Our summer is back…..and with a vengeance.  With temperatures peaking at 115 degrees in and around the valley, the last thing you want to do is slave over a hot oven or spend too much time out at the grill.  What to eat?  Never fear, salads are here!  Here are some hearty salads that use minimal grill and stove time.  You can use them as an accompaniment to your main dish or can be devoured on their own.

Avocado & Mozzarella Salad

2 Avocados (cubed)
2 tomatoes (seeded & chopped)
1 large block of mozzarella cheese (cubed)
1 ½ tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh basil (can be substituted for 1 tbs of dried basil if you don’t have fresh)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
Salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients together in order above and serve chilled.

Tomato and grilled-bread salad

½ pound country bread, cut into 3/4 –inch-thick slices*
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 large beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 3/4-inch dice (about 4 cups)
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into 3/4 –inch dice (about 2 cups)
¼ cup loosely packed fresh basil, torn into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
Salt & pepperHeat the grill to medium.  You can either drizzle or brush the bread slices on both sides with 2 tablespoons oil.  Grill until lightly charred on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes.  Let cool slightly, and cut into large cubes.

In a large bowl, toss bread cubes with tomatoes, cucumber and basil.  Drizzle with vinegar and remaining ¼ cup oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Toss to combine, and serve.

*Best to use day old bread, or bread that is almost stale.  The dryer the bread, the more depth of flavor and crunch you will get from grilling the bread.

Shrimp and white-bean salad

1 pound of medium size shrimp – Best to buy already shelled and de-veined for a quick prep.
4 ounces of bacon (Applewood or center cut is best)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons white-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of grainy mustard
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
2 cans (15 oz. each) of cannellini beans – drained and rinsed
8 ounces of salad greens (you can use pre-packaged – mixed greens give the best flavor)Cut the bacon into ½-inch pieces.  Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it starts to turn brown and you can see the edges get crispy.  You will see the bacon has rendered its fat into the pan.  Then add your shrimp, making sure to season with a little salt and a little pepper.  Cook the shrimp until it turns opaque, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the bacon and shrimp to a serving bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the dried marjoram, olive oil, white-wine vinegar and the grainy mustard then season with a little salt and pepper.

Add the beans and the salad greens to the shrimp.  Fold the ingredients together and then toss with the vinaigrette as desired.

Corn and snap-pea salad

2 ½ cups fresh corn kernels (can be substituted with flash frozen)
4 cups trimmed snap peas (1 pound)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup loosely packed thinly sliced fresh mint
¼ cup thinly sliced scallions
2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons red-wine vinegar
Salt and pepperIn a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the corn kernels and snap peas until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes.  Drain vegetables; rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process and then set aside to dry.  Transfer to a large salad bowl.

Add the Parmesan cheese, fresh mint, scallions, olive oil and red-wine vinegar; give it a good toss and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Zucchini and Chicken Salad

1 pound of boneless-skinless chicken breast *
1 ¼ pounds of thinly sliced zucchini
8 ounces of chopped spinach (one small bunch or about ½ bag of pre-washed)
½ of a red onion
¼ cup olive oil
¼ lemon juice
¾ cup pecans
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
Salt and pepperIn a large bowl, whisk the olive oil and lemon juice with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Whisk it well so that the lemon juice blends into the oil.  Add the zucchini and toss in the mixture, making sure to coat all the zucchini.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Season your chicken with salt and pepper and grill the chicken until golden brown (about 7 minutes per side). Remove from the skillet and thinly slice the chicken breast on a bias.

*To save time, you can pick up a pre-cooked chicken at your grocery store’s deli department and debone both the white meat and dark meat to use in your salad.

Toss the chicken with the zucchini mixture along with the spinach, red onion, pecans, Parmesan cheese and the fresh mint.

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