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Blonde Cucina: Be a super chef with summer salads

by on July 22, 2015 3:19 PM

Well, folks, we are in the dog days of summer.

Over the years, people have been doing more grilling in the summer. However, if you’re tired of those same old grilled meats and veggies, why not make a “sunsational” salad? Aside from the taste of all the great fresh produce that is in season, a salad has multiple health benefits and can be more than a party in your mouth. And today, we are putting new spins on old classics that Mom and Grandma would have never thought.

Before we explore these salad recipes, let’s talk about “superfoods” for a minute.

Right now, we're in the midst of a superfood/vegan/organic lifestyle craze. For those of you who are not familiar with superfoods, let me take a moment to inform you.

Superfoods are mostly plant-like foods, but also some fish and dairy products. Superfoods are thought to be nutritionally solid and good for you. Salmon, kale and blueberries are a few items that some people think of as superfoods.

Now you’re not going to be able to go to the food pyramid and find the superfood food group. However, adding superfoods to your diet can help weight loss progress, not to mention increase your intake of the vitamins and antioxidants that can be found in these nutrient-rich foods.

Here is a list of items that can be labeled as superfoods, and, while not comprehensive, it is a list I use in my “sunsational” salad recipes: Greek yogurt, blueberries, kale, broccoli, strawberries, salmon, pistachios, watermelon, spinach, eggs, almonds, apples, cranberries, garlic and cauliflower.

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for — the recipes. I have three different salads that are all fantastic, whether used as side dishes, main meals or show-stopping potluck favorites.


Start to finish: 10 minutes

Servings: 4

1 bunch pencil-thin asparagus

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons freshly shaved Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon dried dill weed

1 tablespoon crushed roasted almonds

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the asparagus thoroughly, break off any tough white bottoms and discard. Cut into 2-inch sections.

Fill a saucepan halfway with water, bring to a boil. Add asparagus and reduce heat slightly to a simmer. Parboil asparagus for no more than 2 minutes. Drain, then rinse with cold water.

Toss asparagus pieces into bowl with the olive oil, Parmesan cheese, dill weed, almonds, lemon rind and juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, or at room temperature.



Start to finish: 20 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

1 pound cooked gemelli pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons salted butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1 pound medium shrimp, shelled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons white wine

1 can mandarin oranges

1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips

5 ounces broccoli florets

5 ounces cauliflower

5 ounces baby spinach

2 tablespoons lemon pepper seasoning

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Juice of one lemon

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saute pan, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic. Cook until soft, about 2 minutes.

Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Add shrimp and white wine to pan. Saute until shrimp are cooked thoroughly, pink and slightly browned.

For the vinaigrette, combine lemon zest and lemon juice in small bowl. Slowly add oil, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

For the salad, add shrimp, spinach, red pepper, broccoli, cauliflower and mandarin oranges, with half the juice from the can, in bowl. Toss lightly to combine.

Add pasta and vinaigrette to serving bowl and toss until all ingredients are combined and coated.

Sprinkle with lemon pepper seasoning and toss once more.



Servings: 4

7 cups baby spinach

2 cups sliced strawberries

1 cup blueberries

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

4 ounces crumbled cheese of your choice (Feta, blue or goat are all great cheeses that I have used in this salad. Each gives its own unique flavor.)


2 1/2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

6 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon champagne dill Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons finely minced shallots

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Combine raspberry vinegar, oil, honey, mustard, shallots, and garlic in a bottle or container with lid; shake to blend.

In large bowl, combine baby spinach, strawberries, blueberries and pecans. Add dressing little by little. Toss greens when coated. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle crumbled cheese over top and serve.

Give any one of these recipes a try and you’ll be a “super chef” making salads with “superfoods.”


Ciara Semack is the owner of The Blonde Bistro in Bellefonte. She is the mother of one and a lifelong resident of Centre County. Her column appears every other week in the Gazette. Questions, suggestions and comments can be directed to [email protected]
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