Crisp, Colorful & Crunchy

By CINDY COOPWOOD and CORDELIA CAPPS  • Photography by ANNA SATTERFIELD

Four Main-Course Salads for Spring 

     From mixed greens topped with chicken and chickpeas to those finished with steak and asparagus, these colorful salads are filling enough to serve as your entrée, but light and bright enough to suit the arrival of spring. Main-course salads are a great option for a lighter Easter luncheon, a wedding brunch, or an al fresco dinner party.

Mexican Shrimp Salad

     This colorful Mexican shrimp salad is loaded with flavor from the herbs, peppers, lots of veggies, and seasoned shrimp!

1  pound shrimp, peeled and deveined 
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted 
1 teaspoon lemon zest 
1 teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Mexican hot sauce
teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 large avocados, diced 
1 8-ounce container cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

½ red onion, minced 
¼ cup chopped cilantro 
1 cup kernel corn, may use frozen or canned

1 cup black beans
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely minced 

     In a medium bowl, stir together the lemon zest, garlic powder, hot sauce, and red pepper flakes. Add shrimp and toss to evenly coat in the marinade. Marinate shrimp for about 10 minutes or cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours. 

     Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the shrimp and allow them to cook for 1-2 minutes, flipping it halfway through until they are pink. Remove from heat and set aside.

     In a large salad bowl, add the avocados, tomatoes, red onions, cilantro, corn, black beans, and jalapeños to a large bowl. Add the cooked shrimp, drizzle the dressing over the top, and toss to combine. Taste and adjust with additional seasonings as desired. Garnish with lime wedges and additional jalapeño slices if desired.

NOTES: Be sure to chop the red onions, jalapeños, and the cilantro finely. This will help the flavors incorporate much better than if they are left in larger pieces.

Mexican Shrimp Salad dressing

3 tablespoons lemon juice 
3 tablespoons olive oil 
¼ teaspoon ground cumin 
pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste

salt and pepper 

     Add the lemon juice, olive oil, ground cumin, and cayenne with a big pinch of salt and pepper to a lidded jar. Shake well until the dressing is emulsified. Taste and adjust all seasonings as desired.

 

Steak Salad

1½ pounds ribeye steak
1 bag of mixed greens
18-ounce container of petite tomatoes, sliced and salted
1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed and blanched
½ pound of new potatoes, halved and boiled
½ cup Kalamata olives
3 boiled eggs, sliced
Goat cheese, for garnish

     Season steak generously with salt and pepper to taste. Add steak to grill, searing both sides, flipping once, until desired doneness, about 6 minutes per side for medium rare. Let rest 5 minutes; thinly slice against the grain.

     When potatoes are done, immediately toss with some of the dressing to absorb the flavor. To serve, assemble salad on a platter spreading greens and topping with all ingredients grouped as desired. Drizzle generously with dressing. Place warm steak on top and sprinkle with goat cheese, to taste.

Steak Salad dressing

4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons dijon mustard
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar  
1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper
¾ cup olive oil

In a small bowl mix first five ingredients well. Incorporate oil blending until well emulsified; adjust seasonings to taste. Double recipe if needed for additional servings. Set aside. 

 

Greek Orzo Salad with Grilled Chicken

     For extra crunch and color, we seasoned our chickpeas and tossed in a skillet before adding them to the salad!  TIP: The orzo salad can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge.

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and black pepper

     In a small bowl mix the smoked paprika, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Coat the chicken with the seasoning mix, front and back. Add olive oil to a skillet and bring to medium-high heat. Pan sear the chicken for 5-6 minutes per side allowing to brown well on each side. Check for doneness. Slice when ready to serve.

Salad

1 cup orzo pasta
1 roasted red pepper
2 cucumbers halved and sliced
1 zucchini shaved into ribbons
1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
½ cup marinated artichoke hearts
4 cups of salad greens of choice
1 large handful fresh basil 
4 radishes, sliced

1 ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed (toasted if desired)
1 block feta cheese crumbled
1 avocado sliced

     Cook the orzo according to package directions. In a large bowl, add the cooked orzo, roasted red pepper, cucumbers, zucchini ribbons, cherry tomatoes, artichokes, greens, basil, radishes, crumbled feta, and chickpeas. Gently toss to combine. Add a little of the dressing and toss once more.

     Plate the greens on a large platter, drizzle with additional dressing. Top with the orzo salad mixture. Arrange the grilled chicken and sliced avocado on the side, and garnish with additional veggies. Served with a dollop of hummus and pita bread.

Greek Orzo Salad Dressing

¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
cup finely chopped Kalamata olives
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
juice from half a lemon
pepper + crushed red pepper

     Combine all ingredients in a bowl or glass jar. Shake or whisk till emulsified. Adjust seasonings to taste.

 

Southern NiÇoise Salad

Fried chicken tenders, deviled eggs and pimiento cheese finger sandwiches, add a Southern flair to this classic lunch salad. Keep it simple and pick up ready-made chicken tenders. 

1 pound mixed baby potatoes
1 bunch tender green beans, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups fresh chopped greens, such as romaine or arugula
fried chicken tenders of choice
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved if large
½ cup mixed Greek olives, pitted
6 radishes thinly sliced or quartered
1 avocado, sliced
½ cup mixed fresh herbs of choice dill and parsley 
4 stuffed deviled eggs

     Place potatoes in a large pot of generously salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the to heat to medium, simmer until the potatoes are just fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain. Place the potatoes back in the hot pot, allowing to keep warm  until ready to use.

     Additionally, bring another large pot of salted water to a boil. Add beans and cook, uncovered, until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes, then drain.

     While still warm, cut the potatoes in half and toss them with half of the dressing. On a large platter, arrange the salad greens, green beans, tomatoes, olives, radishes,  and avocado around the potatoes, flank sides with chicken tenders and deviled eggs. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the salad. Garnish with fresh herbs.

Basic Deviled Egg Recipe

6 boiled eggs, peeled
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon grated onion
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

     Slice eggs in half lengthwise, and carefully remove yolks. Set whites on a platter. Mash yolks with mayonnaise, onion, mustard, and seasonings. Spoon yolk mixture evenly into whites and garnish with toppings of your choice.

Southern NiÇoise Salad Dressing

cup olive oil, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon anchovy paste, optional
1 garlic clove, grated
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
salt and black pepper to taste

     Combine the olive oil and anchovy paste in a small bowl, add the garlic, stirring to combine. Mix in the lemon juice, mustard, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, and oil as needed. 

TIP: If not using anchovy paste, an additional tablespoon of wine vinegar and pinch of salt will add extra flavor.

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