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Summer Salads from Good Food: Local!
I write a weekly cooking column for my hometown newspaper, the Murphysboro (Illinois) American. I'll give you the link to the newspaper at the end of this post ... but since July has hit, I think I'll just share the whole column and recipes with you.
You can always follow the link and "search" on the newspaper's site for "Good Food:Local". That will give you a series of columns that you can read when you have time! When the heat of Southern Illinois summer finally reaches my house, entree salads end up on the supper time menu ... and this column is all about some of those delicious salads! Enjoy!
Get ready! Those hot
summer days are just ahead of us! I
enjoy keeping my crisper filled with fresh salad making vegetables, so I don’t
have to cook when it gets too hot!
My readers know what a food history nut I am, and now my
cooking class students know that about me, too.
We enjoy discussing the origins of recipes and foodways and today’s
column features some of those stories.
My new students are delighted when I tell them about themed dinner
parties I’ve hosted over the years that focus on the history of foods and
Today’s column begins with one of those stories! Several years ago, I hosted a girlfriends’
luncheon for a dozen women, and I wanted a theme that allowed them to get all
dressed up with a little glitz and glamour.
My theme evolved from my love of old Hollywood and black and white
movies, so I chose a luncheon menu of delicious Cobb Salad. The Cobb Salad originated in Hollywood at the
Brown Derby Restaurant, so I created invitations showing an old picture of the
original restaurant. My table was set
with brown dinnerware and my centerpiece was composed of old black and white
movie photos that I printed in brown and 3 cute derby hats. Only one of my hats, which I bought at local
thrift stores, was actually brown, so I embellished the other two with brown
satin bands and a few bronze sequins!
Yes, that’s the way I entertain!
None of my guests knew the story of the Cobb Salad. It was created quite by accident, when the
owner of the Brown Derby Restaurant, Robert Howard Cobb, went into the kitchen
and gathered up a bunch of left overs to make a salad. He had the cook fry some bacon to throw in
with all the other good things and it was so good, he put on the menu! That story dates to 1937 and the recipe for
Cobb Salad has never changed.
The Italian Panzanella salad is another of my favorites
because it uses stale bread. I first had
this salad in 1981 in San Francisco, and I still make it with sourdough bread,
the same way that Alioto’s Restaurant made it. Alioto’s was founded in 1925 and
was originally a food stall that sold wholesome Sicilian food to the laborers
that worked on Fisherman’s Wharf. After
the Golden Gate and Bay bridges opened in the 1930s, the family opened a
restaurant, but still made wholesome food using family recipes that had been
passed down for generations. Panzanella
in its original form was praised by a 16th century artist and poet
who sang praises of onions and oil and vinegar served with toast. In another stanza, he added praise for
lettuce and cucumbers. That was the
popular recipe for Panzanella and in the 20th century, we began
adding lots of other ingredients including tomatoes, basil and cheese. The purpose of the bread is to soak up the
My most favorite summer salad is the 1970s Seven Layer Salad
that many believe originated in the Deep South!
I’ve never known exactly where the Deep South is, so I’m just claiming
it as a Deep Southern Illinois family reunion and church supper invention, although
I doubt that is true! I associate this salad with Watergate, because
I remember seeing it in a women’s magazine featured alongside the popular
Watergate Cake and Watergate Salad, both of which were made with instant
pistachio pudding. That’s a story for
another day’s column!
Normally the layered salad is made in a big clear glass
bowl, so you can see the layers, but I’ve made mine in canning jars. The canning jar salad craze is upon us and
smart brown bag lunch takers have learned that they can make 5 salads on Sunday
afternoon for each day of the upcoming week.
There’s just something about the jar and the tight sealing lid that
makes the salads stay perfectly fresh for a week. Any salad works, but I’ve made my favorite,
which has more than seven layers!
The Good Food: Local cooking classes are going
beautifully. My team members love
working with the children who seem to be soaking up their lessons about
nutrition. Our adult students are having
a good time, too. We’ve made all kinds
of unique recipes including Cream of Radish Soup and Cabbage Fritters. I’ll share those recipes later in a book we
plan to compile that will feature our most popular classroom recipes.
Hope you’ll try at least one of these summertime salad favorites. With exception of the eggs, meat and avocado
in this variety of salad recipes, all the ingredients came from the Farmers’
Market. Everything is local and good!
Here are the Recipes!
You can use any salad greens you’d like, but a combination
of iceberg lettuce and Romaine lettuce offers perfect crunch. Top a layer of greens with chopped tomatoes,
crumbled fried bacon, chunks of boiled chicken breast, a hard-boiled egg,
slices of avocado, mild onions, green pepper chunks and Roquefort or Bleu
cheese chunks. I’ve substituted deli
style roast turkey breast in my salad.
The original salad had a big sprinkling of chives, but my recipe puts
the chives in the homemade dressing. The proper way to assemble the salad is to
put the greens on a shallow bowl or platter and arrange rows of the
ingredients, covering all the lettuce.
Toss the salad with the dressing when you are ready to serve it.
Top your salad with a good drizzle of Red Wine
Vinaigrette. Make the dressing by
whisking together ¼ cup red wine vinegar, 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 3
Tablespoons honey, 2 Tablespoons chopped chives, several grinds of black pepper
and ½ cup of olive oil.
Panzanella, Debbie’s Style
4 cups quartered red tomatoes
2 cups cucumber chunks
2 cups thin slices of a sweet onion
1 cup sweet bell pepper chunks
1 cup Kalamata olives
1 heaping Tablespoon capers
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
4 cups of big chunks of sourdough bread
The trick to making this salad really
good is to use old bread, and if you bread isn’t at least 3 days old, it will
turn to mush! You can dry it out in the
oven by baking it at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or you can grill your
chunks of bread after you drizzle it with oil.
Make the salad dressing by combining 1
teaspoon minced garlic with ½ cup Kalamata olive oil with 2 Tablespoons of
white wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper
to taste, but you can add as much as a teaspoon of artisan’s salt and several
grinds of black pepper. Pour the
dressing on the salad and let all of it sit out and come to room
Some recipes suggest soaking the bread
in water, then squeezing it out before you add it to the salad. I skip that step, but I drizzle my bread
crumbs with additional olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Sometimes I drizzle it with the oil from
sundried tomatoes or from roasted red peppers.
I also like to grill my bread chunks and add them just before serving
the salad. Letting the salad sit to
come to room temperature will also allow the vegetables to generate juices that
will mix beautifully with the salad dressing.
The purpose of the bread is to soak up all that savory liquid.
Layer Salad Plus
Yes, there are more than seven layers in
this salad! In order to make certain
that the onion and bacon flavors flow through the whole salad, layer your
ingredients from the bottom in this order:
Chopped iceberg lettuce
Thinly sliced radishes
Chopped green pepper
Chopped red tomatoes
Frozen green peas
Thinly sliced peeled cucumber
Sliced hard boiled eggs
Chopped green onions
Crumbled fried bacon
Shredded cheddar cheese
Before using, thaw the peas by rinsing
them under cold water. When you fry the
bacon, save the bacon grease to make the mayonnaise topping. Make the mayonnaise topping by combining 2
cups of mayonnaise, ½ cup of sugar and the drippings from frying 6 to 8 strips
of bacon. Layer the salad following
this list; spread the topping all over it; and top it all with cheddar
cheese. Cover the salad and refrigerate
overnight for the best flavors. The
mayonnaise will drip down into the first few layers of salad and makes a
flavorful combination of summertime vegetables.