It’s summer and the weather has turned warm – and sometimes hot – and this is the season when a young (or old) foodie’s fancy turns to the potluck cookout. We haven’t received a lot of invitations to cookouts so far this year but we do have a few parties that are coming up in the next month or so.
Being a bit of a dessert queen, I tend to do things like make Strawberry Shortcakes or some other summery dessert because hey, I want to eat dessert and if I make it and take it somewhere then I get to have a serving and take home the empty bowls. It’s a plan! With the low-carb eating plan I am following it makes more sense to not make desserts, even if I can make a low-carb one. Why? Well, because if I take a dessert, then I have no idea if there will be anything other than protein for me to eat! (and dessert, of course!)
Think about the types of salads that are typically taken to a potluck cookout. Potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw, broccoli salad, more macaroni and more potato salad – it’s enough to wear me down! “So, what is wrong with coleslaw or broccoli salad?”, you may ask. Well, coleslaw and broccoli salad typically are made with mayonnaise and sugar based dressings – oh, yes, my friends, there is sugar in that there dressing! Not to mention most people I know who make broccoli salad throw raisins into it, or add nuts and raisins. Bad protocol, really, adding an allergen to a potluck dish! That is a post for another day.
There are two salads that I’ve recently learned about that are, as far as I am concerned, perfect for taking to a potluck cookout, or indeed, any potluck you are invited to! The first is a very simple salad that’s served at a chain restaurant that has a southern theme and has games on the tables while you wait for your biscuits and corn muffins. Yes, I’m sure you can figure it out. It’s a simple cucumber, red onion and tomato salad with an Italian vinaigrette dressing that’s been sweetened slightly. I don’t add as much sweetener to it when I make it at home, or I leave that out altogether.
The second is a salad that I was introduced to this year by a friend we camped with on our first vacation. Angela was in charge of dinner, and in addition to fabulous pork souvlaki skewers she made this wonderful salad. She explained that she had once seen some workmen very carefully clean out their wheelbarrow (they had been doing cement work) and go to the market and buy the fixings for this salad. They then mixed the salad in their wheelbarrow and ate it with some bread. Then they washed the wheelbarrow and went back to work! I love the story, and I love this salad even more. It’s light and refreshing, even on a sweltering day, and the absolute best part is that it doesn’t spoil in the sun the way the mayonnaise-based salads can.
Now my version has radishes in it, because I like the additional color and crunch they provide, and they are not expensive at all. I know, the mint sounds weird but trust me, it’s great!
Note: I did tag this as both Vegan and Lacto-Vegetarian. You don’t have to add the feta cheese, it’s optional. If you make it without adding feta cheese, it’s vegan and dairy-free.
2 medium size cucumbers, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces.
1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, chopped
1 small red onion, diced and separated
4 medium radishes, sliced thin
small bunch of mint leaves, washed, drained and chopped (about 1/2 a cup)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
6 green onions, chopped
for the dressing:
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 TBSP water
2 TBSP Penzey's French Vinaigrette seasoning
1/2 cup olive oil
Wash and rinse all vegetables and herbs well. Shake the mint and parsley, and soak the green onions to get the sand out.
Place all the vegetables and herbs in a large bowl and toss them around.
Make the dressing: add the vinaigrette herbs to the water and let them soak for 5 minutes. Then add the oil and vinegar and shake well. You might want to do this in a mason jar with the lid on.
Pour the dressing over the vegetables, put the lid on, and shake to distribute the dressing.
This salad is great the day it's served, and gains flavor over time. If you refrigerate it, be sure to take it out about 10 minutes before you want to serve it, as the olive oil might solidify and separate from the rest of the dressing. Just give the salad a good shake and serve it.
You can also add some crumbled feta cheese to it, or put that out on the side for folks to add to their salad if they like.