Safety is an important ingredient for summer salads

July 15, 2022

As we find ourselves in the heart of the summer season, with picnics on the beach and backyard barbecues, we also have to consider food safety. As much as I love mayonnaise in my potato salad, it’s not likely to be on the menu unless we’re planning to be inside. This is the time of year when I look for recipes that include the phrase “serve warm, room temperature or cold.”

One of these is the lentil salad in the photo. Except for cooking the lentils, every other step is quick. The key is to make sure you don’t overcook the lentils, since you won’t enjoy them in a mushy mass. The jarred peppers and olives should be drained; some are packed in brine and you won’t want all that salt. Finally, if you’re serving the salad warm, it will need more seasoning at that point, rather than if you let the olives share their salt as the lentils cool.

Another salad that offers a tasty crunch combines chopped romaine, cherry tomato, pasta and bacon tossed in a vinaigrette. This recipe calls for gorgonzola crumbles, because the other flavors are fairly quiet and the rich cheese adds a strong punch. You don’t want to use mozzarella or cheddar, but could substitute blue cheese.

The final recipe in this set is called “no cook,” but there is some boiling water involved, just not on the stovetop. The main ingredient is a type of very thin noodle called vermicelli. There are a number of noodles labelled vermicelli, each made differently. There’s the Italian pasta made from wheat flour, another variety called cellophane noodles made from mung bean starch, and the type needed for this dish, rice noodles.

These are sold dry in clear plastic packages in the Asian food aisle. The remaining ingredients are quite straightforward, and the recipe can be modified widely to add more vegetables or protein. Keep in mind that you’ll want to include a colorful set of crunchy fresh vegetables to balance the soft noodles. This is a dish that shines at its best when served and eaten chilled, after an hour or so in the refrigerator. Try to eat it all, as it becomes slightly dried out if left in the refrigerator overnight.

For any of these salads, you can tweak the ingredients to add more or different herbs. Consider proteins such as toasted tofu or shredded chicken. The one benefit to all of the recipes is the ease of assembly and their safety if you take them to the beach or the back porch.

Lentil Salad

1/2 lb small brown or green lentils
1 bay leaf
1/2 C roasted red peppers
1/2 C green olives
2 T chopped parsley
1 T chopped dill
1 T chopped oregano
1/4 C olive oil
3 T Balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste

Rinse and drain the lentils; remove any stones any other non-lentil debris. Place lentils in a large saucepan with enough water to cover. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until al dente, about 20 minutes. While lentils cook, drain and chop the peppers and olives; place them in a serving bowl. When the lentils are cooked, drain and rinse in a colander. Add lentils to serving bowl, along with herbs. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and vinegar. Pour over the lentils and toss to combine. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled.

Chopped Salad

1 C dried pasta shells
1 romaine heart
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
4 slices bacon
1/3 C olive oil
1/4 C rice wine vinegar
1 T honey
1 t Dijon mustard
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/4 C crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente. While pasta cooks, chop the romaine, halve the tomatoes, and place them in a serving bowl. Wrap bacon in paper towel and microwave until crisp; crumble into the bowl. When the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander, then add to the bowl. Whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour into the bowl. Toss gently to coat pasta with the dressing. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled.

No-Cook Noodle Salad

3.5 oz vermicelli (rice noodles)
1 carrot
1/2 red bell pepper
2/3 C broccoli florets
3 sliced green onions
juice of 1 lemon
3 T soy sauce
2 T maple syrup
2 T toasted sesame oil
pinch red pepper flakes
sesame seeds

Place noodles in a large bowl and pour in sufficient boiling water to completely submerge them. Allow to soak for 10 minutes. While the noodles soften, grate the carrot, thinly slice the pepper and broccoli; place them in a serving bowl along with green onions. Drain the noodles thoroughly and add to the serving bowl. Whisk together lemon juice, soy sauce, maple syrup, sesame oil and pour over the noodles. Using tongs, toss the noodles to completely coat with dressing. Serve garnished with red pepper flakes and sesame seeds.

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