a trio of summer salads

Hey, who invited the ants?

Is it hot enough for you?

Now that we are well into the dog days of August, all I can think about is staying cool. Lots of lemonade, iced tea, fresh fruit, slushies and sorbet. We’ve been amusing ourselves with indoor picnics, enjoying our modest spoils in the comfort of air conditioning.

Summertime is salad time. We love them for lunch and dinner, and it’s nice that with just the two of us, one recipe will last several days. This past weekend we made three favorites: Fierce Bad Rabbit’s Carrot Raisin Salad, Sonoma Chicken Salad, and Pasta Salad with Creamy Pesto Sauce.

♥ I’ve posted the Carrot Raisin Salad recipe before; it’s from the Peter Rabbit Natural Foods Cookbook. This time around I used golden raisins instead of regular ones and opted for mayonnaise, although both sour cream and plain yogurt work great. The recipe calls for leaving the apples unpeeled, but I prefer them peeled. A wonderfully refreshing salad, especially good with naturally sweet organic carrots, and you feel healthy eating it!

♥ I’ve always loved chicken salad, and Sonoma Chicken Salad (a Whole Foods recipe) is my current favorite. It’s crucial to cook the chicken breasts according to directions (baked in 1/2 cup of water), or simmered on low to avoid toughness. The dressing is easy and so tasty — in addition to mayo, you add honey, poppy seeds and apple cider vinegar. I usually cut the grapes in half and sometimes leave out the pecans. Great in a croissant sandwich or eaten plain on fresh lettuce.

(serves 6)

The Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
4 tsp. apple cider vinegar
5 tsp. honey
2 tsp. poppy seeds
sea salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste

The Salad

2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup pecan pieces, toasted
2 cups red seedless grapes
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced


1. Prepare the dressing by thoroughly mixing together all the dressing ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to dress the salad. (Can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.)

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place the chicken breasts in one layer in a baking dish with 1/2 cup water. Cover with foil and bake 25 minutes until completely cooked through.

3. Remove cooked chicken breasts from baking pan, cool at room temperature for 10 minutes, then cover and refrigerate.

4. When the breasts are completely chilled (at least 2 hours refrigerated), dice into bite-size pieces and transfer to a large bowl.

5. Stir in pecans, grapes, celery and dressing.

~ from The Whole Foods Market Cookbook

♥ Everyone loves pasta salads and there are many ways to make them. For this batch, I used a bag of corkscrew pasta, and added chopped Black Forest ham, red and yellow bell peppers, cucumbers and olives, although you can add whatever you like — chopped red onions, celery, zucchini slivers, salami, carrots, etc.

Of course the key to any good pasta salad is the dressing. I was happy to find a recipe that uses fresh basil — the only plant growing in our yard not eaten up by the deer. You just combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor, and you have a savory dressing that can be used for pasta or green salads.

(makes about 1-3/4 cups)

2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 hard-cooked eggs, quartered
1 cup oil, half olive and half salad
3 garlic cloves, halved
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 T basil or white wine vinegar
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place all ingredients except oil in blender or food processor. Blend until coarsely chopped. Scrape down sides and blend again with oil until pureed.

Store in a covered glass container in the refrigerator.

~ from The Pasta Salad Cookbook by Nina Graybill and Maxine Rapoport (Farragut Publishing Co., 1984).

Enjoy the salads and have fun at your next indoor or outdoor picnic!

Don't forget to eat dessert before the ants get to it!

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of  jama’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved. 

9 thoughts on “a trio of summer salads

  1. It’s all about ice tea and salads in our house, too. I tend to fall back on the same things: macaroni salad, deviled eggs, and tuna pasta salad (I like me a white plate). The chicken salad looks yummy. Instead of poaching chicken breasts, I use the lazy person’s method and buy a rotissery chicken from Wegman’s.


    1. Oh, I like to use rotisserie chickens too — but sometimes don’t have the patience to bone them :D. This is why I need a good sous chef on call at all times.


  2. Ooh! Thanks for some great recipes! And thanks for the tip on baking chicken breasts! Adding the water and covering with foil will help greatly! Doh! 😉 I like using cooked chicken for salads, but don’t always leftover cooked chicken on hand. Love the new blog! xo


    1. Do try the chicken salad next time you have some extra chicken lying around, or do as Candice does and buy a cooked rotisserie chicken. Still pretty easy to either poach 2 breasts or bake as the recipe directs, though . . . thanks for liking the new blog! 🙂


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