I remember the exact moment when I finally “got” salads. It was spring 2003, and I was sharing an ancient apartment in southern France with three other girls. The kitchen was our second living room, the place we caught up, got drunk on cheap wine and, of course, cooked our (broke) hearts out. My roommate Genveieve had a gift for tossing together divine-looking salads so effortlessly—“just throw whatever’s in the fridge together and add some nuts” was the gist of her method. One night, as I watched her turn a small hunk of creamy cheese, some leftover steak and a pile of perfectly tiny greens into a satisfying dinner-party dish, it clicked. Creativity and old-fashioned resourcefulness are what makes a salad magical. Aha!
To this day, my fan-girl status for meal-in-a-bowl salads abides. And recently, my main source of inspiration has been Mindy Fox’s gorgeous book, Salads: Beyond the Bowl. With 100 recipes and sections devoted specifically to leaf-, pasta-, fish-, bean- and meat-centered salads, this isn’t a book suited solely for the health crowd. It’s for everyone who loves to cook and eat beautiful, delicious food. Behold the recipes that inspired my co-editors and I to get cooking, the Mindy Fox way.
Tomatoes, Smoked Mozzarella & Lemon Rind Salad
Don’t let the tomatoes and mozzarella fool you—this is not your everyday caprese salad. Mindy’s take on the classic uses smoked mozzarella (always a winner in my book!) and a zesty dressing with lemon and shallots that provides a fresh finish. I was able to throw this pretty dish together in less than 10 minutes, and the result was a colorful, flavor-packed salad perfect to bring to any dinner party, potluck or picnic. —Claire Davidson, associate editor
Warm Orzo Salad with Sweet Crab, Shiitake Mushrooms, Corn and Crème Fraîche
You know when you see something that’s simple and brilliant and you say to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?” That’s exactly how I feel about this salad. Pulling it together was as easy as boiling the orzo, wilting the mushrooms and stirring together a few of my favorite things—crab, corn, chives and basil. The warm orzo paired perfectly with the cool crème fraîche and the crunch of the corn, making it my new go-to recipe for pretty much everything from backyard barbecues (it would be killer with ribs) to date night (the crab makes it feel fancy). —Kayla Knudson, managing editor
Lemon Dill Coleslaw and Fried Chicken Salad
When my husband and I first met, he told me his favorite meal: fried chicken and coleslaw, with peanut butter pie for dessert. Over the next (almost) eight years, I’ve made him that meal, oh, maybe once. Sure, coleslaw is a frequent side dish in our house, but fried chicken seems like such a pain, so we usually fire up the grill, roast a whole bird or go to the bar for wings. But this recipe changes everything! The chicken is a super-simple three-step process (soak, dredge, fry) that anyone can pull off. And the coleslaw—the coleslaw!—just shines, full of bright chopped dill and zingy lemon, Greek yogurt and buttermilk. I can’t wait to make it again! —Erin Madsen, executive editor
Whole-Wheat Pasta Salad with Shredded Roast Chicken, Capers, Marjoram and Ricotta Salata
While I’ll admit this salad looks a little, well, beige, take my word that it tastes anything but boring. And with a base of toothsome whole-wheat pasta and a hefty proportion of chicken, it’s certainly a salad that’ll satisfy, even at dinnertime. To keep things bright, a tangy dressing of plain Greek yogurt and lemon (both zest and juice) douses everything, while salty, juicy bits of caper add a delicious finishing touch. —MM
Join our Betty editors as they explore a new cookbook, each cooking a recipe (or two!) from it and reporting back the first Tuesday of every month. Next up: Vegetables from an Italian Garden on Nov. 5. In the meantime, what new cookbook(s) are you dying to try?