Spring and Summer Salads Take the Spotlight

By Chef Judi Gallagher –

Time lapse video of rotting fruit and vegWhen I was a growing up, my mom served a salad every night with dinner. Perhaps a wedge of iceberg with homemade Russian dressing or a composed salad with spears of cucumbers and carrots slices. Or my favorite, a chopped salad of green cabbage, diced cucumbers and pickled herring.

Salads set the tone for any meal and ideally should reflect the season with garden fresh fruits and vegetables. In keeping with my mother’s tradition, my first restaurant in Massachusetts showcased a salad bar with homemade dressings and pottery containers filled with bright sweet cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds, crisp romaine lettuce and fresh baby spinach. There were red and yellow peppers and raw broccoli and zucchini. I always yearned for more space to expand the selections.

When I entertain at home, I am known to have two salad offerings, each one different in style and ingredients. One might be roasted yellow beets with goat cheese crumbles and fresh minced chives tossed in a mustard vinaigrette. The other could be a layered salad (throwback to the 1980s) with chopped bacon, sliced hard boiled eggs and tomato wedges in what computes to be a BLT salad with green peas.

This summer season enjoy the bright crisp flavors of a house-made salad as a starter, side or entrée. What would I suggest for dessert after a dinner of several salads? A fruit salad with honey and yogurt of course!


Chef Judi’s Nicoise Salad


Photo Credit: www.norecipes.com
Photo Credit: www.norecipes.com

8 ounces fresh asparagus, roasted with olive oil and kosher salt

1 head butter lettuce

1 head red leaf lettuce

12 heirloom grape tomatoes

10 ounces sashimi quality ahi tuna

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

½-cup nicoise olives

6 hardboiled eggs, chilled and sliced in halves

8 ounces organic red fingerling potatoes

Olive oil

Garlic salt (for potatoes)

Chilled roasted asparagus (while a classic Nicoise is served with haricot vert- otherwise known as skinny green beans, I love sweet roasted asparagus as an elegant substitute. Simply break the asparagus where it naturally bends, season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Lay asparagus on a cookie sheet and roast at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes.



2 cloves garlic

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise

2 tablespoons capers- drained


For Salad

Season Ahi with salt and pepper and sear 1 minute per side. Let rest 3-4 minutes before slicing. Wash lettuces and arrange on a platter with heirloom tomatoes and olives. Place fennel and sliced hard cooked eggs around platter.


For potatoes

Slice lengthwise and boil for 5 minutes. Drain and drizzle with olive oil and garlic salt and pepper. Lightly brown in a sauté pan. Place on salad.

In a chilled large bowl, mix all salad dressing ingredients. This dressing can be made 24 hours in advance and stored in refrigerator. Drizzle over salad and serve.


Asparagus with Bleu Cheese and Pine Nuts


Photo Credit: www.solomonsfreshmarkets.com
Photo Credit: www.solomonsfreshmarkets.com

2 pounds asparagus-peeled and trimmed

Kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper

Approximately 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ cup pine nuts, toasted

½ cup Maytag bleu cheese

Drizzle of balsamic reduction

Prep fresh large asparagus spears. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lay spears on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with olive oil, season lightly with kosher salt and ground pepper. Roast in the oven, turning once after 5 minutes for approximately 10 minutes or until the asparagus is crisp but cooked. Remove from the oven and cover the cookie sheet with a clean dry dishtowel. Sprinkle bleu cheese over the asparagus and top with pine nuts. Return to oven for 2-3 minutes until cheese begins to melt. Remove from the oven, place on serving plate and season with fresh ground pepper and kosher salt. Serve immediately with a drizzle of balsamic reduction.


Cool Cucumber-Mint Salad

Photo Credit: www.eatingininstead.com
Photo Credit: www.eatingininstead.com

I enjoy serving baby lamb chops with this summer salad. Simple and oh so southern But, you might enjoy a batch of fried chicken and biscuits.

3 large English cucumbers

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Grated orange rind from one large orange

½ cup olive oil

1 cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ red onion sliced thin

Garnish, 3 tablespoons pine nuts and ½ cup crumbled feta cheese


Peel cucumbers and remove seeds. Slice and place in a bowl. Zest a full orange and toss with chopped mint leaves and chopped parsley. In a separate bowl, mix olive oil, red wine vinegar and sugar. Pour over cucumbers, toss and chill overnight. Add sliced red onion 1 hour before serving.


Scallop and Endive Salad

Photo Credit: www.tripadvisor.com
Photo Credit: www.tripadvisor.com

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons undiluted orange juice concentrate

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and cracked

½ tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

3 oranges, peeled and segmented

2 endives (red or green leaf), cut lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slices

1 red onion, halved crosswise and cut vertically into thin crescents

½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

1 pomegranate, seeded, or ¼ cup dried cranberries or cherries, for garnish

16 sea scallops, patted dry with paper towels

1 teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil


To make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, orange juice concentrate, red wine vinegar, coriander seeds, salt and black pepper. Set aside.

To make the salad: In a salad bowl, combine the oranges, endives and red onion. Gently toss with three-fourths of the dressing. Let stand while cooking the scallops.

To make the scallops: Season the scallops with the salt and pepper. Using 2 large skillets, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in each skillet over medium-high heat. Cook several scallops at a time, being careful not to crowd, until lightly browned on the outside and opaque throughout, about 2 minutes on each side (do not overcook). Remove the scallops from the pan and cover to keep warm. Continue the cooking process until all of the scallops are prepared. To serve, add the walnuts to the salad. Portion the salad mixture onto 4 plates and arrange 4 scallops around the edge of each salad. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds or cranberries or cherries and spoon on the remaining dressing.



(makes 8-10 servings)

This is a classic Southern dessert, perfect for Sunday brunch or as a side for a ham or barbecue chicken dinner. Warning – when you first assemble the ingredients, the taste is not pleasant. Keep overnight for the best results.  Although my husband does not like nuts, most Ambrosia lovers add chopped pecans and green seedless grapes.

1 cup sour cream

1 cup lightly sweetened whipped cream

1 (20-ounce) can pineapple tidbits, drained

2 (11-ounce) cans mandarin oranges, drained

2 cups sweetened flaked coconut

2 cups miniature marshmallows

2 teaspoons fresh grated orange peel (optional)

In large mixing bowl combine sour cream with the whipped cream. Add remaining ingredients and gently fold until just combined. Pour into serving dish. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours before serving.


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