I live in South Carolina where the weather changed from almost uncomfortably warm to hot and humid some time last week. During the oppressive heat season, the only foods that appeal to me are fresh and crunchy and light. As a result, we have been eating variations of a Greek salad quite a bit lately.
The reason I love the Greek salad so much is because of the dressing. When you search Greek salad dressing recipes, there are many options. I took a few recipes that were similar and combined parts using the herb combination I liked best. The finished dressing is tart and tastes great with steak or chicken. If you are looking for a light summer meal, put together a chopped Greek salad. Leave the dressing off and make some individual portions to bring to school or the office for your teacher or work lunch. Add the dressing when you are ready to eat.
2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
~1 t. salt (or to taste)
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
1 t. Dijon mustard
1/2 c. olive oil
2 T. fresh lemon juice
5 T. red wine vinegar
1/2 t. dried basil leaves
1 t. dried oregano leaves
Romaine lettuce, chopped (enough for people you will be serving)
peeled cucumber, seeded and chopped
grape tomatoes halved or quartered
thinly sliced purple onion
crumbled feta cheese
grilled steak or chicken, thinly sliced
Mix together dressing ingredients and shake in a jar or use a whisk to combine. Set aside.
Put chopped lettuce in a serving bowl. Top with cucumbers, tomatoes, and purple onion.
Mix salad dressing again if it has separated and pour over salad. Toss well until ingredients are covered evenly with dressing.
Sprinkle feta crumbles on top.
Serve with sliced meat and pita chips.
Other ingredients you could add are calamata olives or mild banana peppers.
I like my lettuce chopped into small pieces because I think it tastes better that way. The dressing really covers well.
This makes a great teacher lunch. Assemble in individually sized tupperware with the dressing on the side. Pour the dressing over when ready to serve, put the lid on firmly, and shake.
A new gourmet olive oil shop opened in town, and I had two sweet students bring me bottles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil at the end of the school year. The olive oil is that really good kind that tastes good all by itself with crusty bread dipped in it, which was my main plan until we needed a side dish for TheRoomDad’s latest grilling adventures. I whipped together an easy tortellini pasta salad that is delicious and summery and excellent with steak.
1 family sized package cheese tortellini (~1 lb)
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 handful baby arugula
1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded (or to taste)
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add a little drizzle of olive oil to the pasta and toss gently to keep the tortellini from sticking together and let cool slightly.
In a separate dish, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, kosher salt, and pepper.
In the bowl with the tortellini, add crumbled bacon, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and dressing. Toss well until the tortellini is coated with dressing. The arugula will wilt slightly.
Sprinkle Parmesan on top before serving.
Serve at room temperature.
I have not officially tested this, but I think the pasta salad would travel well to tailgates and potlucks and could be refrigerated.
Here is another summer salad that will be easy to pack in individual containers and bring to swim meets, picnics, or any other tailgate type event that comes up this summer. It can be made ahead and keeps in the refrigerator for a day or two as long as you do not add the lettuce until just before serving. I also tested to see if it could be stored in a Mason jar for a teacher or office lunch, and it works perfectly. I won’t lie; the fact that it looks very Martha Stewart and Pinterest-y in the Mason jar is a huge draw for me.
16 oz. shell pasta, cooked and cooled
2 roast chicken breasts, pulled off the bone and diced/shredded (a grocery store rotisserie chicken works too and saves time)
12 oz. Caesar salad dressing (I like Marie’s brand)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/4 to 1/2 purple onion, thinly sliced in 1/4 circles
~1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
black pepper, to taste
1-2 heads Romaine lettuce, shredded or chopped
Combine cooked pasta, chicken pieces, tomato pieces, and sliced onion.
Add dressing and mix gently. Start with about 2/3 of the dressing and add more if it seems too dry. You will need more dressing than you think because of the lettuce that will be added before serving.
Sprinkle with black pepper and Parmesan cheese and mix again.
Just before serving, add the lettuce to the pasta and mix.
If you are packing in a Mason jar or tupperware for a work lunch or picnic, layer the serving of pasta salad on the bottom. Place a layer of lettuce in the top. Store in the refrigerator (or cooler) until ready to eat.