Summer Salads are Perfect for Hot Summer Nights

With the arrival of hot weather comes a conundrum for foodies: how can you prepare a delicious meal at home without breaking a sweat? It can be uncomfortable to labor over a hot stove during the summer months. We asked two area chefs for their tips on summer meal prep and their favorite recipes to help you stay cool.

Pan-Seared Scallops with a Tomatillo Salsa Verde

This recipe, from Chef Tito Alejandro, a caterer and the head chef at Blessings Café in Albany, is perfect for dining al fresco or for when you’re craving a mouthwatering meal filled with fresh produce. Alejandro suggests using a fire-roasted tomatillo salsa verde and serving the cooked scallops over a vermicelli salad with lime dressing. While you do have to use the stove for a bit in this recipe, it’s only for a short time. 

“Cooking should always be fun,” Alejandro says. “Fresh ingredients and proper seasoning make for great eats.”

Serves 4 (appetizer portion) or 2 (entree portion)

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium tomatillos
  • 1 jalapeno
  • Cooking spray
  • ½ Spanish onion, chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • Juice of 1 lime, divided in half
  • ¼ cup washed, dried, stem-free cilantro
  • Splash of honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces cooked leftover pasta like vermicelli
  • ½ cup roasted sweet corn
  • 1 Bermuda onion
  • 1 small seedless cucumber, sliced
  • ½ cup diced tomatoes, seeds removed
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 8 high-quality dry scallops

Preparation

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. First, you’ll make the tomatillo salsa verde. 
  2. To make the tomatillo salsa verde, discard the brown papery skin on the outside of the tomatillos. Wash the tomatillos and jalapeno. Slice the tomatillos and jalapeno in half and lay them, skin-side up, on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for about 10 minutes. Once they have cooled, peel the skin off.
  3. While the vegetables are roasting, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil. Add the chicken broth, lime juice, cilantro, tomatillos, and jalapeno. Alejandro adds “a splash of honey to cut the acidity.” Simmer for 10 minutes. Then, blend the entire mixture with an emulsion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. For the vermicelli salad, Alejandro recommends using “whatever is handy to create your own spin.” His vermicelli salad “was made from leftover pasta,” he says. Combine the pasta, cucumber, tomatoes, Bermuda onion and sweet corn in a dish. Drizzle with olive oil and the juice from the other half of lime, add salt and pepper and toss.
  5. Cook the scallops for two minutes on each side in a shallow pan. Alejandro advises using high-quality dry scallops to ensure the best and sweetest taste. Wet scallops, he says, are treated with sodium tripolyphosphate. Sear the scallops cook at a high temperature until a browned crust forms.

Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad

Strawberry Spinach SaladChristopher Small, owner and chef at The Healing Meals in Albany, chose this recipe “to provide people with quick, healthy alternatives to fast food when life gets too busy.” Summer salads like this one offer the “ability to eat healthy food, conveniently and affordably” and offer a delicious blend of fruit, vegetable, and protein.

(Serves 1)

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1/4 cup cucumber, sliced
  • 1/4 cup sliced red onion
  • 3 cups mixed greens 
  • 2 ounces goat cheese 
  • 1/4 cup crushed pecans or walnuts 
For the maple dressing:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup 
  • 1 tbsp stone-ground mustard 
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar 

Preparation

  1. Wash and slice the fresh strawberries, cucumber, and red onion. Add them to a bed of freshly washed and dried mixed greens. Mix in the goat cheese and crushed nuts.
  2. To make the dressing, mix the olive oil, pure maple syrup, stone ground mustard, and apple cider vinegar. Toss the salad in the dressing.

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