By Sally Sampson
Even though I’m not a vegetarian, I find side dishes generally more interesting and exciting than the main dish, especially in the summer when fruits and vegetables are so abundant. My ideal meal for a dinner party is grilled salmon or chicken, accompanied by a bunch of great salads.
Potato and Fresh Pea Salad with Mint and Feta Cheese
This bright and beautiful salad doesn’t even slightly resemble the mayonnaise-laden potato salads you’re probably used to.
2 pounds small red potatoes, quartered or cut into ¼ inch slices
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white or rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh peas (start with 1 pound in the pod)
¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese, or more to taste
1. Put the potatoes in a medium-size pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the potatoes are tender but firm, 7-10 minutes.
2. Transfer to a colander and set aside for 5-10 minutes.
3. To make the vinaigrette: put the oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and mix well.
4. Transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl, add the vinaigrette and gently mix. Serve right away or cover and refrigerate up to overnight. Add the peas, mint, and feta just prior to serving.
Lately I’ve become quite enamored of jicama, the tuberous root that resembles a large, matte, round, smooth, yellowish, light-brown potato. Also known as the Mexican potato, its skin is paper-thin and the texture of its creamy white, juicy flesh is crisp and crunchy: a textural cross between an under-ripe pear, a water chestnut, and a raw potato. Its flavor is mild but slightly sweet and almost nutty.
1 jicama (1 ½-2 pounds), peeled and grated or very thinly julienned
2 carrots, grated
1 Granny Smith or other tart apple, peeled and grated
1 head radicchio, cored and slivered
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1. Put all the ingredients in a medium-size mixing bowl and toss well. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
Green Apple Fattoush
(Adapted from Soframiz by Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick)
Fattoush is a classic Middle Eastern salad made with chopped tomato, romaine, herbs, and cucumber. It’s usually topped with small pieces of crispy, deep-fried pita bread and generously sprinkled with sumac. Sumac is a delicious tart spice with a slight raisin or sundried quality and bright crimson color. It’s what makes Fattoush taste so lemony.
1 10-inch pita, cut into ½-inch squares
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
One head romaine lettuce, cored and finely shredded
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
½ English cucumber, cubed
1 small green apple, cored and cubed
6 radishes, sliced
2 tablespoons Pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons sumac
Preheat the oven to 375° degrees.
1. Put the pita squares, 4 tablespoons oil, and the salt in a large mixing bowl and mix until the pita squares are saturated with the oil. Spread onto a baking sheet and bake until they are crisp and golden, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. Put all the ingredients, excluding the sumac but including the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, in a large salad bowl and toss well.
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with the sumac, and serve right away.
Tuscan Bread Salad
This is a classic Italian dish where the bread is supposed to be day-old, which helps it absorb the flavors of the vegetables and the vinaigrette. For a very unusual and amazing take, grill the bread ahead of time (you can grill the bread up to several weeks in advance and freeze it) and proceed as instructed.
2 cups day-old French or sourdough bread, cubed
½ pound ricotta salata cheese, cut in chunks
2 medium Beefsteak tomatoes, cored and diced
1 English cucumber, diced
1 red onion, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cubed
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
For the dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or pressed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. Put the bread, cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, bell pepper, parsley, and basil leaves in a large mixing bowl.
2. To make the dressing: put the olive oil, garlic, vinegar, oregano, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and mix well.
3. Drizzle the dressing on the bread mixture and gently toss. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour and up to four.