• Be a big hit with these summer salads

  • Yesterday I committed to bringing a party-sized bowl of homemade potato salad to a weekend gathering. It got me thinking about all the other events over these sunny months that will be requiring super-sized edible offerings.
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  • Yesterday I committed to bringing a party-sized bowl of homemade potato salad to a weekend gathering. It got me thinking about all the other events over these sunny months that will be requiring super-sized edible offerings.
    Indeed, this is the time of year when lots of people are teaming up with lots more people, eating lots and lots of food outdoors.
    The gatherings range from informal picnics to fancy weddings, with the goal being to fill a long buffet table with plenty of delicious savories and sweets that will stand up to time and ambient temperature.
    When contributing a dish to one of these affairs, you are probably not wanting to invest an outrageous amount of time to the process. But you still want your dish to shine. In which case, take a cue from me and offer yourself as one of the salad courses, because I have a few here that are both delicious and easy to prepare.
    The great thing about salads is that they typically have plenty of components that can be assembled or prepared far in advance.
    Chopped salads, for example, are all the rage these days and are one of the most buffet-friendly dishes you can consider, because they typically are composed of ingredients that benefit from a bit of mingling with a flavorful dressing.
    On the other hand, shy away from the style of salad that requires too much last-minute fussing, or ones that will wilt within minutes of assembly.
    An assortment of edible flower blooms can be used to jazz up a simple bowl of young salad greens. Then there's the pea-shoot concept. Although a prominent ingredient in Asian cuisine for eons, they're now showing up at your local farmers' markets and in CSA (community supported agriculture) boxes.
    Their soft, tender leaves, with the spiralling tendrils and crunchy stems provide a hint of pea flavor. Use them raw in salads for a delightful visual affect as well as a tasty contribution. Several years ago when plotting the menu for a large gathering, I decided that pea shoots would be a delightful garnish on the salad course. So three weeks before the July event, I simply planted several flats of sugar snap pea seeds, just enough for the 150 guests I'd be feeding. On the eve of the dinner, the shoots were about 4 inches tall and I was able to harvest. They were, of course, a hit.
    Aside from their garnishing potential, they taste wonderful in soups when added at the last minute, or tucked into a tortilla roll-up or pocket bread filling.
    Chopped Salad
    This is a great salad to bring to a potluck event. No wilting, no tossing at the last minute, and it can be dished out with a single spoon, so in a buffet line diners aren't teetering a dish of food on the edge of the table to free both hands.
    3 tomatoes, seeded, chopped and drained
    1 fresh, local cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and chopped
    1 each red and green sweet bell pepper, seeded and chopped
    1 cup chopped celery
    1 cup chopped carrots
    1 cup chopped dry salami (start with deli-cut slices, then cut into strips and then chop)
    1 cup chopped ham (optional, but tasty!)
    1 cup sliced black olives, well drained
    1 cup chopped sweet onion
    1/2 cup chopped green onion (all of the white and pale green portion and a bit of the dark green)
    11/2 cups coarsely shredded mozzarella, gouda, or Swiss cheese
    Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
    The vegetables can all be washed and chopped up to 24 hours ahead. Store in separate containers until you're ready to assemble the salad.
    Two to 5 hours ahead, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, sweet bell peppers, celery, carrots, salami, ham, olives, sweet onion, green onion and shredded cheese in a large bowl. Toss with enough of the vinaigrette to evenly coat the salad. Cover and refrigerate. Makes 10 to 12 generous servings.
    VINAIGRETTE: This dressing can be prepared up to a week ahead and refrigerated. Whisk together 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 3 cloves finely minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon sugar or honey, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Whisk in 11/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil.
    Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a cookbook author and columnist in Corvallis. Reach her at janrd@proaxis.com.
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