Picture it: it’s a beautiful summer Sunday. You’re relaxing, maybe having your morning coffee. You get a text from your best friend/ sister/mother-in-law: We’re having a bbq! Come on by! Bring a side dish. Sounds like a great day, but what on earth will you make?
Well I’m here to save the day with two quick and easy summer salads that are far from your average fare.
My parents used to have an annual Labor Day party, and one year 7 different people brought baked beans. Seven. Different people. No one needs that many beans. When I’m bringing a dish to a party, I always try to make something a little unique. Something that’ll be a crowd pleaser without risking having double dishes.
First we’ve got an Asian kale salad. Asian flavors are my favorite to play with. This salad has just a couple of Asian ingredients that pack a big punch, so you’re not stuck with a bunch of extra bottles in your fridge. And kale has been totally en vogue for a number of years now. Kale can sometimes be a little tough and a little bitter, but treat it properly (i.e. shredding it very fine and marinating it in acid and salt) will keep it sweet and tender. I always think it’s nice to have a healthy option at a bbq. A hot day is a good time to keep things flavorful and light.
Keeping lightness in mind, my spinach & artichoke pasta salad is a creamy, cheesy delight that won’t weigh you down. Spinach and artichoke dip is always a hit at a party: I took that classic appetizer and turned it into a side. All the delicious flavors of the original, but still totally transformed. We keep the dressing light and bright by using a combination of mayo and olive oil. And lots of lemon. All the lemon. Lemon is key.
The best part about these salads is that the prep is super simple. Just cut up some veggies or cook some pasta, whisk up some dressing, mix it all together and let it rest. You can let them chill for as little as an hour, but the longer they sit, the better they’ll taste.
Tip for serving: these salads are great either cold or room temperature. But salads that aren’t kept chilled are only safe to be left out for 2-3 hours. You don’t want to let a spoiled salad ruin a good party.
BBQs and pot lucks aren’t competitions, but if they were, serving up one of these salads would make you a champion every time.
P.S. keep an eye out next week for our super simple summertime grilling marinade. It’ll make for a flavor packed main dish to go with these super sides.
Asian Kale Salad
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 C apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 C vegetable oil
- 1/4 C soy sauce
- 1/4 C granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 package instant ramen noodles, chicken flavor
- 1 C shredded carrots
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 4 scallions, sliced thin
- Remove ribs (tough, center part) from kale leaves and chop into fine pieces. Toss kale with salt and ¼ C vinegar and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, add remaining vinegar, oil, soy, sugar, sesame oil, and ramen flavor packet and whisk to combine. Break up noodles into fine pieces.
- Toss all ingredients with dressing until greens are coated and rest in refrigerator for at least one hour, up to overnight.
Spinach & Artichoke Tortellini Salad
- 1 1/2 C fresh spinach, chopped
- 3 canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- 1 lb frozen cheese tortellini
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1/2 C mayo
- 1/4 C olive oil
- 1/2 C grated parmesan
- 1/2 C fresh basil, chopped fine
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- Boil tortellini in salted water according to package instructions. When pasta is tender, drain, rinse, and set aside to cool completely
- Whisk together lemon zest and juice, mayo, olive oil, parmesan, basil, and seasoning until combined.