In the play "Anthony and Cleopatra," Shakespeare's heroine speaks of "my salad days, when I was green in judgment," indicating a time of youth when lack of experience and general naivete made her appear immature. It's not surprising the playwright drew the analogy between youth and salads, not only using the color green, but because both are also full of freshness and energy.
Paraphrase a bit and salad days might also refer to the summer months, when
days are long and warm, and we seek carefree dining on lighter foods. What could be a more natural choice than cool, crisp salads, some easy enough for even kitchen novices to prepare? The season also brings an abundance of fresh vegetables, essential to so many salad recipes.
Depending on the ingredients, salads may be the main course of a meal or one of its accompaniments. Some are best assembled and dressed at the last minute, others benefit from being prepared ahead so that their flavors may blend. Dressings are every bit as varied as salads. Spicy or subtle, sweet or tangy, creamy or light--each complements certain types of salads.
Today's collection of summer salads runs the full gamut. Times Test Kitchen home economist Donna Deane developed an easy marinade so versatile it may be used with any combination of fresh vegetables. She also created the Artichoke Mayonnaise Dressing used on the Mixed Seafood Salad. It's base is a jar of marinated artichokes, pureed with mayonnaise and seasonings, then chilled until the flavors blend.
Salade Poulet With Hot Basil Dressing was developed by Arnold Jewell, chef at Redwood House restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. The Picasso Room Horseradish-Beef Salad is an old favorite from the Los Angeles Times Picasso dining room. We updated it a bit with fresh mushrooms.
The most complicated of our offerings is Popeye Salad, winner of the recent Monterey Spinach Salad Contest. Wendy Brodie, chef at Stonepine Estate Resort in Carmel Valley, edged out 25 other area chefs for the top honor of $1,000, round-trip air fare to Paris and a trip aboard the Orient Express.
VEGETABLE SALAD MARINADE
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup minced cilantro
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup minced red onions
Combine oil, vinegar, sugar, cilantro, garlic, onions and salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 1 3/4 cups marinade.
Note: Use to marinate any combination of vegetables--broccoli florets, strips of green, yellow and sweet red peppers, wax beans, pea pods, mushrooms, corn kernels, celery and carrot chunks, radish slices or roses, daikon slices, cherry tomatoes, yellow pear-shaped cherry tomatoes--several hours or overnight.
REDWOOD HOUSE SALADE POULET
3 cups mixed salad greens
1 broiled boneless chicken half breast
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 medium avocado, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
Hot Basil Dressing
Place salad greens on large plate. Slice chicken breast in 1/2-inch strips and place in center of plate over greens. Arrange olives, mushrooms, avocado and tomato on greens around chicken breast. Serve with Hot Basil Dressing. Makes 1 serving.
Note: Poached salmon may be substituted for chicken.
Hot Basil Dressing
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup oil
1/4 clove garlic, minced
Dash black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon capers
Melt butter in saucepan. Add vinegar, oil, garlic, pepper, basil, salt, parsley and capers. Heat, but do not boil. Makes about 1 cup.
PICASSO ROOM HORSERADISH-BEEF SALAD
3 cups thinly sliced boiled beef brisket
1 cup sliced celery, blanched
1/2 cup sliced onions, blanched
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon chopped pimiento
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Hearts of palm, cherry tomatoes, turnip and red radish roses, optional
Combine beef, celery, onions and mushrooms in large bowl. Combine sugar, salt, mayonnaise, sour cream, horseradish, pimiento, Worcestershire and pepper in small bowl, blending well.
Pour mayonnaise mixture over beef mixture and toss well. Chill.
Mound meat mixture on platter lined with salad greens. Surround with hearts of palm, cherry tomatoes, turnip and red radish roses. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
MIXED SEAFOOD SALAD WITH ARTICHOKE MAYONNAISE
1 (1- to 1 1/2-pound) cooked whole lobster
1 (1- to 1 1/2-pound) cooked whole crab
4 large scallops
1/2 pound cooked shrimp
4-ounces spinach fettuccine
4-ounces egg fettuccine