz. goat cheese
In a large skillet over medium-low heat, add 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add onions, sugar, salt and pepper. Allow onions to caramelize, stirring occasionally until a deep golden color.
Combine romaine and field greens. Drizzle with remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil, lemon juice and vinegar; toss to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper. Top with goat cheese.
When onions are golden brown, pour over salad. Mix and cover for 10 minutes until greens wilt and cheese melts. Add more oil and vinegar if needed. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Fresh Corn, Tomato, and Basil Salad
Page Adams
5 ears uncooked corn, cut off the cob
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup chopped basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
Toss first three ingredients in a bowl with salt and pepper; mix the oil and lemon juice together and pour over corn mixture, stirring well.
Cover and chill for an hour.

Green Salad with Strawberries and Toasted Pecans
Katherine Greene
Vinaigrette:
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. sherry or white wine vinegar
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Whisk together mustard and vinegar. Add olive oil in a fine stream, whisking constantly. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
Salad:
Mixed greens
Toasted pecans or almonds
Crumbled blue cheese or feta
Sliced strawberries or red grapes
Bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
Place greens in a large bowl. Top with toasted nuts, cheese, fruit and bacon. Serve with vinaigrette.

Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad
Laurie Gilbert
2 whole chicken breasts, cooked and chopped well
4 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
8 oz. linguine
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. dill weed (I add more)
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green or yellow pepper
3 Tbsp. chopped green onion
2 Tbsp. chopped pimento
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 – 1 tsp. Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning
1 Tbsp. good olive oil
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Day before: Sprinkle cooked chopped chicken with vinegar and some salt. Refrigerate.
Next day: Cook pasta and toss with olive oil. Set aside. Mix all other ingredients. Toss everything and refrigerate for several hours. Yield: 8-10 Servings
*Adjust seasonings adding more if needed: Tony Chachere’s, salt, pepper, dill weed, etc. I always prefer more of all the seasonings.

Eatzi’s Pasta, Chicken and Cranberry Salad
1 ¼ lbs. pasta (short twisted), cooked
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted, optional
¼ cup fresh or frozen corn, thawed
10 oz. chicken, cooked and cubed
¼ lb. asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. fresh-chopped rosemary
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Kosher salt, pepper to taste
6 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 orange
½ cup olive oil
½ cup dried cranberries
Blanch asparagus until desired doneness; cool. In a large bowl, make dressing by mixing rosemary, vinegar, salt, pepper, honey, mustard, orange juice and olive oil.
In another bowl, combine pasta, pine nuts, corn, chicken and asparagus and cranberries. Mix and add to bowl with dressing. Toss to combine. Chill until ready to serve.

Mary’s Best Pasta Salad
1 box thin spaghetti
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 can black olives, drained
1 small jar pimento, chopped
½ cup olive oil
3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. McCormicks’ steak seasonings
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 small box frozen green peas, thawed
Black pepper
1 or 2 slices ham, ¼-inch thick, cubed
Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water for 7 minutes. (I add about a tablespoon of oil to prevent the spaghetti from sticking together.) Drain.
Stir remaining ingredients together in a bowl; toss with spaghetti. This must be made several hours ahead or overnight. Serves 10.

Cornbread Salad
1 pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
Tex Mex cornbread, recipe follows
Two 16-oz. pinto beans, drained (black beans)
3 large tomatoes, chopped
½ cup chopped green pepper
½ cup chopped green onions
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 16-ounce cans whole kernel corn, drained
Tex Mex Cornbread
1 pkg. Jiffy cornbread mix
1 can chopped green chilies
Mix cornbread as directed on package, adding green chilies. Pour into a greased 9-inch pan. Bake as directed on package.
Combine dressing mix, sour cream and mayonnaise; set aside. Place half of crumbled cornbread in a large serving bowl. Top with half of beans.
In a medium sized bowl, combine tomatoes, green pepper and onions; place half of this on top of beans. Layer half of cheese, bacon and corn. Top with half of dressing. Repeat layers. Cover and chill at least 3 hours. Better made a day ahead.

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