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It's Salad Season-- Dig In

Lay a fork on these summer main dishes.

August 23, 2000|By The Times Food Staff

We all ask "what's for dinner" fairly often. After testing recipes in a hot kitchen in the hot days of August, the Times Test Kitchen staff has the answer: salad.

And after tasting the four main-dish salads they created, we wonder why we asked in the first place. These salads are the answer.

A main-dish summer salad is satisfying. It can be cool and crunchy, chilled and creamy, room temperature and flavorful. If it can be made ahead or without too much trouble, all the better.

Test Kitchen Director Donna Deane took that old standby chicken salad and dotted it with toasted hazelnuts and added fresh tarragon. The combination of the mayonnaise-rich chicken bites with the crunchy nuts is one we'll come back for. Use prepared mayonnaise if you're short on time, but why not make your own? It's not tough, and talk about delicious. This version features olive oil.

Deane's soba noodle salad is modeled after a similar one she enjoyed in Little Tokyo. It's wonderfully tasty, without the weighty, greasy feeling fried foods can bring. Tempura batter is lightly fried, then crumbled over greens and soba noodles. Using just a little tempura keeps the salad light but still gives a rich taste, Deane says.

Times test cook Mayi Brady was inspired by her refrigerator.

"I came home, opened the refrigerator, and there was this cauliflower," says Brady, a cauliflower-lover. But she was thinking salad.

So she quickly roasted the lonely cauliflower, then tossed it with a Dijon mustard-anchovy vinaigrette. Brady says she makes a similar hot dish, but this one--crunchy and delicious--is served room temperature.

Times Test Kitchen intern Virginia Evans drew on several favorite salads to make her fresh pear and romaine salad. One she likes is made with candied pecans, goat cheese and poached pears. But rather than cooking and poaching, she simply toasted walnuts in her toaster oven for a few minutes and combined them with crisp romaine, fresh pear slices and blue cheese. The result is just the right balance of crunchy, crispy, tangy and sweet--perfect for summer.

Cool looking, cool tasting. Isn't that what summer food is all about?

Fresh Pear and Romaine Salad With Blue Cheese

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 20 minutes


1/4 cup walnut oil

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons finely minced shallots or green onion

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

* Combine walnut oil, olive oil, vinegar, shallots, salt and pepper and shake in a covered container until thoroughly blended. Makes 3/4 cup.


1/2 cup walnut pieces

8 cups chopped romaine

2 pears, such as Bartlett, Bosc or Anjou, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1 lemon

4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

* Toast walnuts in shallow pan at 350 degrees until walnuts smell fragrant and are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

* Arrange romaine on platter or in salad bowl. Place sliced pears in separate bowl and squeeze lemon juice over top. Gently toss to coat, then arrange pears on the romaine. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts and cheese. Drizzle salad with vinaigrette.

4 servings. Each serving with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette: 459 calories; 849 mg sodium; 21 mg cholesterol; 38 grams fat; 24 grams carbohydrates; 11 grams protein; 2.66 grams fiber.

Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 25 minutes

2 large heads cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces

Olive oil

Salt, pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

4 anchovy filets

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons capers

1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley

* Combine cauliflower, 3 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste in medium roasting pan. Mix well to coat all of cauliflower pieces. Roast at 425 degrees 15 minutes. Add garlic and mix well. Continue to roast until cauliflower is tender yet still slightly crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes.

* While cauliflower is cooking, place mustard in small bowl. Add anchovies and mash with fork, combining with mustard. Stir in vinegar. Combine 1/2 cup olive oil and vegetable oil and pour slowly into bowl while whisking constantly.

* Transfer cooked cauliflower to large bowl and toss with about 1/2 cup vinaigrette while cauliflower is still warm. Mix in capers and parsley. Serve salad at room temperature, not chilled.

6 servings. Each serving: 262 calories; 219 mg sodium; 2 mg cholesterol; 26 grams fat; 7 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 1.02 grams fiber.

Tarragon Chicken Salad With Toasted Hazelnuts

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 20 minutes plus 1 hour chilling

Some gourmet and specialty markets sell toasted, peeled hazelnuts.

1/2 cup hazelnuts

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons minced tarragon

Freshly ground pepper

4 cups diced cooked chicken

1/2 cup minced onion

1 cup chopped celery

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