I'm a salad addict during the hotter months. When the dog days of summer in the south arrive, I crave fruits and veggies like woah. I've got a solid stash of recipes in the ol' rotation, but here are three of my top picks.
Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
1 box Barilla tricolor rotini pasta
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes (I love to do a mix of red and golden cherry toms!)
1/4 cup whole black olives, halved
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 cup Wishbone Zesty Italian Dressing
cracked pepper to taste
-grilled chicken or shrimp
-fresh mozzarella cheese
Cook pasta until al dente or slightly firm. While pasta cooks, chop cherry tomatoes in half, drain black olives and slice, chop bell pepper and prep any additional ingredients you plan to add, (chicken, cheese, etc.) Then...mix it all up!
I usually combine everything while the pasta is still warm -- it blends the flavors better -- then put it right in the fridge to start chilling.
Francie's Sweet-n-Sour Southern Slaw
This is my MIL's recipe and it's heavenly, I tell you!
1/2 cup granulated, white sugar
1 medium head of purple cabbage, shredded
1 small white onion, chopped
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
-crunchy wonton strips
Shred up the cabbage, chop the onion into small pieces and combine them in a stainless steel saucepan. Sprinkle the white sugar over the top of the cabbage and onion, then set aside. Next, combine the rest of the ingredients with a whisk -- this will be your dressing -- into a small pot and bring it to a boil. While still bubbling, pour over the top of the cabbage/onion mixture, transfer it to a spill-proof container and let it cool overnight.
This makes a delicious relish alternative for hot dogs and brats and is also divine as a side dish for fried or grilled whitefish. We like cod, sea bass and red snapper.
2 large cucumbers
4 medium on-the-vine tomatoes (they just taste better!)
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of Olive Garden brand salad dressing (I add gradually since it's a pretty flavorful dressing. I still like to let the veggies carry most of the flavor.)
1 cup freshly shredded or cubed mozzarella
1/4 cup fresh basil sprinkled on top
1/2 cup *Leslie's croutons (recipe below)
Chop up your cucumbers and tomatoes, grate your fresh cheese and chop up the basil. Once it's all prepped, combine it in a big bowl and top with dressing very gradually until you achieve your desired flavor. Next, refrigerate for one hour. Add in croutons immediately prior to serving.
*Leslie's Caprese Croutons
Lengthwise, cut in half a loaf of French or Italian bread. Drizzle the bread with olive oil, then top with rosemary before tossing it into the oven at 380 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Once crisp, remove from oven and cube up the toast into croutons.
Tips for perfecting your ensalada:
- Invest in a good salt and pepper grinder. Fresh cracked pepper and sea salt add a whole other dimension of freshness to the flavor profile.
- Always have fresh lemon, olive oil and balsamic vinegar on hand for a simple and tasty three-ingredient dressing.
- Never dress your salad more than five minutes before serving IF it's leaf-based unless you want soggy salad. Slaws and pasta salads taste best if allowed to marinate in their liquid for a half-hour or so.
- Invest in a good set of knives. We have and covet these bad boys, (top-most, above), which are really affordable, (under $20!) Two good paring knives, one 6.5 inch chef's knife, (middle), and a dual blade knife sharpener, (directly above), is all you really need to start and build a good collection of veggie/fruit knives.