Joni Woolf: Salads, please. It’s too hot to cook!

Published 12:37 pm Saturday, August 11, 2018

Though August is my birth month, and for two of my three children, it is not my favorite month. As far as I know, August is no one’s favorite month. Summer has not run its course, but we are tired of it. The flowers we planted on the deck in May have shriveled in the heat; because of so much rain, the grass stays overgrown, though thinner now; the corn has come and gone and the peaches will soon follow suit. August is simply an un-wonderful time.
But alas, we must eat. We must prepare food for our friends and family, so we go in search of something that looks cool, tastes cool, and does not require long hours over the stove. Two of the following three salads require brief cooking times, but not enough to heat up the kitchen, or the cook. Eat enough of one of them and you won’t need a main course. (One is a main course.) Add, perhaps, a loaf of good French bread and a cool white wine, and you have a fine meal. For dessert, enjoy fruit — from a can, from the freezer, from the market. Keep it simple.

Late Summer Salad
1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped fine
1 10 oz. bag spinach
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
10 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
2 small cans Mandarin oranges, drained
1 8 oz. package mushrooms, sliced

2/3 cup olive or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons onions, chopped
½ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Put onions, cider vinegar, sugar, salt and mustard into blender. Start on low-level speed and slowly add oil. (I usually do this with a whisk, beating firmly.) Blend well and refrigerate until ready to use. Mix and toss all salad ingredients. Blend dressing again before serving. Pour over salad and toss well.

All my Favorite Flavors and Colors Salad
6 oz. spinach, rinsed and torn into bite-sized pieces
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 avocado, chopped
¼ cup red onion, chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons seedless red raspberry jam
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup walnut oil
Freshly ground pepper and salt, to taste
In a large bowl, toss together the spinach, cranberries, blue cheese, tomatoes, avocado, onion and walnuts. Set aside in refrigerator. In a small bowl whisk together jam, vinegar, walnut oil, salt and pepper. Refrigerate until serving. Toss salad with enough dressing to coat spinach. Red and yellow peppers could be added for more color, but I think the salad is colorful enough already. I do not add them. Walnut oil may be hard to find. Pecan or olive oil will work just as well, in the same amount. (If you need meat, add rotisserie chicken, pulled into small pieces.)

I got the following one from the Barefoot Contessa. I never get tired of salads with orzo, the small, rice-shaped pasta.

Roasted Shrimp and Orzo
Good olive oil
¾ pound orzo
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt, to taste, and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts
1 cup chopped fresh dill
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cucumber, peeled if necessary, seeded, and medium-diced
½ cup small-diced red onion
¾ pound feta cheese, large-diced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon salt and a splash of olive oil and bring the water to a boil. Add the orzo and simmer 9 minutes, until it is cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice, ½ cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Pour over the hot pasta and stir well. sMeanwhile, put the shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and spread out in single layer. Roast 5 to 6 minutes, until shrimp are cooked through, but do not overcook. Add the shrimp to the orzo and then add the scallions, dill, parsley, cucumber, onion, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss well. Add the feta and stir carefully. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, allow to reach room temperature the next day, before serving.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at