The food: Main Course Summer Salads
Many years ago, in my salad days, I cut out of Vogue magazine a recipe for a chicken, mango and avocado salad in a gingery lime juice vinaigrette that struck me – on the page when I read the recipe, and after I’d made it and tasted it – as elegant, exciting and grown-up. It still seems elegant and refreshing today, when recipes for main course salads featuring those ingredients are more common.
I’ve prepared it at least once every summer since, though I’ve never worked it into my fiction, because most of my novels don’t take place in the summertime. Also because in The Glenwood Treasure, the novel I wrote that did span a summer, I used up my food references by a) feeding Blithe, the main character, a depressed school teacher, comfort food, b) having Blithe’s parents, Establishment WASPs and devoted Anglophiles, eat food befitting their stations and predilections, and c) dreaming up all manner of baked goods to help make Patrick, the aspiring pastry chef, more endearing (and serious).
Also sophisticated and fresh-tasting – and a regular feature in my repertoire all year round – is a main course salad of hot cooked pasta (I used spaghettini for this version) mixed with several handfuls of fresh salad greens (this time, I had baby arugula on hand), chopped fresh tomatoes, olives, cheese of your choice (here: feta, but bocconcini, fresh mozzarella, or Brie would all do as well), dressed with a scant amount of extra virgin olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar, and seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
For that salad, there’s no recipe, but I’ve included the recipe for the chicken mango salad below. Serve both salads to dinner guests and maybe a cute guy with distinctively coloured eyes will start leaving artisanal baked goods on your doorstep like Patrick does to Blithe.
Okay, that won’t happen. But the salads are so delicious and refreshing to eat on a hot summer night that you might not even need dessert afterwards.
Chicken Mango Avocado Salad (adapted from Vogue magazine)
For the vinaigrette:
7 T. olive oil
3 T. lime juice
2 T. white wine vinegar
2 T. minced fresh ginger
For the salad:
2 half chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 mango, diced
1 large avocado, sliced
¼ c. chopped fresh mint leaves
Mix vinaigrette. Pour over salad, stir gently to combine.