Although Southern Californians tend to lead the great outdoor life essentially the year-round, there is something magical about the Memorial Day holiday. For some reason, no matter how wonderful the weather has been earlier, the long holiday weekend has come to mean the real kickoff for summer. It's time for the lawn furniture to be rejuvenated and the grill polished up for an onslaught of warm weather outdoor dining. And it's time to change our menu planning ideas to concentrate on things cold . . . sandwiches, cool drinks, icy desserts . . . and above all, salads of all types.
Salads that are adjuncts to hamburgers or steaks. Salads that are meals in themselves. Salads that travel well to picnics or potluck suppers. Big salads, little salads . . . but above all, salads filled with interesting and frequently offbeat ingredients. No mere lettuce, tomato and onion combination will do today. Exotic combinations are in; modern salads offer flavor attractions to be reckoned with.
Hearty . . . and stunning . . . main dish salads woo even the most jaded appetite when presented with flair. A pasta salad with cold roast beef, mushrooms and sour cream, a la beef stroganoff, can be an enticing entree for a patio party this weekend or on any hot day. It's loaded with flavor and is a host's dream since it not only can be, it must be made ahead to let the flavors meld.
Even an old-fashioned potato salad turns into a fashion plate when the potatoes (new potatoes in this case) are combined with haricots verts , colorful strips of sweet yellow peppers, cherry tomatoes and smoky chunks of smoked salmon, all tossed with a tangy vinaigrette. It's light and lovely dining at its best.
Somewhat more traditional--if you happen to be Greek, that is--is a delicious salad, the recipe for which was shared with us by Greek-born Cosmas Kapantzos, who, unlikely as it may seem, is the owner-manager of the Astro Burger, an American-style fast food restaurant on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Tart Greek olives, feta cheese, tomatoes, green peppers, red onion and cucumbers make a spectacular salad platter that Kapantzos dresses with an elegant olive oil dressing.
Still another relatively traditional summer salad that could be either a side dish or a main dish is a multi-bean combination. We found a package of soup beans, called HamBeens, that contained 15 different types of dry beans and lentils, and we made a superb salad from it. But you don't need to have 15 different beans for a good bean salad, nor is it necessary to use all dry beans. An equally good salad could be made by adding green and yellow wax beans to a selection of dry beans and lentils. Cherry tomatoes and a sprinkling of herbs will add some needed color, and a garlicky oil and vinegar dressing will give it a flavor boost.
For sweets lovers, we offer a rich and interesting curried chicken salad served in either a papaya half or a pineapple half. Chutney is used in the dressing to provide a needed spark.
These and the other salads that follow are all excellent choices for a holiday celebration to welcome in summer this weekend. Several of the recipes are given for quantity use. Others are for use on a smaller scale. In either case, it will be easy to expand or reduce the amounts to suit the number of people they must serve.
PASTA SALAD A LA STROGANOFF
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 cups julienne-cut beef
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon paprika
1 red onion, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Few drops hot pepper sauce
2 1/2 cups cooked and drained corkscrew or bow knot pasta, chilled
3 cups shredded lettuce
Sweet yellow or green pepper
Alfalfa sprouts, optional
Saute mushrooms and garlic in melted butter. Add beef and cook briefly to desired doneness. Cool and set aside.
Combine 3/4 cup sour cream, mayonnaise, paprika, onion, mustard, sugar, lemon juice and hot pepper sauce in large bowl. Toss in cold pasta. Fold in mushroom-beef mixture. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Mound mixture over lettuce on large serving platter or rectangular dish. Spread with remaining 3/4 cup sour cream. Garnish with small cut-outs of Tomato Aspic and sweet yellow pepper. Surround mound with alfalfa sprouts. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
1 (6-ounce) can tomato juice or tomato juice cocktail
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
Stir together tomato juice and gelatin. Heat over low heat to dissolve gelatin. Pour into 8-inch glass dish(need to check) and chill until firm. Using small cutters, cut into desired shapes.
POTATO SALAD VINAIGRETTE WITH SMOKED SALMON
1/2 pound haricots verts, trimmed
3 to 4 pounds new potatoes
1 cup chopped red onions
1/4 cup chopped black olives
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (2-ounce) can anchovies, minced, with oil
1 sweet yellow pepper, cut into chunks