The thing I love most about summer is the abundance of local produce that’s available at the markets and our farmers market. For Lisa, this time of year means the beach, sun tans and summer vacation and since she just retired from teaching I guess her summer vacation just got extended! Which means more meals for me to prepare….lol
With summer in full swing and all those lovely fresh veggies to choose from, salads have become a bigger part of our menu selection. To many of our friends salads are simply a bowl of lettuce with tomatoes, maybe a cucumber or a handful of store bought croutons…..definitely not my idea of a salad. In our household salads are anything but boring and you never know what might end up in my salad bowl.
When teaching my students the fundamentals of salad prep, I give them a few simple guidelines to follow to motivate them and to start them thinking outside the box. I teach them to think components when building a salad, and that a good salad should always have a minimum of 4 components . Fruit is always a good choice, cheese is a must, and nuts often perk up a bland salad. But don’t stop there, once your thinking has been adjusted , you’ll understand that your salad bowl is like a blank canvas just waiting for you to create your next masterpiece.
For lunch yesterday I created a fairly simple salad adding a pasta component, and instead of fruit, I went with olives. My cheese was a mountain picante Gorgonzola that added phenomenal flavor and depth to the salad and of course field grown Jersey tomatoes and a little red onion for a contrasting flavor.
I used a cheese tortellini for my pasta selection, but a meat tortellini would have been a nice addition adding a more distinctive flavor to the salad. Served up on a bed of romaine with some garlic toasts, it was perfect summertime lunch, light yet satisfying. Of course we ended the meal with a few slices of watermelon for dessert…..sigh, I do love summer!
- 1 small head of romaine, washed and chopped
- 8 oz pack of cheese or meat tortellini
- ½ small red onion, peeled and sliced
- 8-10 assorted olives
- 1 large tomato cut into small wedges (or 10-12 grape tomatoes)
- 2 tbsp mountain picante Gorgonzola cheese crumbled (or blue cheese crumbles)
- olive oil to taste
- balsamic vinegar to taste
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon Italian parsley – finely chopped
- day old bread to make garlic toasts
- 1 clove garlic crushed and finely minced
- 1-2 tablespoon olive oil
- sprinkle of grated Romano cheese
- Cook tortellini according to directions, and then allow to cool while preparing the rest of the salad.
- Slice day old bread into small toasts
- In a sauté pan, add olive oil and minced garlic and allow to heat until garlic begins to cook, then remove from heat.
- Coat each side of your toasts with the garlic oil and place on baking sheet
- Sprinkle the top side with grated Romano cheese and place under a broiler until one side is toasted golden brown, then turn over the garlic toasts to toast the other side.
- Set aside to serve with salad (if you have a lot of day old bread these can be made in quantity and stored in a Tupperware container for about a week)
- In a salad bowl, combine tortellini, olives, tomatoes, red onion, and Gorgonzola crumbles -toss to mix.
- Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and black pepper to taste. Or use your favorite Italian style salad dressing. Toss ingredients to coat all the components.
- Place a good handful of chopped romaine on your plate and top with the tortellini salad.
- Sprinkle with chopped Italian parsley and serve with garlic toasts.
Remember salad doesn’t have to be boring, use that empty canvas to create your next masterpiece!