We all ask “what’s for dinner” fairly often. After testing recipes in a hot kitchen in the hot days of August, the Times Test Kitchen staff has the answer: salad.
And after tasting the four main-dish salads they created, we wonder why we asked in the first place. These salads are the answer.
A main-dish summer salad is satisfying. It can be cool and crunchy, chilled and creamy, room temperature and flavorful. If it can be made ahead or without too much trouble, all the better.
Test Kitchen Director Donna Deane took that old standby chicken salad and dotted it with toasted hazelnuts and added fresh tarragon. The combination of the mayonnaise-rich chicken bites with the crunchy nuts is one we’ll come back for. Use prepared mayonnaise if you’re short on time, but why not make your own? It’s not tough, and talk about delicious. This version features olive oil.
Deane’s soba noodle salad is modeled after a similar one she enjoyed in Little Tokyo. It’s wonderfully tasty, without the weighty, greasy feeling fried foods can bring. Tempura batter is lightly fried, then crumbled over greens and soba noodles. Using just a little tempura keeps the salad light but still gives a rich taste, Deane says.
Times test cook Mayi Brady was inspired by her refrigerator.
“I came home, opened the refrigerator, and there was this cauliflower,” says Brady, a cauliflower-lover. But she was thinking salad.
So she quickly roasted the lonely cauliflower, then tossed it with a Dijon mustard-anchovy vinaigrette. Brady says she makes a similar hot dish, but this one--crunchy and delicious--is served room temperature.
Times Test Kitchen intern Virginia Evans drew on several favorite salads to make her fresh pear and romaine salad. One she likes is made with candied pecans, goat cheese and poached pears. But rather than cooking and poaching, she simply toasted walnuts in her toaster oven for a few minutes and combined them with crisp romaine, fresh pear slices and blue cheese. The result is just the right balance of crunchy, crispy, tangy and sweet--perfect for summer.
Cool looking, cool tasting. Isn’t that what summer food is all about?