The Summer Trifecta

Courtesy of Rod Michael

caeser salad
Fresh organic caesar salad with grated asiago cheese

Salads, Soups and Salsas

It is that time of year again, when we can enjoy the warmth and greatness of the outdoors. A time when we want to make something simple, quick and nutritious to eat. It is when a blender, knife, grill or smoker and some fresh ingredients are once again put to the test to make something quick and delicious. Yes it’s time for what I call the summer trifecta; Salads, Soups and Salsas.

With cooking being so in-vogue now it is easy to get a recipe on line or from someone on Facebook that is just simple, easy and good. Of course it tastes so much better when we make it ourselves.

If you happen to be a gardener it is so easy to grab some fresh greens and herbs from the garden, toss in some bean of your choosing, possibly some fruit and nuts, EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and of course White Balsamic Vinegar my personal favorite and toss. A garden salad is always great. You can add a myriad of things and have it just the way you want. The lettuce combinations are numerous; arugula, spinach, mustard greens, baby kale, baby swiss chard, chives, radicchio and scallions, the sky is the limit. Green goddess dressing has become one of our favorites. This dressing was conceived in San Francisco in the 1920s. This dressing is looked upon as being healthy and with yogurt being added now, it has become beloved among the health food circle. The fresh herbs and anchovy paste make this a taste delight. You can use it as a dip, a green salad dressing, you can marinate chicken or shrimp and dress up a pasta or potato salad. Try Green Goddess dressing on your next salad.

A few years ago, I was on a Booby Flay kick, I bought his cookbooks, watched his shows and found a recipe for a grilled fennel salad with orange slices and an orange vinaigrette and it truly is unbelievable. There is not one person who I have served it to who does not like it.

When tomatoes come into season it is time for a Caprese salad. Tomatoes, mozzarella, basil some EVOO, red balsamic and an appetite. This is my brothers favorite, thanks Frank.

When it comes to salads I have become famous for my home-made Caesar Salad. This effort has been a 20-year experiment in the making and most people who try it love it and want more. Get your wooden bowl out and start adding the following:

  • 1/3 cup of EVOO, the lighter the better
  • Half a lime and half a lemon squeezed
  • 3 to 4 squeezes of anchovy paste about two inches long
  • Few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • Few dashes of white balsamic vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon of mustard
  • 2 small garlic cloves squeezed in, maybe three depending on how much garlic you like
  • A little salt and pepper
  • cup of fresh ground Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • one coddled egg,

Mix thoroughly and sample. Do not be afraid to add more cheese or a slight dash of anything you think it needs. It is now time to get the Romaine ready. Wash and dry all the leaves, cull any that are to stemmy or the greens that just do not look good. Take each leaf, keeping bottom side up and at the spine break downward into two inch bow tie strips, continue with all leaves and now take a good sample of your dressing, if good refrigerate the lettuce for a half hour, then toss with your dressing being sure to add in more ground cheese and some fresh ground pepper. If you are a crouton person toss in some home made or premade and plate. The serving size is about a medium size handful. Enjoy, I mean it, this is good!

I recently returned from Mexico on a trip celebrating a friend’s 70th birthday. While there I always had the soup of the day. I had a classic tortilla soup and OMG it was uniquely different; both my wife and I fell in love. This soup was great hot or warm. Just enough crunchy and the visual on how they served it

by marrying in the cheese n cream was so inviting. A simple soup to make and so perfect for a summer’s day.

Nothing says summer like a corn chowder. I am not going to lie, I really love corn chowders! There are many chowders: salmon corn chowder, fish corn chowder, oyster corn chowder, or just a good ole New England or Manhattan clam chowder, they hit the gastronomical spot. I have been accused of making too many corn chowders, but every time I do, they disappear. Yes, the kids love them too! They are just good and yummy, and I make no excuses. Every chowder loves fresh thyme, so please don’t forget it. The secret to a good corn chowder is making a good corn stock by simmering those ears for at least an hour and a half to get that great corn taste. Be sure to remove all the kernels before simmering and I guarantee you will be a convert. After you have added the kernels, potatoes and other ingredients back into your corn stock pot, and cooked for about 15 minutes, you can then add your cubed-up salmon pieces that have been given a little dry rub on top and let it poach for about 10 minutes. Hold on, because this is going to be good.

Potato-leek soup aka vichyssoise, if served cold and a Parmentier if served hot. Hot or cold, I love this soup. It is so easy to make and be sure to use the green as well as the white parts of the leeks, once they’ve been trimmed and cleaned. Chervil is the classic herb of choice for this soup, but you can try others. If you are daring check out Jacques Pepin, Oatmeal leek soup, that too will please.

Salsa, part three of the trifecta. Every summer get together has some salsa and chips. Salsa can be a topping to your favorite Mexican or southwestern dish. You can serve it with chips for a party appetizer or a lovely side dish. Salsa Verde is a green salsa, usually tomatillo based, with quick roasted tomatillos, Jalapenos, white onions, fresh cilantro, garlic, salt, sugar, lime juice and water. Give all the ingredients a quick blitz in the food processor, don’t forget some sugar and keep a slightly chunky texture. If you want to make it creamy add one to two avocados the mix.

Salsa are a great addition to may dishes. Here are a few thoughts to get your palate begging to try something new. Grilled or baked salmon with an avocado salsa, zesty shrimp tacos with a pineapple salsa, salsa chicken with a tomato salsa, aka Pico de Gallo, skinny taco salad (salsa and plain no-fat yogurt), baked fish with dill cherry salsa and lemon cauliflower rice, chicken skewers with rice and Picante salsa. Remember if you have plenty of time you should allow your salsa mixture to chill in the fridge where the flavors will meld, leaving you with a dish that is a surefire crowd pleaser. Experiment and mix different recipes, that the fun of cooking.

Summertime meals do not have to take long to be healthy and delicious. All we need is a little inspiration, a good appetite, a dash of serendipity and we are on our way to the Summer Trifecta.

Rod Michael