Lighten Up A Barbecue With a Green Salad

snappy saladToday’s the perfect day to lighten up a barbecue with a green salad. For 78% of us, the 4th of July includes a barbecue. Along with the burgers, brats, hot dogs, chicken, and ribs you’re sure to find plenty of potato salad, baked beans, and corn-on-the-cob. What’s often missing from the table is something light and green. While salad may not be practical for some environments, it can work well at a back yard barbecue.

On a really hot day, cold crunchy greens aren’t just healthy, they’re refreshing. Keep the salad in the refrigerator until the burgers come off the grill, then bring it out so the chill will hold while it’s served. If the refrigerator isn’t convenient, have an ice chest dedicated to salad. Salad dressing can be stashed on ice along with the sodas or beer.

Sometimes I compose a salad in advance. Other times, I serve all the toppings separately and let the guests build their own. When I compose the salad myself, I use ingredients that don’t easily wilt so that I have a longer window to serve a perky salad outdoors.

Chopped Romaine makes a good base. Carrots, celery, onions, bell peppers, radishes, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, radicchio, grape tomatoes, sugar snap peas, corn, black beans, pico de gallo, hard cheeses, boiled eggs and steamed asparagus all hold up well.

I like to top a salad with nuts, sunflower seeds or toasted pumpkin seeds, but I wait until serving time to add these ingredients so they don’t get soggy. Crisp bacon pieces are also a great topping added at the last minute.

arugulaStrawberries, blueberries, or blackberries are delicious additions to a green salad, but I usually reserve those for indoor meals rather than a barbecue. The same with arugula, butter lettuce, and chard. It’s easier to control the quality of delicate ingredients at an indoor party.

MIxing fresh herbs in a salad can brighten and heighten the flavor of the greens. While herbs are delicate, cutting or chopping them into small pieces lessens the possibility of a wilted bite. I use parsley, basil, and mint most often, but dill, chives and cilantro are also great choices.

It always seems special to add a homemade dressing. All you need for a vinaigrette is oil, vinegar, and some herbs and spices, citrus, or other fruit for flavor. Sometimes a drizzle of honey adds the perfect touch of sweetness. I usually add a bit of water as well.

There are flavored vinegars and oils available for extra pizazz, but plain old apple cider vinegar and extra virgin olive oil work just fine. Balsamic vinegar pairs well with cherry or chocolate and provides a deeper more caramel note to your dressing. Mirin is light and can be used in place of other vinegars.

A creamy dressing can be made with yogurt, mayonnaise, sour cream or buttermilk. Many creamy dressings use a combination of some of these ingredients. Here’s a creamy dressing I’ve been enjoying atop my salad this week:

Green Goodness Dressing
4 – 6 Servings

1 tbsp Penzey’s Green Goddess Dressing Base
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup real mayonnaise
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp basil paste
1/8 tsp salt or to taste

In small jar, combine dressing base with water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add vinegar, mayonnaise, yogurt, honey, and basil paste. Sprinkle with salt. Put lid on jar and shake until well mixed. Refrigerate.

When it’s hot and muggy outside, I love a cold salad to lighten up a barbecue or any other meal for that matter. Just talking about it is making me want one so I’ll be off to the kitchen now to chop some greens!

Two Birds With One Stone – Gluten-Free Birds No Less!

During a weekend grocery store run, I inadvertently killed two birds with one stone. I love it when I can use a cliché! And it’s even better when I can use that cliché to refer to serendipitous discoveries that solve two major annoyances of the gluten-free world!

If you often rely on salads as the gluten-free option on restaurant menus, you probably know how it feels to have to resort to oil and vinegar as dressing because you can’t get enough information to determine if the other available dressings are safe. I’m not sure why it seems more difficult to find out about dressing than it does about entrées, but I always feel like it’s a more laborious process.

One local restaurant’s response to an inquiry was to pull out a binder filled with plastic sheets containing handwritten dressing recipes and let me read all of them. Another took me into the kitchen and pulled gallon plastic jugs off the shelf so I could read the ingredient list. My favorite barbecue restaurant has 7 different individually packaged dressings that contain too many questionable ingredients for me feel comfortable eating them. That’s just 3 of the places I frequent. Overall, the dressing dilemma is often cumbersome.

Carrying dressing with me is also cumbersome or limited to tiny packets. That’s why I was excited to see this silicone Dressing-2-Go container. First, I think it’s cute and the tops come in multiple colors. I also like that it’s soft and has a large opening that makes it easy to fill and easy to dispense without leaving much of the dressing stuck in the container. The packaging indicates this product is BPA free, top rack dishwasher safe, and safe for use in the refrigerator, freezer, and microwave.

Because of the snap shut top, I would not throw this into my purse without first putting it in a plastic bag. With all the heavy stuff I carry, I can see it bumping against an obstacle that could press on the silicone and cause the top to leak and I’d rather be safe than sorry. Nonetheless, my salad dressing options have just increased and that is a good thing! One bird down.

The same grocery shopping trip resulted in my discovery of these .32 oz packets of xanthan gum from Hodgson Mill. Even this small packet contains about 8 servings. I hardly ever use xanthan gum in a recipe so I’ve always been annoyed at the 6 and 8 oz containers that are generally available. I don’t really know the shelf life of xanthan gum, but I’ve had about 7.5 oz of an 8 oz bag sitting in my pantry for 5 years. It’s probably time to throw it away – especially now that I have this tiny packet on hand if I should encounter a xanthan gum crisis. Old xanthan gum thrown in the trash! Two birds down.
xg packet
I think that’s enough birds for today. I’m grateful for my new discoveries, the delicious salad I had for lunch, my single working air conditioner, a 95º rather than 102º day, and the beautiful begonias blooming on my porch. I hope your day is filled with fun discoveries too!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”