Soup and salad has long been considered a classic combo. For a timely twist on tradition and a marvelous midsummer night (or midday) meal, consider serving healthful chilled soup and a light, yet substantial salad as an entrée. The delicious duo, especially when prepared ahead of time, can present a surprising option for that stifling stretch through Labor Day (and often a bit beyond in Lower Alabama). So in celebration of this steamy season, here are a handful of cool, creative salads and soups perfect for beating the heat.
1. Watermelon Gazpacho
This fresh summer starter is a sweet take on the traditional tomato-based favorite.
6 cups of ripe watermelon chunks, seeds removed, divided
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
1 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese
1/2 cup finely minced fresh mint
1. Puree 4 cups of watermelon chunks with honey and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Cut remaining watermelon into small cubes.
2. Serve pureed watermelon topped with cubed watermelon that has been gently tossed with lemon juice, feta or goat cheese and mint. Serves 6 – 8.
Nutritious & Delicious Herbs
Few would question the health benefits of herbs, especially during their peak summer freshness. These ingredients are low in calories and high in fiber and vitamins. But what’s the best part? “Using herbs and spices expands your palate without adding extra calories or sacrificing flavor, ” says Providence Hospital dietician Phyllus Justice. So don’t be shy with the cilantro, mint or parsley in the following recipes. “Tastier foods are more satisfying than bland ones, which you tend to eat faster, and with less fulfillment. If you’re not satisfied, you’re more likely to overeat.”
2. Key Lime Crab Salad
West Indies Salad shall always remain a local favorite, but this snappy, citrus-laced salad makes for a lively change of pace.
1/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon canned chopped mild green chiles, drained
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 pound fresh lump crabmeat
1 – 2 fresh, ripe tomatoes, sliced
1. Whisk together key lime juice, olive oil, green chiles, sea salt, cumin, green onions and cilantro. Pour over crabmeat picked carefully from shell.
2. Toss lightly and refrigerate while assembling plates.
3. Arrange Bibb lettuce and tomato slices on serving plates. Season tomato slices with salt and pepper, if desired. Top tomatoes with crabmeat. Serves 4.
Fish vs. ShellFish
Living on the Gulf, most of us know all about the omega-3s and high protein content in fish, but does the same apply to shellfish? Justice breaks the bad news first, “Shellfish does have more cholesterol than regular fish.” However, “this type of cholesterol doesn’t raise blood cholesterol very much and shellfish is low in saturated fats.” They are also super sources of vitamins A, B and C and contain notable amounts of zinc, copper, selenium (which could be a means of preventing cancer) and chromium (which is said to improve blood sugar metabolism).
3. Peach Pinot Grigio Soup
This pretty, pastel peach soup laced with sweet pinot grigio makes a festive fruit foil to a savory salad or grilled meat. It is also dandy served as a delicious and unique dessert.
2 pounds ripe peaches, pitted, peeled and sliced (4 peaches)
1/4 cup honey
2/3 cup pinot grigio wine
2/3 cup half-and-half
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 – 2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest, for garnish
additional peach slices, for garnish
1. Puree peaches, honey, pinot grigio, half-and-half and lime juice in blender until smooth.
2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably 4 – 6 hours. Serve chilled soup garnished with lime zest and additional peach slices. Serves 6 – 8.
white wine myth
Many of us have popped open a bottle of red wine “out of concern for our health.” It is no secret that red wine has many heart health benefits, but what about its less rosy counterpart? White wine enthusiasts can relax because the benefit is not just pleasure. In general, “grapes and their skin contain high levels of antioxidants and nutrients, ” Justice tells us. So, like red wine, she says, “white wine may also have a role in disease prevention, such as lung disease and cancer.”
4. Flank Steak Salad
This entrée salad is easy and pleasing, perfect for parties and alfresco dining.
1 (1 1/2 – 2 pound) flank steak
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons salt
2 – 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 bundle fresh asparagus, trimmed, blanched and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 – 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, peeled, thinly sliced into ribbons or chopped
2 avocados, pitted and cut into slices or chunks
Bibb or Romaine lettuce
freshly cracked black pepper (optional)
1. Preheat broiler. Season flank steak on both sides with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Broil approximately 7 minutes on each side, turning once during cooking. Remove from the broiler and let rest before slicing into strips.
3. Meanwhile, to prepare the dressing whisk together the oils, red wine vinegar, mustard and salt. Stir in parsley.
4. Combine steak slices, asparagus, tomatoes, red onion and avocados in a glass or nonreactive bowl; pour oil and vinegar dressing over all, tossing lightly to coat.
5. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or two.
6. When ready to serve, place lettuce leaves on plates, then top with salad and sprinkle with freshly ground cracked pepper, if desired. Serves 6 – 8.
5. Cucumber Avocado Soup
This is a classy, cold soup served with a smattering of south-of-the-border-style garnish.
8 cups cucumbers (4 – 5 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
4 green onions, green part only, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 cups cold water, divided
1 cup plain Greek yogurt (Do not use low fat or nonfat.)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 avocados, halved, pitted and diced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Combine cucumbers and green onions. In a blender, puree half of mixture with half of the cold water until smooth, for about a minute.
2. Transfer the puree to a container and repeat with
remaining cucumbers and green onion puree and cold water.
3. Add purees together and whisk in yogurt, sugar, 1 tablespoon of lime juice and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours.
4. When ready to serve, gently toss avocado in remaining lime juice, salt and cilantro. Add a spoonful of avocado mixture to each chilled bowl of soup. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Serves 6 – 8.
Avocados: Fat or Fab?
Ripe, green avocados have reached super food status. “It is true that they have a high fat content, but it’s a healthy fat that comes from plants as opposed to animals, ” Justice says. “Unsaturated fats can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms, and play a number of other beneficial roles.” Bottom line? Go for it.
6. “Fried Chicken” Arugula Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
This filling, flavorful salad is a makeover of the much-beloved Southern staple, fried chicken, lightening it up and slimming it down.
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken tenderloins
1 1/2 cups cornflakes, crushed to fine crumb consistency
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream (may use light sour cream)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 cups fresh arugula
several grinds fresh black pepper
1. Preheat the broiler. Spray the rack of the broiler pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Stir fresh lemon juice into mayonnaise.
3. Coat each chicken tenderloin with a light layer of lemon mayonnaise mixture (a pastry brush works well for this) then dredge each tenderloin in cornflake crumbs on both sides.
4. Place chicken on broiler pan in a single layer and spray lightly with cooking spray. Broil chicken for 3 – 4 minutes per side, turning once during cooking.
5. Meanwhile, whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, sugar and salt until smooth and well combined.
6. Place equal amounts of arugula in serving bowls or on plates. Top with chicken, then drizzle generously with buttermilk dressing and finish with several grinds of fresh black pepper. Serves 4.
text and styling by Sallye Irvine • photos by Jennie Tewell