When weather gets hot, put salad in your starting lineup

During those dog days of summer, my menu planning for a dinner party undergoes a change. While I love to start a multi-coursed meal with a bowl of soup, this time of year calls out for a refreshing, crisp salad — salads that have delicate and provocative combinations, that are deftly seasoned to excite and awaken the palate to the remainder of the meal.

Although there is a variety to fit the style of any dinner, they all have one thing in common: the unhindered natural flavors of fresh ingredients.

These starter salads are quickly prepared and assembled. So when the weather turns hot, hold the matzah ball soup and start with the most pristine greens you can find, pairing them with tart and sweet chunks of fresh fruit, toasted nuts and sharp or mild cheese. And don’t forget a spritely vinaigrette.


Strawberry and Arugula Salad

Serves 4-6

1⁄2 pint strawberries, rinsed, hulled and quartered

2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

2 Tbs. olive oil

1⁄4 tsp. salt

1⁄4 tsp. pepper

1⁄2 cup toasted pecan halves

2 bunches arugula, washed, dried and trimmed

1⁄4 cup crumbled goat cheese

Put pecans on baking sheet and toast in the oven at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

In a large bowl, toss rinsed, hulled and quartered strawberries with 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar; let sit 5 to 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together another 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar with olive oil and salt and pepper.

To the strawberries, add vinaigrette, 1⁄2 cup toasted pecan halves and 2 bunches arugula, trimmed and thoroughly washed and dried. Toss to combine. Sprinkle with goat cheese.


Corn, Radish and Parsley Salad

Serves 4


2 scallions, trimmed and cut into small pieces

1 Tbs. hot-sweet mustard

1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (or 1⁄2 tsp. dried)

2 Tbs. champagne vinegar

6 Tbs. grape seed oil or other light oil


2 cups cooked sweet corn kernels

8 red radishes, chopped

4 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves

Combine dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. In a large bowl, combine corn, radishes and parsley. Toss with dressing. Taste for salt and pepper.


Fennel and Apple Salad with

Apple Vinaigrette and Toasted Hazelnuts

Serves 6

Apple vinaigrette:

1⁄2 tart green apple, peeled and cored

1 Tbs. chopped shallots

1 tsp. mild mustard

1 tsp. honey

1⁄4 cup cider vinegar

1⁄2 cup olive oil

salt and pepper


2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced

4 tart-sweet red apples, cored and thinly sliced

4 cups baby spinach leaves

1 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

1 cup grated Vermont cheddar cheese

In a food processor, combine the vinaigrette ingredients until emulsified. Taste for salt and pepper. In a large bowl, combine fennel, apples, spinach and hazelnuts. Toss well with vinaigrette and sprinkle with cheese.

Louise Fiszer
is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Faith Kramer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].