One of the mainstays of summer dining, main course salads showcase what's in season, and if you're clever and have a well-stocked pantry, you can serve the same fresh ingredients over and over, while changing the flavor completely with fresh herbs and dressings. Case in point: this salmon and greens salad with buttermilk lemon-thyme dressing. It takes inspiration from my very favorite green salad, the one with nectarines and olives and our house vinaigrette dressing, crossed with another favorite, maple glazed salmon salad. Same primary ingredients -- salmon, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and greens -- remixed with a dose of tang from buttermilk and lemon. No one will catch on.
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Inside every passionate cook lurks the soul of a slightly mad scientist. The kitchen becomes a laboratory, every recipe an opportunity to experiment. I love to play around with salad dressings, mixing and matching ingredients from my pantry, but 90 percent of the time, I end up using the same salad dressing: my go-to balsamic vinaigrette. Last week, spurred on by some buttermilk left from a baking episode, I went as far as I could in the opposite direction with this chipotle ranch dressing that also makes a terrific dip. It's got a bit of a kick, which you can control by using more or less chipotle pepper. Try this zippy dressing in a chicken salad, on a roast beef panini, or atop a robust salad of greens and avocado. Or slice up some crispy cucumber, and dip, dip, dip.
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What have you been up to for the past couple of months? I've been putting together an e-book to help you survive the annual zucchini invasion.
23 ZUCCHINI: FAST, FUN, EASY RECIPES FROM THE PERFECT PANTRY® KITCHEN includes, yes, 23 recipes (17 of them brand new, the rest updated favorites) for how to cook zucchini with some of the great pantry ingredients I know you have in your cupboards and spice rack.
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Every May, with great optimism, I set four or six dill plants, purchased at the local organic garden center, into my herb garden. I choose the most vigorous plants I can find, ones that look like survivors. I plant, and I water, and I whisper sweet nothings to them. And I count the days -- usually not more than two weeks' worth -- until the plants shrivel and keel over, deader than dead. Until this year. As I write this (I'm whispering so I don't jinx anything), my dill plants have survived for almost six weeks. I've snipped them back so they don't set seed this early in the season, and with my trimmings I couldn't resist making this Greek-inspired chicken salad. I added sun-dried tomatoes; you could add (or substitute) kalamata olives. Keep your fingers crossed: I'd love to have dill in my garden all summer, or at least for a few more weeks.
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