By Jennifer Kornegay
Salads are sound choices for the season’s profusion of produce
Salads of all stripes are ideal meals for this time of year. For one, they are wonderful ways to make the most of the best foods that summers in the South offer us: sweet, crunchy corn; cool, juicy watermelon; crisp peppers; refreshing cucumber; the bright perfumes of fresh herbs like basil and mint; plus, plump, scarlet tomatoes and pop-in-your-mouth peas.
Salads are also pretty simple to throw together (and simple to eat), keeping the easy feel of a lazy summer day intact. Many involve little to no cooking, so you won’t add a lot of heat to your house and tax your AC even further.
Even though those with additions like bacon, mayo and cheese are definitely not diet food, they’re still “lighter” – at least in feel – than a lot of other options. And salads should no longer be seen as only a side dish; some can hold their own in the center of the plate and shine as a main meal, especially if you embellish them with some extra protein like grilled chicken or shrimp.
Finally, they’re incredibly versatile. You can take any one of this month’s reader-submitted recipes for summer salads and put your own spin on it by omitting or adding ingredients without fear of failure. Anything goes!
Donna James, Cullman EC
Donna James’ Cornbread Salad combines several of summer’s darlings in one substantial dish. She got the recipe from her daughter, who got it from a friend, who got it from her mother, and she shares it every time she gets a request, which is often. “It has been passed around a lot,” she says.
She loves its popularity at parties and potlucks, but she also loves how simple it truly is. “There are no fancy ingredients. You probably have most of this in your pantry or fridge,” she says. “And, you can really change it up any way you like to suit what you and your family enjoy.”
Donna prefers red pepper to the green the recipe calls for, and if you don’t like pepper, period, she says, “leave it out.” You can also “lighten up” the recipe by subbing in low-fat cheese, low-cal dressing and less bacon.
- 1-2 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 15-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
- 1 15-ounce can chili beans, drained
- 1 bottle Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
- 2 cups shredded cheese
- 4-5 strips of crumbled bacon or one 4.5-ounce package of real bacon bits
- Dash of granulated garlic or garlic salt
Make a medium-sized pan of cornbread in your favorite cast iron skillet. Allow to cool for a few minutes. In a 13x9x2-inch rectangular casserole dish, layer one-half of the cornbread, tomatoes, onion, green bell pepper, corn, chili beans, cheese, ranch dressing, and a dash of granulated garlic or garlic salt. Repeat a second layer with remaining ingredients and top with crumbled bacon. This recipe is best chilled overnight, but may be served after chilling a couple of hours.
Spinach Salad with Honey Dressing
- 1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 1/3 cup toasted cashews, pecans or sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- Brown mustard, to taste
- Honey, to taste
- Milk, until creamy
To make the Honey Dressing, start with ½ cup mayonnaise. Stir in 1 teaspoon of brown mustard and honey to your preference. Stir in milk until creamy. Toss with spinach, mandarin oranges, raisins and nuts or seeds just before serving.
Tallapoosa River EC
- 2 11-ounce cans shoe peg corn
- 2 10-ounce cans original Rotel tomatoes
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped (cutting out the seeds makes the salad less watery)
- 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- Squirt of mustard (yellow, Dijon, or spicy)
Mix together all ingredients in bowl with sealable lid. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Salad tastes better if made the day before serving.
Frozen Cranberry Banana Salad
- 1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple
- 5 medium firm bananas, halved lengthwise and sliced
- 1 16-ounce can whole berry cranberry sauce
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 1 12-ounce carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
Drain and save pineapple juice in a medium bowl, set juice aside. Slice bananas and add to juice to coat. In a large bowl, combine cranberry sauce and sugar. Mix well. Remove bananas; discard juice and add bananas to cranberry mixture. Stir in pecans, pineapple and cool whip (do not beat). Pour into a 13×9-inch glass dish. Freeze until solid. Cut into squares and serve frozen. Yields 12-16 servings.
- 1 can green beans, drained
- 1 can yellow wax beans, drained
- 1 pound carrots, thinly sliced and blanched
- 2 small purple onions, thinly sliced
- 1 bell pepper (any color), sliced
- 1 cup white vinegar
- ½ cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup sugar
- Pepper, to taste
Layer vegetables in a bowl with a tight fitting lid. Pour dressing over vegetables and marinate overnight. Great with steaks, hamburgers or ribs.
Simple Summer Salad
- 2 cups fresh strawberries, halved
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- ½ cup crushed pineapple
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
- Dash of nutmeg
Chill until ready to serve. Combine and serve immediately.
Pea River EC
Watermelon Mint Salad
- 4 cups watermelon, seeded and cubed into bite-sized chunks
- 3 cups seedless cucumber, cubed smaller than the watermelon
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
In a large bowl, gently mix watermelon and cucumber. Carefully add feta and mint to the mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and a splash of vinegar. Toss gently together and serve cold. Double the recipe for a crowd.
Grilled Vegetable Salad with Fresh Basil Vinaigrette
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 medium zucchini, sliced ¼-inch thick
- 2 medium yellow squash, sliced ¼-inch thick
- 1 Vidalia onion, sliced ¼-inch thick
- 1 large eggplant cut lengthwise ¼-inch thick
In a blender, combine basil, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. With blender running, slowly add oil. Set vinaigrette aside. Lightly grease a grill pan over medium heat. Grill vegetables in batches 4-5 minutes per side or until tender. Serve vegetables warm with basil vinaigrette.
Fried Okra Salad
- 1½ pounds breaded frozen (or fresh) okra
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- ½ green bell pepper, diced
- 1 bunch green onions, diced
- 6 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
- 1 can shoe peg corn, drained
- 1 cucumber, chopped
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
Fry okra in oil according to package directions and drain on paper towels. In a medium bowl, combine okra, tomatoes, bell pepper, green onions, bacon, shoe peg corn and cucumber. In a small saucepan combine oil, sugar and vinegar. Cook over medium heat, stirring often until sugar dissolves. Pour over okra mixture and toss gently. Serve.
Watermelon and Blueberry Salad
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 3/4 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh mint
- 2 cups watermelon, seeded and chopped
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
Combine honey, lemon juice and mint. Toss with watermelon and blueberries.
Ellis Reed, age 8
Tallapoosa River EC
Recipe Themes and Deadlines:
October. Pies Aug. 8
November. Sweet potatoes Sept. 8
December. Edible gifts Oct. 8
Please send us your original recipes, developed by you or family members, and not ones copied from a book or magazine. You may adapt a recipe from another source by changing as little as the amount of one ingredient. Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year.
Editor’s Note: Alabama Living’s recipes are submitted by our readers. They are not kitchen-tested by a professional cook or registered dietician. If you have special dietary needs, please check with your doctor or nutritionist before preparing any recipe.