Summer means cooking and eating outdoors. We grill outside at home and we carry along food to eat at other locations when camping or visiting friends.
Summer also means a higher occurrence of food poisoning due to two factors: bacteria multiply more quickly at warmer temperatures and we don’t have the safety factor of our refrigerators and kitchen sinks. When eating away from home, be sure to carry your digital food thermometer to assure your food is at the proper temperatures recommended by the USDA.
Commercial mayonnaise isn’t as much of a culprit in food poisoning cases as once believed. The larger problem is lack of washing of vegetables and the variety of components in summer salads. Gramma’s potato salad and your almost-famous macaroni salad shouldn’t be remembered because family and friends became ill. Wash your vegetables and keep everything well-chilled (below 40 degrees) to slow bacteria growth. Don’t remove summer salads from the refrigerator or cooler until it’s time to eat and check the temperature. If the outside temperatures are above 90 degrees, the USDA recommends throwing away anything that has been out of the refrigerator for more than one hour.
I have two summer salads I like to travel with. These salads are refreshing and offer an alternative for those with “mayo anxiety” at a summer potluck. Keep your food prep surfaces clean and be sure to wash all vegetables thoroughly.
Summer Rice Salad
This summer salad recipe is simple and adaptable. Our “go-to” rice is basmati or jasmine, but this salad works great with brown rice or a long-grain/wild rice blend. I never buy commercial salad dressing, but you can substitute one cup of your favorite bottled vinaigrette for my dressing recipe.
1 medium cucumber
6 green onions or scallions
1 large tomato, 2 Roma tomatoes or one pint of cherry tomatoes
3 cups cooled cooked rice, any style
¼ cup rice vinegar
½ cup canola oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon EACH granulated garlic, granulated onion, black pepper and dried parsley
¼ teaspoon EACH dried basil, dried oregano, dried thyme and celery salt
Clean vegetables thoroughly. Cut ends off of cucumber and cut into eighths (do not remove peel. Remove the seeds and cut the cucumber into half-inch pieces. Cut the green onions (including tops) into one-fourth inch pieces. Dice the tomatoes, retaining the juices. Combine vegetables with the rice, mixing well with your clean hands to combine. Add the vinaigrette, stir to combine and allow to chill, covered, for several hours.
Muffuletta Pasta Salad
New Orleans is the home of the Muffuletta, a sandwich featuring Italian meats and cheeses topped with an Olive Salad unique to every kitchen. This summer salad side dish can be dressed up as a main dish by serving on a bed of cleaned salad greens with a few tomato wedges.
8 ounces uncooked spaghetti, broken into 2-3 inch pieces
8 ounces Genoa salami
8 ounces sandwich pepperoni
6-8 ounces Cappicola or other spicy ham
8 ounces provolone cheese
Olive Salad (recipe here)
Following package directions, cook spaghetti to al dente, drain and run cold water over it to stop the cooking process. Allow the spaghetti to drain completely. The meat and cheese can be purchased in chunks or slices. If chunked, cut into one-half inch pieces. If slices are purchased, slice into thin strips, then cut strips no more than 2 inches long. In a large bowl, combine cooled, cooked spaghetti, meat and cheese and the olive salad and mix well. Cover and chill the Muffuletta Pasta Salad for several hours to allow the flavors to combine.
Sources: USDA ; Medicine.net