Warm Weather Is Time For Fresh Salads

SHIRLEY'S KITCHEN

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Hello, everyone. I am writing this from the small town Piney Flats, where my sister, Nancy, lives. It is outside of Johnson City, Tenn. The area is beautiful and majestic with green rolling hills, barns that are at least 100 years old (this was tobacco country), colonial brick homes, stonework and wrap-around decks, all proudly displayed in impeccable surroundings, regardless of the age.

The first thing I noticed driving into Tennessee were the wonderful smells from the bales of hay drying in the sun, the wild clover, roses, jasmine, honeysuckle and more. It is indescribable, yet very soothing -- it says, "Welcome."

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Two cups of fresh strawberries are the main ingredient of Strawberry Bread Salad.

The elevation of 1,565 feet is more than 3,000 feet lower than Payson, so it took a few days to adjust, plus the weather is more humid.

My sister's home is on the lake, surrounded by beautiful, huge, old trees -- home to squirrels, deer and colorful birds that wake you up to their singing. Nancy has a birdfeeder on the deck, and I get to watch all her feathered neighbors eat. I think painting birds again is a must.

With the warmer weather, farmers markets here are in full swing. It is time for fresh salads: Shrimp and Fennel Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette, Strawberry Bread Salad with Pecans and Greek Salad with Feta Croutons.

Enjoy!

Shrimp and Fennel Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

1/4 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1-1/4 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tablespoons canola oil

6 cups Bibb or romaine lettuce, coarsely torn

4 cups sorrel or arugula, stems removed

1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and very thinly sliced

champagne vinaigrette

For marinade, whisk together 1/4 cup canola oil, lemon juice, garlic, turmeric, salt and cayenne pepper in a large bowl. Add the shrimp; toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours. Drain, discarding marinade. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add shrimp; cook 2-3 minutes or until opaque. Transfer shrimp to a medium bowl; set aside. Set aside 3 tablespoons champagne vinaigrette. Add the romaine or Bibb lettuce and sorrel or arugula to remaining vinaigrette; toss to coat.

Divide greens among individual plates or transfer to a large serving dish. Top with fennel and shrimp. Pass reserved vinaigrette.

Makes 4 servings.

Tip: To thinly slice fennel bulb, use a vegetable peeler.

Champagne Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons champagne vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons snipped fresh chervil or basil

2 green onions, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1/4 cup canola oil

In a very large bowl, whisk together Champagne vinegar, lemon juice, snipped fresh chervil or basil, finely chopped green onions, salt and ground pepper. Slowly add canola oil, whisking constantly.

Strawberry Bread Salad

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6, 1-inch-thick slices Challah bread, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large heads Bibb lettuce or romaine, cored and thinly sliced

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

1 cup pecans

For croutons

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and cinnamon; set aside. Place bread pieces in a 15-inch-by-10-inch-by-1-inch baking pan. Drizzle with 1/4 cup melted butter. Toss to combine. Sprinkle with sugar mixture; toss to combine. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until bread pieces are crisp, stirring once.

For dressing

In small bowl, whisk together canola oil, finely shredded orange peel, orange juice, white balsamic vinegar and salt.

On a large platter or in salad bowls arrange the lettuce, strawberries, croutons and pecans. Drizzle with dressing.

Greek Salad with Feta Croutons

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel

1, 8-ounce package feta cheese, cut into bite size cubes

1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin oil

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon

1 small cucumber, peeled, halved and sliced

1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced

8 cups assorted greens (romaine, endive, radicchio, etc.)

1 cup grape tomatoes

1/4 cup Kalamata olives, quartered and pitted

For feta croutons

Combine flour and lemon peel in a shallow dish. Add cheese cubes, a few at a time, tossing until coated. Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat-high for 4 minutes. Add cheese. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, turning once, until golden. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet; set aside.

For dressing

In a very large bowl whisk together lemon juice, salt and pepper. Gradually add olive oil, whisking constantly. Add basil, mint, tarragon, cucumber and onion; stir to combine. Add greens; toss to coat. Divide greens mixture among 4 individual plates. Top with feta croutons, tomatoes and olives.

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