Delicious Salads to Beat the Heat

With the heat we've been having, who wants to cook? I sure don't, but I love all the fresh produce that's in season right now. That's why it was so perfect that our most recent Cooking Light Group dinner had a "beat the heat" theme. Three of the dishes were refreshing summer salads that I truly enjoyed.

The main dish grilled chicken salad combined grilled chicken, sweet nectarines (peaches would be good too), goat cheese and pecans. The next time we grill chicken, I'll make extra so that we can have this salad the next day. Nancy, our hostess, served it on a gorgeous square platter, which made it even more appetizing. Jackie's colorful crunchy corn medley was downright addictive -- I gobbled it up for lunch the next morning. And Chrissy's celery and feta cheese salad benefited from using very good ingredients, including an excellent Greek feta cheese.

Grilled Chicken and Nectarine Salad
Adapted from Sunset Magazine

2/3 cup pecan halves
2 quarts salad greens (8 oz.), rinsed and crisped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup walnut oil (or more vegetable oil; see
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
4 boned chicken breast halves with skin (2 lb. total), rinsed, patted dry, and fat trimmed
Salt and pepper
2 firm-ripe nectarines (12 oz. total), rinsed, pitted, and thinly sliced
5 ounces fresh chèvre (goat cheese), crumbled

Preheat oven to 350°. Spread pecans in a baking pan and bake until golden under skins, about 10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.

In a small bowl, stir vegetable oil, walnut oil, and vinegar to blend. Set aside.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Lay on a lightly oiled barbecue grill over a solid bed of medium-hot coals or medium-high heat on a gas grill (you can hold your hand at grill level only 3 to 4 seconds); close lid on gas grill. Cook chicken, turning occasionally, until meat is no longer pink in center of thickest part (cut to test), about 15 minutes total. Transfer chicken to a cutting board. Remove skin if desired.

Mound salad greens on a large platter. Slice chicken across the grain 1/2 inch thick; arrange over greens. Tuck nectarine around chicken. Scatter goat cheese and pecans over the top. Stir dressing; pour over salads. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Crunchy Corn Medley
Of course you can substitute fresh for canned, but the canned sure is easy! She reduced the amount of salad dressing from the published recipe in a magazine.

2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 can (15-1/4 oz.) yellow corn, drained
1 can (15-1/4 oz.) white or shoepeg corn, drained
1 can (8 oz) water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 jar (4 oz) pimientos, drained and diced
8 green onions, thinly sliced
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground pepper

Mix altogether. Chill for at least 3 hours. Stir before serving.

Celery Salad with Feta and Mint

Combine 6 large stalks of celery, cut into 1/2 inch slices, and 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced. Add 2 tbsp each extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice. season with coarse salt and ground pepper. sprinkle with 1/3 cup crumbled feta and 3 tbsp thinly sliced fresh mint leaves.

serves 4 102 cals, 9 g fat, 2 g protein, 3 g carbs, 1 g fiber for those of you who count these things