Since I have a collection of soups, I thought I’d balance with a post of some delicious salads. Just call me Olive Garden! So this is a collection of my favorite salads to make especially when everything is fresh in season during the spring and summer months. I’ve included the links to their original recipes I’m inspired by, but below you may notice I take shortcuts, seldom measure, and custom to my taste. These are also a lovely remedy for summertime sadness.
1 can Cannellini beans
2 medium or 1 large zucchini (courgette)
2 ears of corn or eyeball a portion of frozen
2 tbsp olive oil plus extra for pre-grill brushing
1 lemon for juice and zest
1 tsp honey
salt & pepper
pecans or walnuts
grated Pecorino cheese
This salad is very hearty, and as a vegetarian I appreciate that this can stand alone as a meal. Begin by preparing your beans. If they’re coming from a can, drain and strain. Maybe you prefer dried beans, in which case soak and cook according to package directions. Transfer beans to a large serving bowl. Then whisk olive oil, lemon juice and zest, honey, rosemary, garlic, and S&P for the dressing. Pour dressing over the beans and toss to coat. Let marinate while tending to other steps.
Brush halved (length-wise) zucchini with olive oil and grill until lightly charred. If you’re using fresh corn, grill the ear of corn as well. I like to wrap the ear of corn in foil for even-cooking results.
Once grilled, half the zucchini pieces length-wise again and cut in chunks to toss in among the marinating beans. Shave the grilled corn or if you use frozen corn, warm it and rid it of excess water to add to the serving bowl. Mix and incorporate torn basil.
The original recipe calls for pecans. I’ve substituted crushed walnuts or omitted nuts completely. The nuts gives the salad nice dimension, but do as you please. Same with the grated Pecorino. It’s a lovely extra flavor, but you won’t be shunned from the picnic if you leave it behind.
1 ½ lb small potatoes such as new potatoes, Yukon gold potatoes, or red potatoes
diced red onion
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon white wine vinegar (I use red)
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon black pepper
I know it’s “traditional” in American culture, but I’m a bit grossed out by the “classic” potato salad immersed in mayo. This potato salad is pretty damn good.
To me it’s easier (and prettier) to slice baby potatoes, but if it’s convenient for you to cut large potatoes in chunks and halved slices, by all means proceed. Cut them up and place in pot of water to bring to a boil. Salt once boiling, and time for 6-8 minutes. Check to see if a fork penetrates the slice easily, but not in a way where the potato falls apart. This is an art and science and of great importance.
Prepare your dressing by whisking olive oil, vinegar, dijon, and pepper. This recipe technically uses sumac and coriander but I’ve always excluded these yet achieved excellent results. Many times I lack white wine vinegar so I’ve substituted red wine vinegar. No regrets.
Once you drain the potatoes (don’t rinse!!) place them in a large serving bowl and pour dressing to coat them while still hot. Sprinkle dill, chopped parsley, diced red onion, and capers. I’m pretty generous with the capers. Let sit and reach room temperature.
basil leaves, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
3 peaches, pitted and halved
6 ounces halloumi, sliced
mixed greens (optional)
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
Halloumi is frequently referred to as the “grillable cheese.” It is a Middle-Eastern cheese that comes in a vacuum sealed package usually with some herbs. So many amazing recipes with it!!
Prepare your lemon pesto dressing by combining a hefty handful of finely chopped basil, minced garlic, lemon juice, rice vinegar, and S&P. You can whisk this ferociously or even pop it into the food processor for a few pulses. As you whisk or pulse, stream in olive oil.
Half your peaches and grill them lightly. A grill pan does the job well too. Despite its alternative name, I find halloumi difficult to grill but perfect on stovetop. I advise not cooking halloumi very far in advance to serving this salad because it gets firm and squeaky. Slice it and pan fry until it gets dark spots. You don’t really need olive oil here, especially in a nonstick pan.
Cut the peaches further and slice away any unwanted skin. People either like it or hate it. If it’s really fuzzy, probably take more off. Mix peaches and halloumi and drizzle pesto dressing. Pine nuts are really extra special here. I’ve served this on a bed of greens or on its own. The original recipe also incorporates green beans; I never have.
1 package of mixed field greens
1 red onion
1/2 cup of candied walnuts (you can purchase these already prepared)
1 log of goat cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
Slice the log of goat cheese in semi-thick disks. Coat them in a whisked egg then cover in breadcrumbs. Place your disks on a plate, cover in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. I won’t tell anyone if you only have time for 15 or forget for an hour.
Remove the greens from the beets. If you want to cut the beet baking in half, pre-boil them until a fork can effortless poke in. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap beets individually in foil and bake depending on size for about 40 minutes, 20 if pre-boiled. Beet size can vary, so some of the tiny ones get less time, big ones more time. As long as they’re soft and not burnt!
Whisk dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, dijon, S&P. The original recipe throws minced shallots in there, but in my version they sometimes make an appearance. Place greens in a serving bowl followed by cubed or sliced beets. I like to eat beet greens, so I mixed those in with the lettuce medley for no waste. The original recipe has avocado in there as well.
The goat cheeses go on a baking sheet to bake for 10 minutes in a 450 degree Fahrenheit oven. Don’t melt them! Let their breadcrumb coating become golden brown. These are best served warm so bake while assembling the rest of the salad.
5. Panzanella (no link—I got it from my Momma)
1 English cucumber
mozzarella pearls (optional)
stale baguette or crusty bread
Italian seasoning such as oregano
red wine vinegar
Have you ever bought a baguette and not finished it? Me neither. However, the best part about this recipe is the homemade croutons which are best made from stale bread. You can’t used stale sliced bread, but any crusty bread, rolls, or baguette suffices. Hand break the bread in rustic chunks. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle oregano and garlic powder. Mix and spread in an even layer on a baking sheet to bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or until golden and crisp. Taste to be sure it’s worthy of guests. Taste again because you’re worth it.
Chop your cucumber, tomatoes and red onion. If you choose to use mini mozzarella balls (the pearls), toss all together in a serving bowl. Add croutons and dress with olive oil and vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste. It’s so basic yet so delicious!
Take advantage of the fresh ingredients the season gifts us! As my friend Bianca says, these salads are “Earth to plate.” Be the star of a picnic, or enjoy quietly on a warm summer night. If you like this page, please share it!