Sunday, July 12, 2009

can "just a salad" really be dinner?

for me, the answer is yes and...especially in summer...this is a frequent solution to the "what's for dinner when it is hot?" question. last night we had a big taco salad...greens, red onions, extra sharp cheddar cheese, organic kidney beans, chopped peppers, sliced black kalamata olives and corn tortilla chips tossed with a balsamic/chipotle vinaigrette. extra tortilla chips, salsa, guacamole...and, of course, freshly juiced lime margaritas completed the meal. easy, delicious, satisfying...perfect for a lazy saturday.

i was thinking this morning about how often salads have been my go-to option when entertaining...and decided to tell you about my new favorite series of salad recipes.

two weeks ago my friend caitlin phoned to discuss our friend richard's birthday which was later that week. richard had told her that...instead of a big "to-do"...he wanted to celebrate with "family". i believe that, if you are very lucky, you will have friends that you care so much about you consider them part of your family...that is the case here so we quickly organized a birthday bash at the farmhouse.... now it was one of those weeks where i literally had something planned each day and night leading up to the birthday dinner...i had no time to plan...barely time to shop...and needed something easy, but still special enough to qualify as a birthday celebration meal. the answer was inspired by the grilled chicken summer salad from the july issue of gourmet magazine. really, this is a bunch of small salads that, served together on a platter, create the most amazing meal...looks beautiful and tastes fantastic. the recipes include a radish-cucumber salad, a chickpea (garbanzo bean) salad, a green bean salad, a tomato salad, a lettuce salad...and grilled chicken & mushrooms tossed in good does that sound?

the brilliant touch is that all the salads, with the exception of the chicken, use the same vinaigrette so that the tastes all kind of meld together in a really fantastic way and the individual salads are separated just enough so that you can take what you like...and skip what you don't.
now, regular readers know that it is impossible for me to follow recipes as written...i just have to edit and tweak...but in this case i did stay pretty true to the original...i added another bean salad using cannellini beans and diced marinated peppers for a bit more protein for the vegetarians, roasted the almonds for the green beans in e.v.o.o. and aglio olio peperoncino (organic italian seasoning) to add a bit of spice...actually, i made a big batch of these roasted almonds and served some as part of the appetizers....and i threw in some feta with the tomato salad just because you can never go wrong with cheese!

dinner was really good...i grilled big slabs of bread...rubbed them with garlic and some of the pesto, drizzled with really good e.v.o.o. and served with the salads... for appetizers we had the aforementioned almonds, pecorino cheese, our cocktail biscuits and prosecco. we continued with more prosecco and some wine with dinner. caitlin brought a delicious birthday cake from abc bakery for dessert...perfect with more wine...and then we, of course!, ended with shots of limoncello....what a memorable meal. richard and caitlin were leaving the next morning for a weekend camping i packed up the leftovers (trust me, this recipe makes a ton of food) they would not need to think about cooking. they said the food was even better the next day....

last week for the 4th of july, we invited our friends mary and terry for dinner and fireworks watching. they are both vegans so i decided the same meal with a few revisions would be perfect. i eliminated the chicken and the green bean salad and substituted roasted asparagus, roasted/marinated red peppers, tweaked the garbanzo bean salad by adding organic cherry tomatoes, chopped green onions, basil, lavender & chives....and i used my balsamic vinaigrette instead of gourmet's version. i served the feta on the side for the non-vegans and eliminated the pesto from the grilled equally delicious meal...and i love the flexibility!

our garbanzo bean salad

2 15 oz cans garbanzo beans (organic if possible)
1 pint organic cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 bunch green onions, chopped with white and green parts separated
1 bunch chives, chopped
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped chiffonade style
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tsp organic lavender flowers (optional)

add garbanzo beans, tomatoes and white part of green onions to medium bowl...add 1/4 cup vinaigrette and gently stir together all ingredients. allow to marinate a minimum of 1 hour in refrigerator (can be made up to 24 hours in advance). when ready to serve, add all herbs, the green part of the onions and remaining 1/4 cup vinaigrette...stir again and enjoy!

i plan to make versions of this salad all summer...of course tweaking the recipes all the about serving grilled steak salad or barbecued shrimp in place of the chicken...maybe adding a watermelon, spinach and feta salad? or a vinaigrette based potato salad? i will let you know what works...and what does not. in the interim...what are your favorite salads as meals?....let me know in the comments section of this post....and happy summer everyone!

diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885(tm)
"live a green life of style"(tm)

to learn about our company...and receive special offers only available to our private list...sign up to receive our emails....located on the sidebar of this blog


Anne said...

Hi Diane,
The salad sounds great. Will you share your recipe for roasted peppers please?

Thank you, and I love your blog.


Karen said...

I love spinach salads. Fresh spinach with bacon, red onions and a red wine vinegar dressing is the perfect lite dinner when it is hot.

Precious Sinclair said...

Salad?.....Girl, you need to eat some meat!

Megan said...

Hi Diane, I just found your blog and am so glad I did! Your salad recipe sounds perfect for hot summer nights, can't wait to try it out!