With the massive amount of heat we’ve had lately, our family decided that we needed to expand our repertoire of main dish salads. I don’t love testing new recipes, because it’s always more work the first time you make something, and then sometimes it’s an utter flop. But I’m psyched to report that we have found three fantastic new salads that we love. I believe that part of the reason that our success rate was so high was that I had J choose the recipes to try. They weren’t all winners, but I can hardly wait to eat these three salads again.
~~But first: holy crap, I must be getting old. I was going to warn you that you should first know where I stand according to that Rating System that I invented a while ago, and then, after rummaging through my digital detritus, I realized that I’d written it ten years ago. How was that ten years ago? But anyway.~~
If I’d been looking on my own, I probably would have rejected this recipe because I think of radishes as a little “too spicy” for me. I’m so glad I tried it. Since I was worried about the radishes, I used our little mini-mandolin to very thinly slice the radishes, cucumbers, and onions. Oh man, it was tasty! I also used slightly less lemon zest because I’m only “meh” on lemon zest and the lemons in my kitchen that day just weren’t all that zesty.
Finally, the queso de frier was new to me. I thought it would be one of those things that I’d just never noticed at the grocery store, especially since the package images I found on Google showed familiar brands. But then I couldn’t find it. So I headed to La Mexicana, where I again struck out on something named queso de frier, but they helpfully pointed out La Chona Panela Mexican Style Part Skim Milk Cheese, which is literally a good “frying cheese,” and it worked great.
Here’s the thing, though: this salad is so good that it doesn’t even need it. So if you’re thinking to yourself, “Katie, you say that you’re making a salad and now you’re suggesting I fry cheese, which is, like, the opposite of salad,” or if you just can’t find the cheese in question, skip it and the salad is still delicious. J and I agreed that we loved the salad with or without the cheese. Cute W abstained, because, knowing that it could contain a delicious block of fried cheese, why on earth would anyone choose not to have the fried cheese? But it is up to you.
It terms of loving this salad, this was more of a slow burn for our family. First, a couple of modifications. Instead of a Persian cucumber, we used a plain ol’ Niskayuna cucumber. We went for cilantro rather than mint (we actually had had a bad mint experience with another salad recipe trial that didn’t make the cut, making us extra wary), and I added a sliced red pepper as well, because I like them, they seemed to fit in well, and more vegetables=better. I used the recipe’s original 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes, but that turned out to be pretty spicy for us. Which is weird: we usually like more spicy, but I guess one’s chili flakes can vary.
So when we first tried it, this recipe was at room temperature, and the chili flakes were a bit overpowering, so it was good, but not fantastic. For the leftovers, I made more of the dressing with fewer chili flakes, and the combination of a little more sauce, a little bit milder, along with a colder temperature for everything took the whole dish up a couple of notches. This is a beautiful salad, and I think it would be awesome as a packed lunch or to share for a summer potluck.
And finally: Chicken and Strawberry Salad with Goat Cheese.
This salad doesn’t have a link because it was just something that J and M had created at some point, and when our backyard was overflowing with raspberries, J suggested that we recreate it, because they’d originally dressed it with a raspberry vinaigrette. I used this simple and tasty raspberry vinaigrette recipe.
Then we combined:
- A bunch of mixed greens
- Cooked chicken cut into bite-sized pieces
- Sliced strawberries
- Candied pecans (you can buy them candied, but J made her own — see this recipe, which she followed, except that she only used 1/2 t of cinnamon and she skipped the orange zest because she’s her mother’s daughter)
- Goat cheese
- Raspberry vinaigrette
This salad was delicious. We gathered the ingredients and then each assembled our own salad to our liking, and then we each assembled an entire second salad because we could not resist making even more. Obviously, it was spectacular with freshly-picked raspberries, but the truth is, frozen raspberries are pretty tasty, too, and I absolutely envision myself using them through the winter to keep eating this salad even when it’s not super-hot.
I don’t want to get too cocky, but I think that our summer salad repertoire might start rivaling our winter soup repertoire.