Picnics and potlucks might feature one or two entrees, or the grill might be cranking out burgers, brats and hot dogs, but the tables will be laden with salads and side dishes ranging from hearty to light, from hot to cold, and from foraged to farm.
This time of year, it's not unlikely for me to have several different salads on hand, ready to serve. Other days, I whip up a salad at the last minute. Some days the salad is planned, other days, it all depends on what's in the fridge, what I picked up a the farmer's market, or what's left from the day before.
Some salads benefit from a day in the refrigerator to mix, mingle, and mellow, which makes them great for parties and potlucks. You can have the ready to go the day before the party, and just bring them out to serve.
And some salads are hearty enough to be a main dish. The black bean salad is one. With beans and chunks of cheddar cheese, it's a satisfying salad with a bit of crunch from the radishes and freshness from the parsley and lime.
In my usual search for new products to try, I found Rumiano cheese which is organic and according to the company's information is the only certified non-gmo cheese on the market. The cheddar (a white cheddar, not orange) fell into my cart and was perfect in this bean salad.
The napa cabbage slaw is light, crunchy, and fluffier than a traditional slaw because of the wrinkles in the cabbage leaves.
The jalapeno in this slaw adds just a little bit of heat and the red bell pepper and the radicchio add some really pretty color. The red pepper is sweet, while radicchio is pleasantly bitter. And of course, the vinegar adds acid. It's a simple dish, but it hits all the flavor notes.
The grilled potato salad? Well, what can I say? It's part salad, part side dish, and it's just as good at room temperature as it is fresh off the grill.
If mustard and potatoes sounds a little odd, consider that yellow mustard is a typical ingredient in mayonnaise-based potato salads, and mustard and vinegar are also common in German potato salad. This is a much simpler version, but I've got to say I've become a little bit addicted to the flavor of grilled potatoes and brown mustard.
Black Bean Salad
4 radishes, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
Drizzle of olive oil
2 ounces Rumiano cheddar cheese, diced
Make sure the beans are well rinsed. There's nothing terrible in the liquid in the can, but it will make the salad look muddy. That's fine if you're making chili, but it's not so pretty in a salad where you want vibrant colors.
Combine all the ingredients (except the cheese) in a bowl and stir to combine. Add the cheese just before serving.
You can make the salad in advance, up to the point where the cheese is added. The cheese will get a little soft if it's added to the cheese the day before.
Napa Cabbage Slaw
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced
3 green onions, thinly sliced (the white and tender green)
1 small head napa cabbage, cleaned
1/4 cup shredded radicchio
1/2 red pepper, seeded, cut in thin strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
Put the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the diced jalapeno first and let it marinate in the vinegar while you prep the rest of the ingredients. This helps mellow the pepper while it adds pepper flavor to the vinegar so it carries through the salad better.
Add all of the rest of the ingredients, except the olive oil. Stir to combine. Add the olive oil and stir one last time. Serve chilled.
Warm Grilled Potato and Vegetable Salad
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 medium onion, peeled, quartered, and sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown mustard
You can boil the potatoes ahead of time and chill them, or you can boil them right before grilling.
You won't be able to grill the onions directly on your grill (think about it - they'll fall through) but there are pans you can buy for grill use with smaller holes, or you can use a griddle, grill pan or a cast iron skillet.
Combine the potatoes, zucchini, onion, and zucchini in a bowl, sprinkle with salt, then drizzle with the olive oil. Stir to coat everything with the oil.
Heat your pan and add the vegetables. Cook until the onions have softened and most of the potatoes and zucchini have some browned spots.
Move the cooked vegetables to a bowl (you can use the same one, with the residual oil in it) and add the mustard. Stir to coat the warm vegetables with the mustard. Taste, and add more mustard, if desired.
Serve warm or at room temperature. I might be odd, but I also like it chilled. Give it a try, if you have leftovers.