Once the weather changes and the days lengthen, it seems that cooks’ attitudes in their kitchens change as well. With the sun still peering in through the windows, it’s a little harder to stand sentry at the stove, making dinner.
Whole meal salads are a great solution. They’re lighter, suiting the warmer weather, and oh so easy to put together. With basics such as cubed cooked chicken, cans of tuna or spaghetti, along with a few well-chosen seasonal items you can have a satisfying and delicious repast on the table in no time.
They don’t lack for flavour either. The Garlicky Romaine salad is just that – really garlicky. The Roasted Potato Salad packs a wollop of flavor, not only through the tangy vinaigrette, but also through the combination of potatoes, tomatoes and tuna. The Soba Noodle Salad is pretty as punch, more restaurant like in its presentation, but awfully simple to execute. Its emerald tones reflect not only the greenery all around us but its health components as well.
GARLICKY ROMAINE WITH CROUTONS, CHICKEN AND RED PEPPER
1 large head Romaine lettuce, chopped (about 8 cups)
2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
1/2 cup roasted red pepper strips
1/2 cup red onion slices
2 cups croutons (see below)
1 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
2 tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard
2 cups red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
1/3 cup vegetable oil
In large serving bowl, toss together lettuce, chicken, red pepper and onion slices.
In separate small bowl, whisk together garlic, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly, in thin gradual stream, whisk in olive oil until emulsified. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat well. Sprinkle croutons over; toss well. Makes 4 servings.
For croutons, heat 2 tbsp. vegetable oil in large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add 2 cups French bread cubes. Cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, shaking pan often or stirring, until golden; let cool. I make a big batch of these once a week and keep them on hand to throw into salads whenever I want. You can make these even more garlicky by adding minced garlic to the oil in the pan.
ROASTED POTATO SALAD WITH TOMATOES AND TUNA IN A MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE
2 lb. small red-skinned potatoes, cut into 3/4-in. chunks
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
2 cans tuna packed in water, drained well
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
6 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
2 tbsp. finely chopped gherkin pickles
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 450. In bowl, toss together potatoes, oil, salt and pepper. Spread in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Bake in centre of preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once, until tender when pierced with a fork and golden brown. Let cool slightly.
Transfer potatoes to serving bowl. Add tuna, tomatoes and green onions.
In separate bowl, whisk together shallots, mustard, vinegar and pickles. Slowly, in thin gradual stream, whisk in olive oil until emulsified. Pour dressing over salad. Toss to coat well. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley. Makes 4 servings.
SOBA NOODLE SALAD WITH ASPARAGUS AND GRILLED SALMON
5 oz. soba noodles (or spaghetti)
8 oz. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-in. pieces
6 cups baby spinach
12 oz. salmon, skin on
2 tsp. hoisin sauce
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed
2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
2 tbsp. soya sauce
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. canola oil
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh gingerroot
To make the dressing, whisk together in a small bowl soy sauce, vinegar, honey, canola and sesame oils and gingerroot. Set aside.
In large pot of boiling salted water, cook soba noodles for 7 minutes. Add prepared asparagus to pot. Cook for 2 minutes. Drain well. Rinse under cold running water until cool. Drain well. Transfer to serving bowl. Add spinach, tossing to coat well. Pour dressing over, tossing gently to coat well. Set aside.
Brush hoisin sauce over salmon. Grill over medium high grill for 10 minutes per inch. Divide salad among 4 plates. Cut salmon into 4 equal sized pieces. Place on top of salad. Pile avocado cubes evenly over salmon. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Makes 4 servings.