Sunday, June 17, 2012

Unexpected Summer Salads - The Perfect BBQ Side

Margaritas, My Official Summer Drink, Photo: NK
With Memorial Day behind us, 
Summer is most definitely in full swing. 

Happily, this means barbecues. 

As etiquette dictates, when I am invited to a barbecue, or any party for that matter, I always defer to the wishes of the host in terms of what I am asked to bring.

Goes kinda like this:

Beer? That's easy!

A side dish? Awesome! Plenty of ideas for that. 

Dessert? Ok, baking's not my favorite, but I'll buy you something really delicious. 

Only one barbecue request makes my heart sink: 


I have nothing against salads, and hey, like I said, I'd never ignore the requests of my hosts. But if we're being honest, the green salad (unlike his more popular cousins, cole slaw and macaroni) is always the biggest loser of the barbecue. You've seen him - he's the dish that's coldly passed over as guests rush to pile hunks of meat and corn on the cob on their plates. 

So how do I overcome salad malaise? I always make sure to choose untraditional salads that are both tasty and unexpected. Below are two can't lose salads that always make a splash with kids and grown ups alike. As a bonus, their use of fruit makes them extra light and refreshing. May you have many BBQ invites this summer, and I invite you to join me in my quest to make salads exciting again. 

Watermelon, Arugula and Ricotta Salata Salad with Mint Dressing
Wild Arugula or Rocket, Photo: NK
Adapted from Robert Irvine
Serves 4 to 6


For the Vinaigrette
2 Tablespoons Champagne Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
3 Tablespoons chopped Fresh Mint
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper
1/4 cup Grapeseed Oil

For the Salad
1 large bunch Wild Arugula (Rocket) or Baby Arugula (about 6 oz) washed and dried
1 small Red Onion, sliced very thinly
1 small Seedless Watermelon cut into 1 inch cubes
3 oz. Ricotta Salata or Feta Cheese cut into small uniform cubes

Vinaigrette should be prepared just before use. It will keep for an hour or two if need be, but definitely dress the salad on site if possible.
To make, add Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Chopped Mint, Salt and Pepper into a blender or mini food processor. Blend. Add the Oil in a slow stream or in several pours. Blend until fully incorporated. Add extra Salt and Pepper to taste if needed. Set aside.

Mint, Photo: NK
Seedless Baby Watermelon, Photo: NK

In a bowl, combine the Arugula and Onion and fold in the Watermelon

Watermelon, Arugula and Onion, Photo: NK

When ready to serve, gently add Vinaigrette in small increments and toss until salad is lightly coated but not soggy. 

Ricotta Salata and Mint Dressing, Ready to Assemble, Photo: NK

 Top with the Ricotta Salata cheese and enjoy! 

Finished Watermelon, Arugula and Ricotta Salata Salad, Photo: NK

Next up, an even easier salad that also uses the best fruit of the season and an unexpected green component - basil!

Grilled Pineapple, Basil and Cucumber Salad
Basil, Photo: NK
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 4

1/2 a cored Pineapple sliced into 1/3 inch thick rings
1 small Cucumber peeled and cut lengthwise into half, then thinly sliced into half moons
1/2 cup Basil Leaves washed and dried (torn if large)
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Freshly ground Pepper

Heat a grill pan or grill over high heat. 
Grill Pineapple rounds for about 2 minutes per side until grill marks appear. Let cool fully.

Pineapple cut into fourths, Photo: NK

Toss Cucumber with Basil leaves in a serving bowl. 

Take cooled Pineapple rounds and cut each into quarters, forming 2 to 3 inch half moons.

Fold in the cold Pineapple to Cucumber and Basil. 

Sprinkle Oil over the mixture, toss, and check for seasoning. 

Serve and enjoy! 

Grilled Pineapple, Basil, and Cucumber Salad with Jerk Chicken Breast, Photo: NK
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