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Summer Salad Time

What’s best to eat to beat the heat in Summer? Salads! According to one recent survey, almost half of those asked said Summer was the best season to eat salads.

I love salads, and for the restaurant menu at the Harlem Yacht Club (where I am the steward), as well as in my catering business, I like to get creative with different combinations – and the combinations are endless!

When creating a salad, you start with the base, whatever lettuce or salad green or leaf you want to use. There are so many possibilities here. My favorite is arugula, tender and a bit spicy. Baby bibb and butter lettuce are good too. Or you could choose a sturdy leaf like romaine or radicchio. Lacinato Kale is the only kale I’ll eat. It’s tender, mellow and closer to a salad green. I like Savoy Cabbage also; to me, it’s nicer than regular cabbage.

Then there are the components, which are more than just toppings. I tend to see the base as a component too, working in harmony with the other salad ingredients. I’ve added sweet items like fruits and berries, as well as veggies, cheeses, and proteins (eggs, meats, etc.). Proteins are good if you’re having the salad as a meal, but you don’t always need protein. There’s my Veggie Greek Cobb Salad creation (Tomato, Cucumber, Kalamata Olives, Roast Red Pepper, Feta, Chickpeas, Hard Boiled Egg, Pita Strips, Red Wine Vinaigrette). And for a brunch salad, I’ve added raspberries and Boursin cheese. With so many variations, I feel like you never have to get bored.

Some thoughts on the dressing, which completes the salad after the base and garnishes. First, it should be homemade. Store bought is just not as good. Second, it should be mixed in with the salad. And finally, it should pair well with the other components. A creamy dressing matches well with crunchy ingredients which can stand up to the thicker dressing. Some salads need a sweeter dressing, or just a vinaigrette.

On garnish, I admit I am obsessed with watermelon radishes. They are beautiful and not as pungent as regular radishes. They make it all so pretty. I use them all the time: as a garnish on a brunch plate, as a throw in for the salad, whatever.

I like to serve salads in a shallow bowl – it holds the leaves together. Two of the most popular salads I’ve served up at the Harlem Yacht Club are the Grilled Chicken Avocado Salad (with Crumbled Goat Cheese, Toasted Almonds, Bacon, Tomato and Cilantro-Lime Ranch) and the Baja Steak Salad (with Avocado, Roasted Corn, Black Beans, Cotija Cheese, Tomato, Crispy Tortilla Strips, Agave-Lime Vinaigrette). The Baja Steak Salad is a good example of keeping all in the salad within a theme; in this case, the flavors of Mexico. That’s a huge seller from the menu – even in Winter!

Recent specials have included Caesar Slaw with Lemon Grilled Chicken Salad (Red and Savoy Cabbage, Lacinato Kale, Red Onion, Bacon, Shredded Parmesan, Sesame & Sunflower Seeds, Corn Tortilla Croutons), and the Grilled Scallop and Caramelized Avocado Salad (with Grapefruit, Crunchy Bee Pollen, Slivered Red Onion, Sunflower Seeds, Honey-Orange Vinaigrette). To caramelize the avocado, I sprinkle on some turbinado sugar and use a crème brûlée torch. And I use locally made honey from City Island beekeepers for the dressing for that Scallop Salad, as well as their bee pollen. And one customer said the Caesar Slaw Salad was perfect for a keto diet.

So this Summer, make sure a salad is part of your “scenery” – it’s sure to make any view sunnier!


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