3 Cool Salads to Beat the Heat

Cooking with Beer by | Jun 2010 | Issue #41
Photos by Sean Z. Paxton

When the summer heat carries into the evening, the end-of-the-day fatigue hits and the only thing that sounds good is something cold. A salad is a great alternative to lighting the grill or turning on the stove or oven. Salads can be simple yet very tasty, complex and creative. Particularly when using flavorful craft beers, a salad can become a unique and satisfying meal.

Roasted Cauliflower Salad
Curry-scented cauliflower, Damnation-soaked golden raisins, toasted almonds, mache, and hemp seeds tossed in a yogurt Cantillon Gueuze dressing.

This is a take on a salad I had at the Hopleaf restaurant in Chicago. Before tasting this salad, I had forgotten about the light touch of curry in Belgian cuisine. I love the idea of this salad, especially for a warm summer evening.

Serves: 4 as an entrée or 8 as an appetizer

8 oz. golden raisins
12 oz. Damnation from Russian River, or another Belgian Golden Strong Ale
1–2 each cauliflower heads, medium to large size, leaves and heart removed
1/4 cup olive oil
2–3 tsp. curry powder
1 tbsp. kosher salt
2 cup yogurt, whole milk, organic, plain
1/2 cup Cantillon Gueuze
sea salt and cracked white pepper
8 oz. mache greens, or other variety of greens, washed and prepped
2 oz. almonds, sliced and toasted
1 oz. hemp seeds, toasted (available at most health food stores)

If possible, start this recipe two days prior to serving. Take the golden raisins and place into a quart mason jar and top with the Golden Ale. Seal and refrigerate for 1–2 days to rehydrate and pump as large as possible.

Preheat the oven to 450˚F. In a large bowl, add the prepared cauliflower. In a smaller bowl, add the oil, curry powder and salt. If you have a blend of spices that you prefer over a simplistic and generic curry powder, you can use it here. Mix well, then pour over the cauliflower and toss to evenly coat the florets in a consistent, golden hue. Spread evenly on a sheet tray and place in the center of the oven. Roast the cauliflower for 15–20 minutes, depending on the size of the florets, pulling when the edges start to darken and the kitchen smells of curry. Let cool to room temperature. This can be done up to 8 hours in advance.

In a small bowl, add the yogurt and Sour Ale. Mix and adjust the seasoning if needed. Place a tablespoon on the bottom of each plate. Next, add the mache, almonds, curried cauliflower and hemp seeds in a bowl and lightly toss to combine. Add a few tablespoons of the yogurt dressing, toss again. Mound a large handful of the salad onto the yogurt dressing on the plate. Next, drain the golden raisins (reserving the beer for another use) and garnish the salad, then add a drizzle of the dressing and serve.

Pairing with Beer:
With all the great curry essence in this dish, plus the buttery mache, the toasted almonds, the tang in the yogurt with the sour of the Gueuze, the possibilities for a good pairing are many. A Golden Ale, like La Chouffe, would be a great choice, or a Delirium Tremens with its spicy yeast notes; also Duvel, Saison Dupont, Avec Les Bons Voeux, or Westmalle Tripel would all complement the flavors represented in this salad.

The Re-Invented Wedge Salad
It’s classic, it’s retro, it’s simple: The wedge salad is an American staple. When rethinking this nostalgic dish, I wanted to really play with it. IPA and blue cheese is a great combo for a dressing. In addition to bacon, Cajun-cured pork called “tasso” could add flavor and lots of complexity. Instead of using the traditional swine, this recipe uses prawns that have been cured in a tasso spice and later sautéed in the fat rendered from cooking the bacon bits, really updating this salad. Enjoy!

Serves: 4 as an entrée

Tasso-Cured Prawns Ingredients:
2 tsp. smoked paprika, ground
1 tsp. chipotle pepper, ground
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 –1 tsp. cayenne pepper, ground
1/2 tsp. white pepper, ground
1/2 tsp. thyme, dried
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 lb. prawns, black tiger, (U16-20) or large, shelled and deveined

Tasso-Cured Prawns Directions:
In a medium-sized bowl, add the smoked paprika, chipotle, garlic powder, salt, cayenne to taste, white pepper, thyme and onion powder, and mix together. Add the prepared prawns and toss to coat evenly. Place into the refrigerator for 1–4 hours to infuse the flavors fully into the shellfish and to lightly cure the prawns.

IPA Blue Cheese Dressing Ingredients:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream, full fat
1/3 lb. blue cheese, preferably Rogue Creamery, Maytag Blue, or Pt. Reyes
1 tbsp. cracked black pepper
1 tbsp. chives, minced
1 tbsp. chive blossoms
1 tbsp. Italian leaf parsley, minced
1 tsp. kosher salt
6 tbsp. IPA or Double IPA, depending on hop level and intensity

IPA Blue Cheese Dressing Directions:
In a medium-size bowl, add the mayo, sour cream and crumbled blue cheese. For a chunky-style blue cheese dressing, keep the chunks of cheese larger and very cold. For a creamier dressing, start with the cheese at room temperature and crumble it into smaller pebbles. Add the pepper, chives, blossoms, parsley and salt; using a whisk, mix together. Add the IPA and whisk until incorporated. For a thicker dressing, use less beer; add more beer for a thinner dressing. Place into a mason jar and refrigerate. The dressing can keep for up to two weeks.

Salad Ingredients:
1 each iceberg lettuce, quartered
1/2 lb. thick cut bacon, sliced into lardons

Salad Directions:
In a large bowl or pot, add a good amount of ice and top with cold water. Add the quartered iceberg lettuce and submerge; this will rehydrate the lettuce and add a better crunch. The longer the lettuce has sat in the produce section, the more it loses its crisp texture, due to evaporation. Let the lettuce soak for 20 minutes or so. Then, using a salad spinner, dry the lettuce well.

In a skillet over low heat, add the bacon and cook until lightly crisp and the fat has rendered out, about 8–10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the cooked bacon and place onto a paper towel-covered plate. Increase the heat to medium high and add the cured prawns as the fat starts to smoke. Cook on one side for 2–3 minutes, then flip the prawns over and cook until they are pink and curl slightly. Remove from the heat and place the cooked prawns on the bacon plate.

To plate, take a wedge of lettuce and have it cut side up. Spoon over the IPA Blue Cheese Dressing, adding a touch more, as the lettuce is whole. Top with a combination of prawns and bacon, seasoning with cracked pepper. Garnish with more of the herbs and serve.

Pairing with Beer:
A beautiful, fresh and hoppy India Pale Ale would pair well with the IPA Blue Cheese Dressing and also reinforce the flavor profile in the dish. Yet a Kölsch, Hefeweizen, Cream Ale, or Helles would help cut the heat of the tasso cure on the prawns and add extra layers to the dish.

Red Beet Israeli Couscous Salad
At the local farmers market, what you see on display is picked or harvested at its perfect ripeness. All the varieties of seasonal vegetables and fruits tend to work well together on a plate. Different vegetables and fruits can add texture, acidic, herbal, sweet, or spicy elements to a dish and are unique week to week at an open market. Test yourself, talk to the farmers, explore the season’s offerings, expand your knowledge and create your own twist with this bright red couscous and very friendly dressing that will work with more than one meal.

Serves: 4 as an entrée

Red Beet Israeli Couscous Ingredients:
1 each red beet, peeled and washed
2 cup water, filtered
1 tbsp. orange zest
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. coriander, ground
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, ground
1 cup Israeli cous cous
1/2 each shallot, minced
1 cup Allagash White, or other Wit-style beer

Red Beet Israeli Couscous Directions:
Using plastic gloves to avoid staining, wash and peel (with a peeler) the skin off a red beet. Next, slice a few paper-thin slices of the beet for the salad. The remaining beet should be chopped and added to the pitcher of a blender. Add the water, zest, salt, coriander, cinnamon and purée until the beet has been liquefied and the water is a deep red color. This will dye the couscous a beautiful color. Set aside.

In a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat, add the Israeli couscous. This type of couscous has a larger pearl size, which adds great texture to the salad. Stir for 3–4 minutes to lightly toast the couscous, creating a nutty flavor in the final dish. Add the shallot and the beer, then once the pan has cooled slightly, add the beet water. Bring to a boil, stirring periodically, until the couscous is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. This should take about 20 minutes. Transfer the pot to a large bowl filled with cold water and ice to cool the couscous and stop the cooking. Set aside until ready to use.

White Vinaigrette Ingredients:
3/4 cup Allagash White, or other Wit-style beer
1/4 cup olive oil, citrus fruit flavored, if available
1/2 each honey tangerine, juiced and zest
1/2 each shallot, minced
1 tsp. coriander, ground
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

White Vinaigrette Directions:
In a small bowl, add the ale, oil, juice, shallots and coriander. Whisk to combine and let sit for 10 minutes to infuse the flavors. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Can be refrigerated and will last for seven days.

Pairing with Beer:
A spicy Saison or a slightly sour Berliner Weisse are great choices with a complex salad. Yet a blonde, citrusy Pale Ale, a toasty mild, or a malty bitter would also work.

Farmers Market Inspirations and Ingredients:
baby tomatoes, yellow pear, grape, sweet 100s
bell peppers, red or yellow, roasted, peeled and seeded
edible flowers
fava beans, peeled, blanched, peeled again
garbanzo beans, fresh, peeled and cooked
green beans, stem end removed and blanched
green garlic, sliced and sautéed
green onions, sliced
herbs, leaves removed from the stems
kumquats or other citrus
pea shoots
radishes, sliced paper thin
spring onions, peeled and sliced thin
zucchini, washed, sliced and grilled
almonds, toasted
feta cheese, crumbled
goat cheese, crumbled
sesame seeds, toasted

Salad Directions:
Depending on what’s available, what’s in season and what creative spark happens at the farmers market, take the bounty and prep, peel, slice, blanch and chop all the ingredients for the salad. If the ingredient is unique, ask the farmer a little more about the fruit or vegetable. Since the farmer grew the fruit or vegetable himself, he/she knows better than anyone else how to prepare it for eating.

Take a plate and spoon some of the cooled Red Beet Israeli Couscous artistically around the surface. Arrange the other prepped vegetables and fruits over and around the plate. Dress the salad by spooning some of the White Vinaigrette lightly over all the ingredients and add a sprinkle of salt and pepper. 

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