Easy summer salads are a mainstay in my kitchen during the hotter months. Still, I get tired of the same old/same old. Enter inspiration from restaurants and friends. Although I previously shared a recreated Watermelon Greek Salad, a dish that easily falls into this category, I tackled three new recipes this summer, each with a twist on a classic.
Caprese Salad with Burrata and Salami Chips
Inspired by an appetizer at Cascade, this caprese salad gets its twist from crisp salami chips and burrata cheese. Burrata, a fresh mozzarella shell filled with thickened cream, adds pure decadence. Unless you can find small burrata balls, prepare this salad as a platter to share or use as a hefty meal for one. Cutting open the burrata prior to serving ruins the presentation. I prefer the Buf Creamery brand, made from buffalo milk and found at Whole Foods, but any brand will do.
Here, thinly-sliced salami is baked to achieve a crisp texture. The slices will shrink like bacon, so choose larger types such as Genoa, Calabrese, or sopressata. I see no reason why turkey versions of these salami types wouldn’t work.
If you cannot find heirloom cherry tomatoes, the regular kind will do. Above, I’ve used dark Kumato tomatoes, although I’ve also used a multi-colored mix for more drama.
6-8 thin slices of salami, more if desired
Heirloom cherry tomatoes: Kumato, mixed colors, or yellow
2 or more slicing tomatoes
1 ball Burrata cheese
1-2 cups baby romaine or other small leaf mix
Olive oil, to taste
Fresh basil, cut into thin strips
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place salami slices in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 5-10 minutes, until edges are brown and starting to curl. Watch closely – you don’t want to burn them. Remove from oven, and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Dab lightly with another paper towel to remove oil. Let cool.
Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Slice larger tomatoes into 1/4″ thick rounds.
When you are ready to assemble, toss baby lettuce with a small amount of olive oil to lightly coat. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread dressed lettuce leaves on a serving platter.
Place burrata in the center of the plate, on top of the lettuce. Arrange the salami chips around the outside of the platter, and then place both kinds of tomatoes around the burrata. Drizzle with balsamic glaze, and sprinkle with fresh basil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Make ahead: The salami chips can be made up to 2 days in advance. Store tightly wrapped in the refrigerator. If chips get soggy, crisp in oven for two minutes.
Antipasto Pasta Salad
In this recipe, the twist to an ordinary pasta salad comes from adding items that you’d normally see separated on an antipasto platter. This dish makes for a filling, make-ahead main course that transports well to picnics and potlucks. I love that I can make it in the morning when I have more energy and don’t have to worry about cooking at the end of the day. Many thanks to a former tennis teammate who brought a similar pasta salad to lunch.
Although I’ve supplied a list of ingredients, feel free to add or substitute. Measurements are merely suggestions. If you are vegetarian, simply leave out the pepperoni.
8 oz of fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
4 ounces sliced provol0ne cheese
14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
2-3 ounces sliced pepperoni, each piece quartered
1/2 cup or more Kalamata olives
1 jar roasted red peppers, either precut strips or cut into strips
1/3 cup good-quality olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley, for garnish
More salt and pepper to taste
Make the dressing: combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, basil, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
Cook the tortellini according to package directions. Drain and place in a large serving bowl. Immediately coat with about 1/4 of the dressing. Let cool.
Cut provolone slices into strips, then across into cubes. Separate pieces as much as possible.
When the tortellini has cooled, add cut provolone, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, pepperoni, olives, and red pepper. Toss to combine. Add more dressing if necessary to coat, reserving extra. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Just before serving, add more dressing if needed, saving leftovers for another use. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top.
Make ahead: This salad can be assembled up to 12 hours or even overnight before serving. Keep refrigerated until 1 hour before serving.
Grilled Pineapple and Watermelon Salad
If you’ve never had grilled fruit, everything about this easy summer salad will seem new. Others more familiar with the concept might be surprised by the addition of a savory fresh herb dressing instead of the more common mint or lime dressing. I decided to use goat cheese instead of the more standard feta, but if you don’t like goat cheese, go ahead and use feta. I just like the way the tang of goat cheese plays off the sweetness of the fruit. And feel free to substitute any fresh herbs you have on hand.
Thanks to the Sergeantsville Inn for the inspiration!
2/3 cup good-quality olive oil, plus more to brush on fruit
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/3 cup, packed, fresh parsley
1/3 cup, packed, fresh basil
3 sprigs fresh oregano
Fresh pineapple, sliced into rings
Fresh watermelon, cut into wedges and rind removed
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta
Baby lettuce or spring mix (for bed)
Make the dressing: Strip the leaves off the thyme and oregano, discarding woody stems. Add to food processor or blender with remaining herbs, 2/3 cup olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, and salt. Process until dressing is emulsified. Put aside.
Make the grilled fruit: Heat gas or charcoal grill until grates are searing hot. Brush each piece of fruit, both sides, with olive oil. Grill fruit until grill marks appear, then flip, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to plate and let cool.
Line serving platter with salad greens. Arrange grilled fruit in a decorative pattern on top. If dressing has separated, whisk until well blended. Drizzle dressing over fruit and greens, reserving extra for another use. Sprinkle with cheese, and serve.
Make ahead: The dressing can be made the day before. The grilled fruit can be made up to 4 hours before serving. You may also assemble the salad up to 4 hours before serving, and refrigerate, adding the dressing at the last minute.
When we’re tired of cooking, sometimes all we need is a little twist and a lot of presentation to pique our interest. These easy summer salads require minimal work and little actual cooking. Each can be prepared, at least in part, in advance. Even a tossed green salad can be enhanced with items you don’t normally use – pumpkin seed kernels, dried tart cherries, raw zucchini half-moons. As long as you assemble with an eye for presentation, your family and guests will think you spent more time than you did.
Debbie Lee Wesselmann