Two salads for hot days

Scallion and Asparagus Salad (left) was a big hit at my dinner party in Seattle. The recipe comes from "Lidia's Favorite Recipes." Insalata Caprese, the second salad (right) is simple but pleasing to serve in the summer heat.

Scallion and Asparagus Salad (left) was a big hit at my dinner party in Seattle. The recipe comes from “Lidia’s Favorite Recipes.” Insalata Caprese, the second salad (right), is simple but elegant to serve in the summer.

Last weekend, I was in Seattle cooking dinner for nine. I wasn’t in my own kitchen, but with lots of prep and a cooler full of ice, I transported the meal Saturday morning, put it together Saturday afternoon, then sat down and ate with eight people who will lead a class in epic literature this summer for teachers in the Archdiocese of Seattle.

It was hot, as you know, really hot for Seattle, so the two starter dishes for this meal were cold: Scallion and Asparagus Salad and Insalata Caprese. Besides these, I served Chicken Parmesan and Swiss Chard Potatoes. Thanks, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, for your book “Lidia’s Favorite Recipes.” You made my life on the road and in the kitchen easy.

So here are the cold salads that you might want to try in upcoming days:

Lidia’s Scallion and Asparagus Salad (serves 6, left in the photo)

1-1/2 pounds fresh asparagus

3/4 pound scallions

1 teaspoon salt

3-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1-1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled

Using a vegetable peeler, shave off the skin from the bottom 3 inches or so of each asparagus stalk, so they cook evenly. Snap off the hard stubs at the bottom — they’ll break naturally at the right point as you bend the bottom of the asparagus. To prepare the scallions, trim the roots and the wilted ends of the green leaves. Peel off the loose layers at the white end, so the scallions are all tight, trim, and about 6 inches long.

Bring 1 quart of water (or enough to cover the vegetables) to a boil in a wide, deep skillet, and add the asparagus and scallions. Adjust the heat to maintain a bubbling boil, and poach the vegetables uncovered, for about 6 minutes or more, until they are tender  but not falling apart, cooked through but not mushy. To check doneness, pick up an asparagus spear by the middle with tongs; it should be a little droopy, but not collapsing.

As soon as they are done, lift out the vegetables with tongs and lay them in a colander. Hold the colander under cold running water to stop the cooking. Drain briefly, then spread on kitchen towels and pat dry; sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon salt over them.

Slice the asparagus and scallions into 1-inch lengths, and pile them loosely in a mixing bowl. Drizzle the oil and vinegar over the top and sprinkle on the remaining salt and several grinds of black pepper. Toss well, but don’t break up the vegetables. Quarter the eggs into wedges and slice each wedge into two or three pieces; scatter these in he bowl, and fold in with the vegetables. Taste, and adjust the dressing. Chill the salad briefly, then arrange it on a serving platter or on salad plates.

— From Lidia’s Favorite Recipes


Insalata Caprese (right in the photo)

It can’t get any easier than Insalata Caprese, literally, the salad from Capri:

Slice four or five juicy heirloom tomatoes, then fresh mozzarella into 1/4-inch slices. I like to have a yellow tomato in the mix for visual variety.

Alternate the tomato slices with the cheese and arrange on a platter. Sprinkle with sea salt, then top with chopped fresh basil. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil, then give the pepper mill a good grind. My husband likes to add a splash of basalmic vinegar.

Janet Cleaveland

Janet Cleaveland

What happens when a retired journalist spends a lot more time in the kitchen than in past years? She tries new dishes and jumps at the chance to write a blog about food, family and good times. My kids are grown now, but I'll be looking back at how they learned to cook, what recipes my husband (the Intrepid One) and I are experimenting with, and how food and conversation make for happy times in the kitchen. I worked for The Columbian for 15 years as a copy editor and another 10 elsewhere, though I didn't start out as a journalist. I thought I wanted to teach English literature. My husband grew up in Clark County, and I've lived here since 1983. My kids have grown and left home. Like my husband of 52 years, our adopted chocolate Lab would never pass up a chance for a tasty meal.

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