It’s never a good idea to add to summer’s swelter by heating up the kitchen with long-cooking dishes. Having the oven on for hours or something simmering on the stove for just as long hardly sounds appetizing.
So what to make that beats the heat without creating more? Enter the main-course salad. Or, as Elaine called it on Seinfeld, the Big Salad. Most restaurants offer a big salad topped with chicken, steak or fish that serves as the entire meal. These offerings can easily be replicated, and even made better, at home.
The key to keeping the house cool is to put together a salad that doesn’t require much heat. The rotisserie chicken is a great help there. Use the white meat for a lower-fat salad and save the dark meat for another use. Or include it all. The grill is another way to keep the house temp from rising. Skewers of grilled shrimp, marinated flank steak or gingered salmon are all tasty salad toppers.
There are other ways to change up the Big Salad. Start with the greens. Iceberg and Romaine are sturdy bases, but spring mixes or baby leaves add more interest. Nothing wrong with mixing them up. Don’t forget spinach or even kale.
Fresh veggies can run the gamut from the usual salad trinity — tomatoes, cucumber, onion — to summer squash, jicama, quickly blanched green beans, carrots, peas and corn. If they fit into your salad scheme, consider marinated artichoke hearts or other pickled goodness.
And then there are beans. Rinse and drain canned varieties to lessen sodium. And fruit. Blueberries and strawberries are fine additions. And cheese. Shredded hard cheeses, plump knobs of goat cheese or feta crumbles fit in just fine. How could I forget blue cheese? Plus hard-boiled eggs and crispy bacon crumbles, too.
Slider Caesar: Top a Caesar salad with skewers of mini-burgers cooked on the grill. Make croutons out of hamburger buns.
Charcuterie Salad: Toss cooked potato pieces with equally sized cubes of hard salami and smoked mozzarella cheese. Mix in chopped cornichon pickles and dress with mayonnaise mixed with mustard. serve over chopped Romaine. I serve it over iceberg or Romaine.
Strawberry and Chicken Salad
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups Romaine lettuce torn into bite-size pieces
- 4 cups spring mix greens
- 2 cups quartered strawberries
- 1/3 cup red onion thinly sliced
- 1 rotisserie chicken shredded
- ¼ cup pecan pieces
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup crumbled feta
- To prepare dressing, combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl. Gradually drizzle in oil, stirring constantly with a whisk.
- Arrange Romaine and spring mix in wide serving bowls. Mix in strawberries and onions.
- Sprinkle pecans and cranberries on top of greens, followed by feta and chicken. Dress salad or offer vinaigrette on side for diners to pour themselves.