Just a side note, it is so easy to make your own salad dressing, once you realize this, it will be hard to go back to the bottled dressings from the store.
Asparagus Pasta Salad
This is going to quickly become a staple at our house. The asparagus is so nice and fresh for the summer, it is perfect for a side dish for a BBQ or to bring to a potluck.
8 oz ditalini pasta (about half the box, you could use other pasta shapes but this one matches the asparagus)
12 oz fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
10 oz bacon, fully cooked and cut into bits
7 oz feta cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup green onion
1 tbsp lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup Homemade Ranch Dressing (seriously, don't bother with the bottled ranch, it will not be as good as this homemade recipe, see below)
Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain. Put pasta in a large bowl, toss with lemon juice and olive oil. Let cool.
Add asparagus pieces to a pot of boiling water. Blanch for 2 to 3 minutes until brightly coloured. Immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water. This stops them from cooking more. You just want them to be slightly soft but still crisp and definitely not mushy. Let cool and then add to pasta in bowl.
Add bacon, cheese, green onions. Stir. Add the dressing (as much or as little as you like), and some salt and pepper to taste.
Homemade Ranch Dressing
1/2 cup light buttermilk (they sell 1% here)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp plain yoghurt
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp fresh chives or ends of green onion, chopped
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
Combine all ingredients in a jar or other container with tight lid, shake until combined. This will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
Green Salad with Figs, Walnuts and Chèvre
Mixed Salad Greens (you can just eyeball this, it is about one handful per person. The rest of the ingredients can easily be modified depending on the size of your group)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried figs, cut into strips
1/3 cup crumbed goat cheese (chèvre)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp whole-grain dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about half of a large orange)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
Place walnuts in a small skillet over medium heat and toast for a few minutes until they begin to brown and become fragrant. Stay close, these can take a turn very quickly and you'll burn them. Remove from heat and pour into a small dish to cool.
Add salad greens to a large bowl. Top with cooled walnuts, figs, and crumbed goat cheese.
In a separate dish, mix together vinegar, mustard and honey. Whisk in oil, then orange juice, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Toss the salad in about 1/2 to 3/4 of the dressing. Serve remaining dressing on the side if necessary.
Sweet Potato Salad
I am not a huge fan of regular potato salad, but this recipe takes it to the next level. The salad is pictured below in the bottom bowl. A great way to add flavour and colour to your plate. This recipe is originally from Michael Smith's cookbook Back to Basics.
2 to 3 sweet potatoes, unpeeled, cut into cubes
2 tbsp olive oil
2 green onions, chopped
2 ribs of celery, diced
Handful of fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
a few splashes of your favourite hot sauce (I use chili pepper paste)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; turn on convection fan if you have one.
Toss cubed sweet potatoes in olive oil in a festive salad bowl. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast potatoes until they are golden brown and crispy, about 30 minutes. Don't over-roast them or they will get mushy.
Wipe out the salad bowl with a paper towel, then add vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, honey, salt and hot sauce. Whisk dressing until smooth. Toss in green onions celery, parsley, pecans and cranberries. Add the potatoes (no need to cool them, but if you have a few minutes, do let them cool a bit), and give the whole bowl a thorough toss.
I've got a few more salad recipes I will share throughout the summer.