Friday, June 3, 2016

Serious Summer Salads

School’s out!

Ahhhh, summer. I love the lazy mornings, the poolside days, the s’mores by the fire nights. I planted my garden last weekend, and I am so looking forward to fresh lettuce and herbs, pungent tomatoes, and waxy hot peppers. I’ve already started harvesting the arugula and made a salad with it last night. There’s nothing like fresh greens from the garden.

In summer, I do a ton of meal salads. I like to toss chicken or burgers and dogs on the grill for the kids and make a huge salad for my husband and me and whoever else shows up at my back door for a night swim. My salads are not just lettuce, tomato and some cucumber. (Actually, I don’t like cucumber in salads, because I think it makes the salad taste watery – but that’s just me.) I love adding different grilled proteins and cheeses, nuts, and whatever vegetables are in my fridge. Since followers have been asking for recipes, I thought I would do a post of some of my favorite summer salads.

Grilled Romaine Salad
My very favorite – I found a version of this recipe a few years ago, and I’ve been changing it up and eating it every since. The cheese is the best part. It doesn’t melt on the grill but gets this chewy, soft consistency and takes on the grilled flavor. It’s delicious.

2 Heads of romaine, sliced in half long ways, with the bottom core left intact
1 purple onion, sliced in thick rounds
1 container of Halloumi cheese, cut into ½ inch thick slices
½ C Olive Oil
A handful of chopped fresh mint leaves
2 cloves crushed garlic
Juice from 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

Prepare lettuce, onions, and cheese and place them on a platter.
Combine oil, garlic, mint, lemon, salt and pepper and brush some onto the veggies and cheese.
Place the veggies and cheese on the hot grill.
Grill romaine until the edges start to char.
Grill the cheese until it starts to get just slightly melty, about 5 min.
You can chop the lettuce, onions and cheese and put it in a big bowl or leave it all whole and serve on the platter- whichever you like. It’s prettier when it is served whole on a platter, but the flavors mingle well when mixed in a bowl.
Top with the remaining dressing and serve.

Balsamic Grilled Vegetable Salad
When I have a bunch of veggies in my fridge that I want to use up, this is my go to summer salad. It’s bursting with flavor, and the addition of blue or gorgonzola cheese adds a special bite and pairs perfectly with the tart balsamic.

1 Red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, seeded and halved
2 large portabella mushrooms
1 red onion, sliced into large rounds
1 or 2 zucchini or yellow squash, depending on their size, sliced in half, longways
1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed
2 heads of chopped romaine.
1 bunch grape tomatoes, left whole
½ can chick peas
1 small container of blue or gorgonzola cheese
Toasted sunflower seeds or croutons to give the salad extra crunch
Grilled chicken, steak or shrimp for extra protein

Prepare peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, onion and asparagus and place on a large platter
Make dressing (recipe below)
Brush veggies with dressing and grill until slightly charred
Place chopped romaine in a large bowl or on a platter.
Top with tomatoes, chick peas, grilled veggies (and protein if you added it)
Sprinkle with cheese, croutons and sunflower seeds
Toss with more balsamic dressing.
Perfect salad for a pizza night!

Balsamic Dressing
1 Cup olive oil
½ Cup balsamic vinegar
1 t salt (or more to taste)
1t pepper
1t garlic powder

Arugula with Honey Grilled Shrimp
This salad looks a little fancier, but it’s so simple and delicious.

16 raw jumbo Gulf shrimp – peeled and deveined
5 cups arugula
½ cup parmesan cheese salad shreds
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup Marcona almonds
2 T honey
½ C olive oil for marinade plus ½ C more for drizzling over greens
¼ C white wine vinegar


In a large bowl, whisk ½ C olive oil with honey, vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
Add shrimp to the bowl and toss. Let this marinate for ½ hour to an hour.
While shrimp is marinating, prepare salad.
Lay arugula on a large platter.
Top with cheese shred, raisins and almonds.
Shake a pinch each of salt and pepper over the greens and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.
Grill shrimp and place over the salad greens.
So pretty and yummy!

Cheers to summer, to cookouts and catching fireflies, to water baloon battles and cannonball jumps into the pool, to berry picking. Let's hope we have loads of sunshine here in Pittsburgh!

Until next time, mangia bene! 

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