This time of year I start to get obsessed with salads. Despite the drop dead gorgeous weather we tend to have in the Midwest this time of year, there’s that faint unsettling undercurrent of Things to Come. Those things being killer humidity and scorching heat. The sort of things that make turning on an oven about as appealing as a root canal or a colonoscopy. Many people start thinking of the grill as an alternative to the oven. I myself am severely grill impaired and have the additional psychic handicap of having once set our deck on fire. It didn’t have anything to do with a grill, but still – the scars remain. So salads are what I start thinking about. I make a pretty good salad on my own with whatever happens to be in the fridge – it doesn’t have to be a classic salad ingredient for me to toss it in. And I’ve got the salad dressing “oil to acid” ratio down pat so I can whip up a salad dressing without a problem. What I’m saying is – I know you don’t need a recipe to produce a salad. But most recipe books have recipes for salads and since I am an avid reader of cookbooks, I run across recipes from time to time that I decide are worth trying. So today, I’m going to share two salad recipes with you even though it’s going to make for a long post and you may lose interest before I’m through. But if you hang in here with me, I can promise you’ll leave with two excellent recipes.
Most salads (at least the lettuce based ones) kind of sit there politely on your plate, unassuming and willing to be part of the team, whatever the team may be. They play equally nicely with any number of entrees. Not this salad! The flavors are pretty assertive. This salad has chutzpah and it demands recognition in its own right. Now I really, really LIKE this salad, but I’m still not quite sure what to serve it with – there just seem to be a lot of things it doesn’t “go with” easily. But maybe I’m not being open minded enough. Maybe I’m becoming rigid and inflexible in my thinking. Whatever – it is a very good salad and you really should try it, even if you just make it to eat by itself. It would be really good as a solo culinary event with a nice crusty slice of bread slathered with butter. W-a-a-a-a-ah! Have I mentioned lately how much I miss being able to have a nice crusty slice of bread slathered with butter? Ah well. The original recipe came from the talented Kalyn Denney of kalynskitchen.com fame. I have only minimally revised it to my taste. She called it “Peperoncini Chopped Salad with Romaine, Red Bell Pepper and Feta.” That seemed like too much of a mouthful to me for ordinary household usage. If someone asked me what we were having for dinner I fear I would forget what I was talking about before I got to the end of the name. So I renamed it to be more in keeping with my short attention span. And I think the name fits.
1 tsp dried oregano (preferably Greek oregano but don’t stress about it)
1/2 to 1 tsp of minced garlic
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp brine from the jar of peperoncini
freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Mash the oregano together with the garlic and then combine with the next three ingredients. Then whisk in the olive oil a couple of tablespoonfuls at a time until it is well emulsified. Let the dressing sit in a quiet spot so all the ingredients can get acquainted while you put together the salad.
4 to 6 cups chopped Romaine lettuce (I get the package with three heads in it, chop off the stem ends and then slice the lettuce into about 1/2 to 1 inch rounds. I used two heads.)
1 cup sliced peperoncini (I buy Marzetti’s brand that is pre-sliced – it’s available here at WalMart)
1 red bell pepper, cut into short, thin slices
1/2 to 3/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
Put the lettuce into a big bowl and toss with the desired amount of dressing – you probably won’t need it all. The leftover dressing will taste great the next day on a regular salad. Add the peperoncini, bell pepper strips and the crumbled feta. Add some more black pepper maybe. Kalyn suggests (although she has never had any leftovers to contend with) that it probably isn’t a salad that keeps well once assembled. When I made it we practically licked the bowl clean so I have no experience there either.
I first had this salad at Seth and Maddie’s home. As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the truly lovely things about daughters-in-law is that they often come complete with wonderful recipes to share. This is one of those. Now this salad is one of those aforementioned polite salads that plays nicely with one and all. It was originally called Berry Mandarin salad but Seth and Maddie refer to it as Barry Manilow Salad so that’s what it will be forevermore in my mind. I am old enough and sappy enough to really like Barry Manilow so eating a salad that is named after him is not off putting to me. However, I know that many do not share my positive opinion of the man, so call it whatever you like but try it – it’s really, really good.
Barry Manilow Salad
8 cups torn mixed salad greens
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
11 oz can mandarin oranges, drained
1 medium sweet onion, sliced (or less!)
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
Combine all salad ingredients in large bowl.
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
1 ¼ tsp lemon juice
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp ground mustard
½ tsp grated onion
¼ tsp celery seed
dash of salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Combine all ingredients except oil in a microwavable bowl. Microwave to dissolve sugar. Whisk in oil and refrigerate. When ready to dress salad, blend the dressing in a blender immediately before adding to salad.