It hasn't really been a "heat-wave" in Seattle - especially not compared to the 100+ degrees that many states have been experiencing for weeks now. Nevertheless, the weather has been just right for main dish salads that can be served at just about any temperature, and especially are easy to serve up fuss-free and take outside to eat on the patio.
I've rolled through multiple versions of pasta and grain salads the past couple weeks, tossing whatever fantastic farmer's market produce managed to last through day-time snacking long enough to still be hanging around to be chopped up for dinner with a well-balanced dressing.
Truly, the dressing is the hardest part, and while I rarely refer to a recipe anymore, I'm far from mastering the prime ratios. Jamie Oliver recommends a 2:5 acid-to-oil and I've found I prefer closer to 2:4... in other words, twice as much oil as acid. I also generally prefer a lighter acid like lemon juice, lime juice, or rice vinegar, but there are definitely times when nothing compares to a delicious balsamic. Soy sauce and wine (red or white) vinegars can be other good choices, or a blend of more than one. Once you've figured out what basic proportions you prefer in your dressings, it's easy to flavor with any of the following: salt, pepper, hot sauce, mustard, fresh herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, dill, anise, cilantro, parsley, mint, tarragon, etc) garlic/garlic powder, shallot, curry powder, cumin, lemon/lime/orange zest, sugar, honey, maple, sesame oil, walnut oil.
Quinoa and Green Foods Salad
serves 4 as main dish
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 large onion (about 1 cup)
1 granny smith apple
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2-3 tablespoons roasted, salted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons crumbled feta or ricotta salata cheese
Cook quinoa according to package directions.
Saute onion in 1-2 teaspoons butter + 1-2 teaspoons olive oil over medium low heat until carmelized, 20-30 minutes.
Cut zucchini lengthwise into quarters, then crosswise into 1/2" thick slices to make wedges.
Cut apple into bite-sized pieces, approximately the same size as zucchini pieces.
Toss quinoa, onion, zucchini, apple, herbs, and sunflower seeds with a dressing of lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, mustard, olive oil, hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with cheese and serve atop a bed of spinach or mixed greens.
Southwestern Salmon Salad
serves 6 as main dish
8-10 ounces wild salmon filet
1 cup (8 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 ears corn
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, lightly packed
1 red or orange bell pepper, diced
1 large carrot, diced or sliced in rounds
1 large zucchini or cucumber, sliced crosswise into 1/2" rounds then quartered into wedges
6 ounces pasta in interesting shape such as campanelle, farfalle, radiatori
crumbled cojita cheese
Grill corn (husked or unhusked, I husked this time so that the kernals would get slightly charred) about 20 minutes, turning every 5-6 minutes. Place salmon on sheet of foil and grill approximately 8-10 minutes depending on thickness, until cooked through but still moist.
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Whisk together a dressing of lime juice, olive oil, cumin, garlic powder, salt, hot sauce. Toss with warm pasta. Cut corn kernals from cobs and toss with pasta, adding beans, bell pepper, zucchini, and cilantro leaves. Add more dressing if necessary. Sprinkle with cojita and serve cold or at room temperature.
Asian Noodle Salad
serves 2 as main dish
2 ounces soba (buckwheat) noodles or whole wheat spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 small carrot, grated or sliced
2 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
2 ounces firm tofu, drained and diced (I like tiny pieces, approximately 1/4" square)
Toss above with a dressing of soy sauce, vegetable oil, fresh grated ginger, brown sugar, rice vinegar, chile-garlic sauce, and a drop of sesame oil. Garnish with cilantro and toasted sesame seeds or toasted sliced almonds and serve chilled or at room temperature.