July 2, 2014

What’s Cooking: Cool salads for July 4th picnics and barbecues

Summertime is high season for eating outdoors; weekend and Fourth of July plans are often filled with cookouts, backyard parties and picnics.

Summertime is high season for eating outdoors; weekend and Fourth of July plans are often filled with cookouts, backyard parties and picnics.

That often means bringing a dish, usually a dessert or salad, to go with the host’s main course. With salads, the lineup is often the same: potato salad, coleslaw, pasta salad, baked beans, bean salad.

But if you want a variation on the same-old, same-old, or something new entirely, we have some suggestions. And see the box below for safety tips when transporting food.

Red, white and blue potato salad

Start to finish: 45 minutes

Serves 10

Ideal for a July Fourth barbecue, this recipe from The Associated Press makes use of gourmet purple potatoes as well as the more common red ones.


24  ounces small red potatoes, halved or quartered

24  ounce small purple potatoes, halved or quartered

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

4  tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided

3  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2  tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/4   cup chopped fresh tarragon

8  ounces goat milk cheddar or gouda, diced

2  cups fresh blueberries

1  cup diced roasted red peppers


Place the potatoes in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch. Add a hefty pinch of salt, then bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until fork tender, but not falling apart, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, then spread them on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the vinegar. Set aside to cool completely.

In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of vinegar, the olive oil, mustard and tarragon. When the potatoes have cooled, add them to the bowl, as well as the cheddar, blueberries and roasted red peppers. Stir gently to coat with the dressing. Chill for 1 hour to let flavors develop.

Per serving: 250 calories; 100 calories from fat (40% of total calories); 11 g fat (4.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 25 mg cholesterol; 30 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 9 g protein; 420 mg sodium.

Sweet potato, grilled corn and black bean salad with spicy cilantro dressing

Start to finish: 45 minutes (30 minutes active)

Serves 6

Toss the sweet potatoes with the dressing while they’re still warm, which helps them to absorb the dressing and become deeply flavored.

Recipe from The Associated Press.


1 1/2  pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

1  clove garlic

1/2  chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

1  small shallot, coarsely chopped

1  cup chopped fresh cilantro

1  cup seasoned rice vinegar


4  ears corn, husked

One 151/2-ounce can black beans, drained

4  scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced


Heat the grill to medium.

In a medium saucepan fitted with a steamer basket, bring 2 inches of water to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes, cover and steam until just tender, about 8 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl.

Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the garlic, chipotle, shallot, cilantro and vinegar. Purée until smooth. Taste, then season with salt. When the potatoes are done, pour half of the dressing over them, then toss well. Set aside to cool.

While the potatoes cool, prepare the corn. Mist the corn with cooking spray, then grill, turning often, until the ears are lightly browned in spots on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the corn from the grill and set aside to cool until easily handled. Cut the kernels from the cobs. To do this, one at a time stand each ear on its wide end, then carefully saw down the length of the cob on all sides. You should have at least 2 cups of kernels.

Stir the corn kernels, beans and scallions into the potatoes, adding additional dressing as desired. Taste, then adjust seasoning.

Per serving: 260 calories; 20 calories from fat (8 percent of total calories); 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 54 g carbohydrate; 9 g fiber; 17 g sugar; 9 g protein; 1250 mg sodium.

Greek shrimp and feta pasta salad

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Serves 10


1  pound rotini pasta

1  tablespoon butter

2  cloves garlic, minced

1  pound raw shrimp, shells and tails removed

3  tablespoons olive oil

1/2  cup sour cream

3  tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1/2  teaspoon kosher salt

1/2  teaspoon ground black pepper

1  green bell pepper, cored and finely chopped

1  medium red onion, finely chopped

1  cup pitted and chopped Kalamata olives

1  cup crumbled feta cheese

1  pint cherry tomatoes, halved

2  tablespoons chopped fresh oregano


Bring a large pot of salted water to a bowl. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain the pasta, then spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high, melt the butter. Add the garlic and shrimp, then saute until the shrimp are just barely firm and pink, about 4 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to the baking sheet with the pasta, spreading everything in an even layer. Place in the freezer until just cool, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sour cream, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add the bell pepper, onion, olives, feta cheese, tomatoes and oregano. Toss until well coated. Once the shrimp and pasta are cooled, add those and gently toss until well coated by the dressing.

Per serving: 400 calories; 150 calories from fat (38 percent of total calories); 17 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 95 mg cholesterol; 41 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 19 g protein; 660 mg sodium.

Cool rice and cucumber salad

Total time: 30 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Adapted by the Los Angeles Times from Deborah Madison’s “The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” (Ten Speed Press, $40, 672 pages).


1 1/2  cups long-grain rice


2 or 3 cucumbers, seeded and finely chopped

1/2  cup finely chopped parsley

3  tablespoons chopped dill

2  tablespoons chopped mint

1/4  cup finely sliced green onion, including some of the green part

1/4  cup Champagne or white wine vinegar

3  tablespoons olive oil

1/2  cup plain yogurt

Green oakleaf, Boston or butter lettuce leaves, for garnish


Cook the rice as you would pasta: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the rice and cook until it is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Do not overcook or undercook it; the rice should be soft all the way through but should not be beginning to “explode” at the ends.

Line a jellyroll pan with a kitchen towel. Drain the rice and rinse it quickly under cool water, then spread it over the towel. Cover with another kitchen towel; gently pat dry.

Meanwhile, put the cucumbers in a large bowl with the parsley, dill and mint. In a small bowl, combine the green onion, vinegar, oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

While the rice is still warm, transfer it to a bowl and add the cucumber mixture, dressing and yogurt, and toss gently with a wide rubber spatula. Taste for salt and tartness. Serve tepid or chilled, mounded on plates and garnished with light green lettuce leaves.

Each of 6 servings: 275 calories; 6 grams pro.; 45 grams carb.; 2 grams fiber; 8 grams fat (1g sat.); 2 mg chol.; 3 g sugar; 119 mg sodium.

Gingered apple slaw

Serves 4 to 6

Chef Donald Link suggests these apple varieties for this slaw: Gala, Braeburn and Golden Delicious. From “Down South,” by Donald Link with Paula Disbrowe (Clarkson Potter).


4  apples, cored and cut into matchsticks, about 4 cups

1/2  cup mayonnaise

Juice of 1 lemon

1  tablespoon ginger juice (see note below)

2  tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1  large jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and minced

Kosher salt and black pepper

2  ounces crispy prosciutto or country ham, optional


Use a rubber spatula to combine sliced apples in a medium bowl with mayonnaise, lemon juice, ginger juice, cilantro and jalapeno; season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss with prosciutto if desired.

Note: Use a box grater or large-toothed Microplane to grate about 2 tablespoons ginger. Use your fingers to squeeze juice from grated pulp. If you prefer, you can use a garlic press to extract the pungent juice from a slice of fresh ginger. If you want to add crispy prosciutto to the salad, thinly slice the ham and fry it in a couple of tablespoons oil until crisp, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Break ham into small pieces over salad.

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