Cool Summer Salads


August can be a brutal month. The relentless sun beats down, forcing our retreat to air-conditioned spaces. Cicadas whir their summer song and, but for cool spots high in the Rockies and sprinkled elsewhere across the land, the U.S. is blistering from Maine to California. The last thing in the world you want to eat, much less prepare, is something hot.

One possible antidote to all this heat is grilling: It keeps your kitchen cool. Another solution, however, is to eat cool and delicious dishes, preferably those that do not require much in the way of cooking, period.

Fortunately, the very season that brings on all this heat is also responsible for providing us with an abundant supply of fruits and vegetables that can be prepared, often with little or no cooking, to satisfy the summertime craving for something light and cool. The first of these cool summer salads, Company Chicken Salad, does call for cooked chicken breasts, but that is the total extent of the "cooking" required in these four salads.

Company Chicken Salad

  • 3 Small boneless chicken breasts, cooked and diced (about 3 cups)
  • 1 C Diced celery
  • 2 T Fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Green onions, white part only, minced
  • 1/2 t Salt
  • 1/3 C Mayonnaise
  • 1 C Seedless green or red grapes, chilled
  • 1 Small can of mandarin oranges (11 ozs.), drained and chilled
  • 1 Small package slivered almonds (2 oz.), toasted

Combine diced chicken, celery, lemon juice, minced onion and salt. Stir well, cover and refrigerate.

Just before serving, add the mayonnaise, chilled grapes and mandarin orange sections, and slivered almonds to the chicken mixture. Mix well. Makes about 6 servings.

The next dish, Sliced Tomato and Onion Salad, is a simple and delicious accompaniment to any meal. Not only is it easy, but it packs a lot of nutrition and taste into relatively few calories.

Sliced Tomato and Onion Salad

  • 1/4 C Balsamic vinegar
  • 3 T Water
  • 1 t Olive oil
  • 1 t Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 t Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 t Salt
  • 5 Medium tomatoes, unpeeled
  • 1 Large purple onion
  • 2 t Minced fresh oregano or 1/2 t Dried oregano

Combine first 6 ingredients in a jar; cover tightly and shake vigorously. Set aside. Core tomatoes; cut each into 6 slices. Thinly slice onion and separate into rings. Layer tomato and onion in a shallow dish; sprinkle with oregano. Pour vinegar mixture over vegetables; cover and marinate in refrigerator 3 hours. Yield: 12 servings (about 22 calories per serving).

And don't let this summer go by without taking advantage of the plump and ripened melons that are crowding the shelves and bins of the supermarkets. There are two salad recipes, Melon Mlange and Cantaloupe Fruit Salad, that do this beautifully (and beautifully is a particularly good adjective to use in this case, since these fruit salads are a visual treat).

Melon Mélange

This salad looks pretty, even if you don't use a melon baller. For a buffet or crowd, you can double the recipe and serve it up in a hollowed-out watermelon half.

  • 1/2 Small can (6 oz.) frozen lemonade concentrate
  • 1/2 Small can (6 oz.) frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 2 T Triple Sec
  • 4 C Assorted melon balls or chunks (cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon)
  • 1 C Pineapple chunks (fresh preferred; if canned, drain well)
  • 1 C Seedless green grapes
  • 1 C Fresh strawberry halves

Combine lemonade and orange juice concentrate with Triple Sec, and mix well. In a large bowl, gently stir together all the fruit. Pour the juice mixture over the fruit, and carefully stir. Cover and refrigerate several hours before serving. Makes about 8 servings.

Cantaloupe Fruit Salad

  • 2 Medium cantaloupes, peeled, cut into chunks
  • 1 Large pineapple, cored, peeled, cut into chunks
  • 1 C Raisins
  • 1 C Fresh shredded coconut
  • 1 C Finely chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 Large apple, cored, peeled, cut into chunks
  • 1 C Plain yogurt
  • 1 t Grated orange peel

Mix yogurt and orange peel. Mix all fruits and nuts in a large salad bowl. Serve by coating individual salad bowls with yogurt mixture, then pass the fruit salad.

There's no doubt that the dog days of summer are oppressive and uncomfortable. We owe it to ourselves and the people for whom we cook to lower the temperatures in whatever way we can. One way, of course, is a large helping of Chocolate Chocolate Chip ice cream. And that definitely has its place. But these delicious, healthful and enticing summer salads deserve a place on the menu to help us survive the summer doldrums.

Each of these recipes is listed in Grandma's Cookbook, so you can print out one, two or all of them. Here are the links: