If this weekend didn’t officially set a record for the hottest day on planet Earth, it certainly came close. As we drove through Bakersfield Saturday night after 9, the thermometer still read 95 degrees. (As my father would say, “Heavens to Murgatroyd!”) If we had stopped for more than 9 minutes we would have melted. I found myself pondering how humans living in hot climes have managed to create civilization over the centuries; seriously, I would still be lounging in a cave, digging with my stick, trying to muster up the energy to scrounge some berries and nuts for dinner.
Some may claim they only want to consume fruit and iced tea when the temperature soars. Not me; I still crave savory, spicy foods, especially picnic fare, and in my opinion there is no better summer menu item than the oft-underrated salad. I am not referring to the pathetic salad of your youth, that sorry pile of iceberg lettuce and faded tomato chunks sprinkled with seasoned croutons and a heart-clogging blob of ranch dressing. I’m talking about sal-ade: “A cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing.” (Of course you can — and should — add nuts, fruits, and grains to this definition.) The possibilities with salads are truly limitless!
Salads are the summer counterpart to the stews and curries of winter. A simple salad provides the perfect balance to a main course, while a complex, hearty one can proudly carry an entire meal all by itself. Perhaps you have been searching for a couple of fun salads for that 4th of July shindig you’re planning (or, like me, you just realized this morning it was July)? Well, look no further. Here are a few recipes that will make your family swoon and taste buds spin.
Vegan Greek Pasta Salad
- 6 servings noodles (I like penne or fusilli), use brown rice pasta for gluten-free
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 red onion, chopped fine
- 4-5 scallions, chopped (both white and green parts)
- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
- 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup feta cheese (there’s a vegan one, too, or you can leave out)
- olives – black (1/2 cup) and kalamata (1/2 cup)
- Dressing: 1/3-1/2 cup good olive oil, 1/3 cup vinegar (I use a mix of red wine and balsamic), 2 t. garlic powder, 2 t. dried basil, 2 t. oregano, 1 t. raw sugar, sea salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
- 3-4 cups spinach
1. Cook pasta according to directions. Set aside to cool.
2. Mix dressing in a largish bowl with a whisk, add in all prepped vegetables and add noodles.
3. Chill for as long or little as you like, garnish with fresh basil, spell out “Happy 4th” in pine nuts or sun-dried tomatoes, and serve over spinach.
French Potato Salad (adapted from the wonderful Ina Garten)
- 2 pounds small red and white boiling potatoes
- 1/4 cup scallions (white & green parts, of course)
- 2 T. white wine
- 2 T vegetable broth
- 3 T champagne vinegar (substitute apple cider if you don’t have this fancy shmancy kind)
- 1/2 t. dijon mustard
- 2 t. sea salt
- 3/4 t. pepper
- 1/3 cup (approx) good olive oil
- 2 T. fresh minced dill (or use 1 T dried)
- 2 T fresh minced parsley, flat-leaf
- 2 T. fresh basil
1. Boil potatoes for about 25 minutes; drain in colander, cover with a towel and let steam for another 10 minutes. When cooled enough to handle, cut in halves or fourths. Pour wine and broth over potatoes, set aside.
2. Combine vinegar, mustard, 1/2 t. salt and half of pepper; whisk in olive oil. Add to potatoes.
3. Last, add all those gorgeous herbs to the mix, toss expertly, and serve either chilled or at room temperature. Serves 4-6, depending on appetites and other culinary offerings.
You know, it’s not the worst thing to invite a few vegans to your 4th of July BBQ. How many hot mayonnaise dishes do you really want sitting out at the park for hours? Yeah, that’s what I thought. 🙂