I’ve not shared many food posts since the beginning of the year, which was intentional. I really wanted to start 2017 with a focus on home decor, DIY projects, tablescapes, and parties. Last week I shared information about parties and that, of course, makes me think more about food. Maybe it’s the changing of the seasons and that spring is here that has me yearning to talk about food, especially salads. Since parties and food go together, I wanted to share some spring~perfect dishes, specifically 3 amazing salads for your next party.
I know that these salads are winners for a party because I’ve made them for parties and catered events and they get rave reviews. Each is different, can be served at room temperature, be made ahead ~always a plus in my mind ~ and are so pretty. They are wonderful offered individually, but look so pretty served together for a luncheon or buffet.
When you are serving multiple salads, I think you should offer variety in several areas: color, texture, main ingredient, vinaigrette, with and without a protein. For example, you wouldn’t want to have more than 1 pasta salad; you would want only 1 salad with chicken and only 1 with shrimp. Only 1 salad should have a mayonnaise~based dressing. Always include a salad that is mainly greens and serve it tossed with a vinaigrette. For a green salad, use a mix of lettuces: red leaf lettuce, bibb (Boston), butter, baby spinach, arugula, kale, frissee. Mixing your greens gives the salad more interest in color, flavor and texture. Add~ons, such as tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, cheeses, nuts, fruits or vegetables, create a more appealing salad from a taste and esthetic standpoint.
3 Amazing Salads to Love for Your Next Party
Have you ever needed enough salad to feed 10 or 20? Have you multiplied a recipe from 4 servings and ended up with enough to feed 50? I’ve scaled these 3 delicious recipes to serve a large crowd of about 1~cup servings each, so you can be sure that you will have enough, but not too much. If you don’t need as much, half the recipes. Served together or separately, all three are pretty and delicious.
Southwestern Pasta Salad
Our first salad is a Southwestern Pasta Salad. I used bowtie (farfalle) pasta as the foundation, but any shaped pasta will work just fine. I like shaped pastas for salads because they hold up to rich dressings and a mixture of several ingredients.
TIP: Cold inhibits flavor, so if you are going to serve this salad cold, you want to add a bit more seasoning.
- 24 ounces medium~shaped pasta, such as farfalle, penne, elbow, uncooked
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
- kosher salt, to taste
- 3 15~ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 3 cups frozen whole kernel corn, thawed and drained
- 3 red bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed, medium dice
- 2 orange bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, medium dice
- 2 yellow bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, medium dice
- 2¼ cups thinly sliced green onion, white and light green parts only
- 2 cups oil~packed sun~dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 2¼ cups good~quality mayonnaise
- 1½ cups sour cream
- ¾ cup hot or medium salsa
- 6 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
- Cook the pasta to al dente in a large pot of boiling, salted water, according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water.
- In a large bowl, toss the pasta with the vegetable oil; sprinkle with the cumin and salt to taste.
- To the pasta, add the black beans, corn, bell peppers, sun~dried tomatoes, and green onions.
- In a mediuml bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, and salsa.
- Stir the mayonnaise mixture with the pasta mixture and toss to completely combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Place the pasta mixture in a large serving container. Sprinkle the cilantro over to garnish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill overnight.
NOTE: If you like a spicier version, add ¼ teaspoon cayenne at Step 4. You can also add 2 finely chopped jalapeño peppers, seeds and ribs removed.
NOTE: If you like, add 1½ ~ 2 cups of shredded Monterey Jack cheese to the mixed salad.
Mixed Spring Greens with Seasonal Fruit and Blood Orange Vinaigrette
This salad with an emphasis on fruit provides a balance of ingredients and adds color and texture to packaged spring greens. The blood orange vinaigrette compliments the fruits. As with any dressed salad, add the vinaigrette right before serving. Instead of blood orange vinegar, juice a blood orange and substitute 1/4 cup of juice for the vinegar.
NOTE: a juicer is one of my 25 favorite kitchen tools. Sign up to receive the complete list.
- 10 ~ 15 cups mesclun mixed greens
- 1 cup blueberries, washed
- 1 cup large diced strawberries
- 1 cup large diced seedless watermelon
- ½ red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 container whole feta cheese
- ¼ cup blood orange vinegar*
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
- 2 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- kosher salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper
- Remove the mesclun greens from package and pick over to remove any wilted or brown leaves. Place in a large bowl.
- Place the sliced red onion in a bowl with ice water and let sit for 10 ~ 20 minutes. Drain and dry the onions.
- Cut the feta into ½~inch cubes.
- Place the blood orange vinegar in a small bowl. Add the shallot, a small pinch of salt and let sit for a few minutes. Add the whole grain Dijon mustard. Whisk in the extra virgin olive oil to make the vinaigrette. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
- Add the fruits, the red onion and the feta cheese to the mesclun greens. Toss with the vinaigrette to dress the salad.
- Place the salad on a pretty platter and serve.
NOTE: Placing the red onions in the ice water removes the sharpness from the onion.
NOTE: The salad ingredients may be combined ahead, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. Toss with the vinaigrette right before serving.
Chicken Citrus Salad
At least 1 of the salads should have a protein. I chose to use a grocery store rotisserie chicken which gives you a moist base for the salad and is usually cheaper and definitely less time consuming that roasting one yourself. Grilled shrimp could be substituted for the chicken. I love to use Texas ruby red grapefruit in season for its sweetness and pretty deep pink color. You could also add a navel orange to the other citrus or in place of the grapefruit.
- 1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed from bones and chopped into bite~size pieces
- ½ cup pink grapefruit sections
- ½ cup lemon sections
- ½ cup lime sections
- 1 ripe, but firm, avocado, each thinly sliced into 10 slices
- ¼ cup shaved fennel
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated and washed, and torn in half
- ⅓ cup champagne vinegar
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- kosher or sea salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper
- In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, citruses, sliced avocado, tomatoes, fennel and basil. Season with salt and pepper.
- FOR THE VINAIGRETTE: In a small bowl, combine the champagne vinegar, the shallot and the garlic. Add a large pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow to sit for up to 15 minutes. Slowly add the extra virgin olive oil, whisking to combine. Taste and add more salt, if needed.
- Add the champagne vinaigrette to the chicken salad citrus and gently toss to combine.
- On a large platter, spread out the butter lettuce leaves to cover the platter.
- Spread the chicken salad on top of the lettuce.
NOTE: The vinaigrette may be prepared a day ahead and stored in an air~tight container in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving
NOTE: The fruit sections, called supremes, can be bought in the refrigerated fruit section of the grocery store.
I hope you enjoy these amazing salads. As warmer weather arrives and we want lighter meals for family dining and entertaining, these salads should definitely be added to your recipe box.