The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

May 31, 2012

Salads That Aren't

Karen Freeman

TARBORO — When someone says salad, what does your mind conjure up? Of course it's lettuce, tomatoes, onions, etc. We know that other things are called salad but they aren't really salads. Here are some great recipes for some of these dishes that are and aren't salads.  These dishes can be used as brunch main dishes or side dishes for dinner.

The first is traditional macaroni salad.  Make this at least several hours ahead so that the flavors blend.

The second dish is potato, corn and basil. It calls for corn on the cob that is cooked and cut off but you can substitute canned corn if you want to save time and effort.

The third recipe is roasted pepper pasta salad. This is one of my favorites. I love pasta salad and I love roasted peppers. You can use some hot peppers for heat if you want it. You can also add about any other kind of veggie that you like.

The next recipe is Caprese salad. You can make this very simple and it's wonderful! This is my "go to" side dish when I want pretty, quick and tasty.

The last recipe is a chunky egg salad. My husband loves this one. This is a great one to take to the church covered dish lunch!

Macaroni Salad

2 cups dry elbow macaroni, cooked, rinsed, and drained

1/3 cup diced celery

1/4 cup minced red onion, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes, drained

1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup diced vine-ripened tomato (optional)

1/2 cup prepared mayonnaise

3/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar

3 tablespoons sour cream

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl combine the macaroni, celery, onion, parsley and tomato, if using. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, sour cream and salt.

Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Store covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.

Potato, Tomato, Corn and Basil Salad

1 pound baby red potatoes, scrubbed

5 medium ears of corn (about 3 pounds)

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1 small red onion, peeled and sliced thinly (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup)

1 large bunch fresh basil, rinsed, dried, and leaves picked

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 large lemons, juiced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

About 15 grinds freshly ground pepper

Place the potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to boil. Cook until just fork tender, about 15 minutes. Fish out the potatoes with a spider or slotted spoon and place them in a bowl of ice cold water to stop them from cooking. Don't pour out the water.

Shuck the corn and break each ear in half. Cook in the same boiling water for 5-7 minutes until tender but not soft. Remove the cooled potatoes from the ice bath to a dish-cloth to drain. Immerse corn in the same ice bath until cool. Cut each potato into quarters and place in a large bowl.

Remove corn from water and also let drain. Use a chef's knife to cut the kernels off each ear. Add kernels to bowl. Add grape tomatoes, onion, and whole basil leaves. Add olive oil and lemon juice and toss gently to combine. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Roasted-Pepper Pasta Salad

Kosher salt

12 ounces rigatoni or other short tube-shaped pasta

2 bell peppers (red and/or yellow), halved, stemmed and seeded

6 cloves garlic, unpeeled

1/4 cup almonds

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 lemon

8 ounces bocconcini (small mozzarella balls) (you can use whole mozzarella and make your own)

1 bunch fresh basil, leaves torn

Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the broiler. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Shake off the excess water.

Meanwhile, place the bell peppers cut-side down on a foil-lined broiler pan, add the garlic and broil until charred, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the peppers to a bowl, cover and set aside about 5 minutes.

Heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Add the almonds and toast, shaking the pan, 4 to 5 minutes. Let cool  and then coarsely chop.

Squeeze the garlic from its skin onto a cutting board. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt; mince and mash the garlic into a paste with a large knife. Peel the roasted peppers and slice into strips; transfer to a large bowl. Add the garlic paste and drizzle with the olive oil. Finely grate about 1 teaspoon lemon zest into the bowl and squeeze in all of the lemon juice. Add the bocconcini, basil, almonds, pasta, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; toss.

Caprese Salad

1-1/2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, cored

1 pound fresh mozzarella

3/4 to 1 teaspoon fine sea salt or fleur de sel (I use fleur de sel, it has a sharper taste)

Freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup packed basil leaves, torn or cut into thin strips

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Slice the tomatoes and cheese into 1/4-inch thick slices. Arrange the salad on a serving platter or individual plates in an alternating pattern, with two to three slices of tomato for every piece of cheese. Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Scatter the basil leaves over the top and drizzle with the oil. Serve at room temperature.

Chunky Egg Salad

1/2 medium red onion, chopped

12 large eggs

1 stalk celery (with leaves), chopped

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed

   lemon juice

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Serving suggestions: 8 slices country-style sourdough bread, sliced tomatoes, salad greens

In a small bowl soak the onions in cold water for 15 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, place the eggs and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Cover the eggs, remove from the heat, and set aside for 8 minutes. Drain the water from the pan and cool the eggs in the pan under cold running water. Peel the eggs and cut into sixths.

In a large bowl, mix together the onion, celery, mayonnaise, dill, mustard, lemon juice, and salt.

Add the eggs to the mayonnaise mixture and gently mix them together. Season with pepper, to taste. Use in sandwiches, with lettuce and tomatoes, or in a salad.