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The Blonde Cucina: Sunsational Summer Salads

by and on August 01, 2015 10:00 AM

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

More increasingly over the years people have been doing more grilling in the summer or ordering out at their favorite local eatery. However, if you're tired of those same old grilled meats and veggies why not make a sunsational salad? I mean aside from all the great fresh produce that is in season, it has multiple health benefits, and they can be more than a party in your mouth. Oh, and in today's day and age we are putting new spins on old classics that mom and grandma would have never thought of AND it's more than just iceberg on a plate.

Now before we dive into those recipes, let's talk about superfoods for a minute. Superfoods are currently popular. As a society we go through fads; I mean we all remember the Atkins/South Beach Diet craze; now we are in the superfood/vegan/organic lifestyle craze. Now, I'm not saying these fads are bad, purely informational. For those of you who are unaware of superfoods, let me take a moment to inform you in short of what they are.

Superfoods to me are mostly plant-like foods, but also some fish and dairy products. Long and short, superfoods are thought to be nutritionally solid and good for you. Salmon, kale, 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 or as it's called now Choose My Plate and find the superfood food group. However, adding superfoods to your diet can help weight loss progress not to mention the vitamins and antioxidants that can be found in these nutrient rich foods.

Below is a list of items that can be "labeled" as superfoods. Now this isn't a comprehensive list, this is a short list that I consider superfoods and I use in those sunsational salad recipes that we are going to get to shortly. You can talk to a dietitian or search the web for more comprehensive lists and education on superfoods.

Superfoods include greek yogurt, blueberries, kale, broccoli, strawberries, salmon, watermelon, spinach, pistachios, eggs, almonds, apples, cranberries, garlic, cauliflower, watermelon, spinach and many others.

Now what you've all been waiting for: the recipes. I have 3 different sunsational salads that are all fantastic whether it's used as a side dish, main meal, or show stopping potluck favorite!

Refreshing Asparagus and Almond Salad

Total time: 10 minutes

Serves four


1 bunch of pencil thin sized asparagus, about 1 lb.

3 Tbsp. of olive oil

3 Tbsp. freshly shaved Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon lemon zest - freshly grated lemon rind

The juice of one lemon

1 Tsp of dried dill weed

1 Tbsp. of crushed roasted almonds

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 Start by rinsing the asparagus thoroughly, break off any tough, white bottoms and discard. Cut into 2 inch sections.

Tip: If you take a single piece of asparagus and take it end to end like you're going to bend it in half and where it breaks is the woody end you should discard. Then you know where you can cut the rest of your asparagus bunch.

2 Fill a saucepan half way with water, bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and reduce heat slightly to a simmer. Parboil the asparagus for no more than 2 minutes. Drain the hot water. Rinse them with cold water to shock the pieces and to ensure that beautiful green color. Next, toss them in a bowl with the olive oil, Parmesan, dill weed, almonds, lemon rind and juice. Salt and pepper to taste; Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Gemelli with Shrimp, oranges, and spinach

Total Time: 20 min

Serves 4-6


1 pound cooked gemelli pasta

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. salted butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1 pound medium shrimp, shelled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. white wine

1 can of mandarin oranges

1 red bell pepper sliced in strips

5 ounces of broccoli florets

5 ounces of cauliflower

5 ounces baby spinach

2 Tbsp. of lemon pepper seasoning


1 teaspoon lemon zest

Juice of one lemon

½ cup of olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


In a large sauté pan, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the garlic. Cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, Add the shrimp and white wine to the pan. Sautee until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, and have slightly browned.

For the Vinaigrette:

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

For the Salad:

Add the following to your serving bowl: Shrimp, spinach, red pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, ½ the juice from the mandarin oranges and all the oranges Toss lightly to combine.

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

Lastly, sprinkle the top with the lemon pepper seasoning and toss once more.

Simple Superfood Salad

Servings: 4



2 ½ Tbsp. raspberry vinegar

6 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 cup honey

1/2 Tsp. champagne dill Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp. finely minced shallots, from one shallot

1 Tbsp. minced garlic


7 cups of baby spinach

2 cups sliced strawberries

1 cup blueberries

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

4 ounces of crumbled cheese of your choice (feta, bleu, goat are all great chesses that I have used in this salad that each give its own unique flavor.)


Combine raspberry vinegar, oil, honey, mustard, shallots, and garlic in a bottle or container that can be shaken to blend. Otherwise, combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor.

In a large bowl, combine baby spinach, strawberries, blueberries and pecans. Add the dressing little by little and toss until greens are coated. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Sprinkle crumbled cheese of your choice over top and serve.
Super foods can be yummy and pretty.
Give any one of these recipes a try and you'll be a super chef cooking with super foods.

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

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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