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Celebrate summer with these innovative salads

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Nothing says summer like a fresh salad served al fresco.

Pack your picnic basket with a bottle of wine, a fresh baguette and one of these summery salads, favorites of local chefs. From a simple concoction of crab and cantaloupe to an intriguing mix of apples, almonds and Spanish cheese, these salads put a creative spin on the season's best local ingredients.


Crab, cantaloupe, red onion and mint salad with frozen cantaloupe martini

Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Waterfront Kitchen in Fells Point designed this salad — and accompanying cocktail — to "take advantage of the best local summer ingredients from the Eastern Shore." A light, lemony vinaigrette amplifies the sweet flavors of local crab and cantaloupe.

Serves 4

For crab and cantaloupe salad:

1 ripe Eastern Shore cantaloupe, seeded, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/4 cup red onion, peeled and chopped in 1/4 inch dice

3 mint sprigs, leaves pulled and chopped

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon

4 tablespoons Pompeian extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound jumbo lump Maryland Eastern Shore crab

1. Toss all ingredients except the crab in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and chill for one hour before serving.

2. Divide the salad equally into four bowls. Top with jumbo lump crabmeat, being careful not to break up the lumps of sweet crab.

For frozen cantaloupe martini:

1 ripe Eastern Shore cantaloupe, seeded, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon

1 ounce VYA dry vermouth

4 ounces Junipero Gin

2 cups ice

Mint sprigs for garnish

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

2. Divide into chilled martini glasses.

3. Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve.


Manchego y manzana salad

Chef de cuisine Mario Cano-Catalan's salad of buttery Manchego cheese, tart apples and savory Marcona almonds is a popular item on the menu at Pazo in Harbor East. Basil and mint give a warm-weather spin to this thoughtful play on the traditional Spanish combination of Manchego and apples.

Serves 6

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 ounces roasted Marcona almonds

3 green apples

12 ounces Manchego cheese

3 fresh dates

3 basil leaves, torn into small pieces

6 mint leaves, torn into small pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

Pour the sherry vinegar into a medium bowl. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. When the vinaigrette is well blended, season with salt and pepper. Set aside for later use.

Cut the apples off the core, then into 1/4 –inch-thick rectangular pieces. Remove all the rind from the cheese and cut into pieces the same size and shape as the apple slices.

Remove the pits from the dates and cut each date into quarters.

Place the apples and cheese into a large bowl. Pour the sherry vinaigrette over and carefully mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Place the apples and cheese onto serving dishes and top with the Marcona almonds, dates, basil, and mint.


Melon salad with red wine reduction

This elegant salad is a summertime favorite at the Grille at Peerce's in Phoenix, Baltimore County. Executive chef John Hufnagel mixes savory and sweet, dressing a sweet and tangy stack of goat cheese, cantaloupe and watermelon with a savory red wine syrup.

For the melon salad:

1/4 cup watermelon, diced into 1/4 inch cubes

1/4 cup cantaloupe, diced into 1/4 inch cubes

3 ounces goat cheese

2 tablespoons red wine reduction (recipe below)

Sprig of mint for garnish

Dice watermelon and cantaloupe into 1/4-inch cubes. Fill one-third of an upside down, three-inch biscuit cutter with diced watermelon. On top of the watermelon, layer the goat cheese to fill another third of the biscuit cutter. Top goat cheese with the diced cantaloupe, filling the rest of the biscuit cutter.

Carefully turn over the biscuit cutter and remove, placing the melon and goat cheese stack on a plate. Drizzle with red wine reduction and add mint sprig to garnish.

Red wine reduction:

1 tablespoon butter

2 shallots, diced

1 bay leaf

6 whole black peppercorns

1 sprig fresh thyme

2 cups red wine

4 cups brown stock (chicken or beef)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy saucepan, saute the shallots in butter over medium heat. When shallots are soft, add the bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme and red wine and turn heat to high.

Reduce the wine mixture by three-quarters. Add the stock and reduce by half. It should be the consistency of a syrup. Season with salt and pepper.

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the reduction, discarding herbs and spices. Let the reduction cool. Store in the refrigerator until using.


Reynold's Tavern shrimp salad

At Reynold's Tavern in Annapolis, chef Joseph A Zagami jazzes up shrimp salad with a tart-and-spicy Old Bay coleslaw topping. Served on buttered ciabatta bread, the result is crunchy, well seasoned and perfect for a midsummer lunch.

Serves 8

For the shrimp salad:

Court bouillon (recipe below)

2 1/2 pounds "16/20" shrimp

Red pepper aioli (recipe below)

1/4 cup chives, sliced

8 ciabatta rolls or 16 slices of ciabatta bread, buttered

Old Bay coleslaw (recipe below)

Prepare court bouillon according to instructions below. When bouillon comes to a boil, add shrimp and poach for two to three minutes, until cooked through. Remove shrimp from bouillon and refresh in an ice bath. Let cool.

Peel and devein shrimp, then roughly chop. Slowly add red pepper aioli to shrimp, mixing. Add just enough aioli to bind shrimp together. Add chives and mix.

Serve on buttered ciabatta bread or rolls, topped with Old Bay coleslaw.

For the court bouillon:

1 white onion, julienned

2 bay leaves

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 celery stalks, roughly chopped

6 whole black peppercorns

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

Juice of two lemons

1 sprig fresh thyme

7 cups cold water

1 sprig fresh tarragon

1 cup red wine vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a four-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil.

Red pepper aioli

2 roasted red peppers, finely chopped

4 cups mayonnaise

4 tablespoons pickle relish

2 tablespoons capers

1 1ablespoon Worcestershire sauce

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 cup chopped scallions

Combine all ingredients, stirring until mixed well. Chill.

Old Bay coleslaw

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

3 teaspoons Old Bay

7 cups cabbage, julienned

1 cup carrots, julienned

1 purple onion, julienned

In a medium bowl combine mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and Old Bay, mixing thoroughly. Add the cabbage, carrots and purple onion and toss until vegetables are evenly coated. Chill.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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