5 super summer salads: Easy-peasy recipes from local chefs

Ira Wallace of the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange gives the classic Cobb salad a Southern twist with black-eyed peas and toasted pecans. Photo: Staff Ira Wallace of the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange gives the classic Cobb salad a Southern twist with black-eyed peas and toasted pecans. Photo: Staff

Summer is the time to eat your colors. Yellow corn is at its sweetest, red tomatoes their juiciest, and the greens are just as green as could be. We’ve rounded up salad recipes from five local chefs that showcase the season’s leading stars along with some unexpected guest appearances: a piquant pinch of mint or sweet burst of watermelon. As with any great summer salad, these are best served outside, on a generous plate, and with your favorite cold beverage. Mangia!

1) Southern-style Cobb salad with black-eyed peas

From Ira Wallace, education and variety selection coordinator, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

A slight twist on the traditional Cobb salad, with toasted pecans and a Greek-yogurt blue-cheese dressing that you might want to slather on everything all summer.

Serves three to four


6 cups chopped romaine or mixed green lettuces

2 cups fresh black-eyed peas lightly simmered with 1/2 small onion, chopped, or 1 clove garlic, chopped

(Alternative: 1 15 oz. can seasoned black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed well)

3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered

1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped

2 boneless chicken breasts, grilled and cubed (optional)

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (substitute sharp, dry cheddar,
if desired)

1/2 cup fresh steamed sweet corn, kernels cut from cob, or thawed frozen sweet corn

1 sweet red pepper, cored, deseeded, and julienned

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced

Blue-cheese Greek-yogurt dressing

1/2 to 1 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

1 tbsp. mayonnaise

1 tbsp. minced fresh garlic

1 tbsp. white vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste


Add all dressing ingredients to large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Place in container, cover, and refrigerate until chilled.

Place lettuce on platter. In separate rows, arrange chicken, black-eyed peas, red pepper, tomatoes, pecans, avocado, cheese, corn, and eggs on top of lettuce. Pass around dressing.

Pair with: A nice glass of sweet tea


Peloton Station’s Curtis Shaver likes his beer—and knows how to turn a salad into a meal. Photo: Tom McGovern

2) Steak and onion rings salad

From Curtis Shaver, general manager and chef, Peloton Station

This savory mélange would satisfy even the hungriest salad-as-a-main-course skeptic.

Serves two to four

Salad ingredients

2 7 oz. Seven Hills Food Co. flat iron steaks (also called shoulder top blade steak)

6 oz. local arugula

2 ears fresh corn

1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted,
and sliced

6 radishes, sliced thin

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 English cucumber, sliced thin

3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

1 red onion, sliced into rings

1 cup buttermilk

2 cups flour, seasoned to taste (salt, pepper, paprika, and others as desired)

3 cups canola or other preferred oil for frying onion rings

Greek vinaigrette dressing ingredients

3 cups extra virgin olive oil

2 1/2 tbsp. garlic powder

2 1/2 tbsp. dried oregano

2 1/2 tbsp. dried basil

2 tbsp. black pepper

2 tbsp. sea salt

2 tbsp. onion powder

2 tbsp. dijon mustard


Prepare grill. Oil, salt, and pepper steaks, and grill to medium rare. Set aside. Grill corn until charred and slice off kernels. Set aside. Heat frying oil to 375 degrees in deep skillet. Soak onion rings in buttermilk, remove from liquid, and toss in seasoned flour. Fry onions until golden brown, remove from oil, and drain.

Place all dressing ingredients except oil in blender and mix well. Slowly add oil to emulsify. Refrigerate until ready to serve salad.

In a large mixing bowl combine arugula, corn, radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, and dressing. Divide mixture evenly among serving plates. Place avocado slices on salad. Slice steak on a bias and place on top of avocados. Finish by topping with onion rings.

Pair with: Champion Brewing Company True Love American Lager

Peppery arugula meets sweet roasted tomatoes in Forage chef Megan Kiernan’s creation. Photo: Tom McGovern

3) Roasted Sungold tomato and arugula orzo salad with pistachio pesto and blue cheese

From Megan Kiernan, product development chef and founder, Forage

Chef Kiernan calls this “the regular pasta salad’s more elegant cousin.” We agree that the recipe would impress guests at any picnic or dinner party.

Serves four


2 pints Sungold cherry tomatoes

1 tsp. black pepper

2 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 lb. orzo

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

2 1/2 cups chopped arugula or
baby arugula

Salt and pepper to taste

Grilled or roasted chicken (optional), boned, and cut up any way you prefer

Pistachio pesto dressing

1/2 cup packed basil leaves

1 handful mint leaves

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup shelled pistachios

2 small cloves (or one large clove) garlic

1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil (or a bit more, to taste)

Salt to taste (at least 1/2 tsp.)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss tomatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place on sheet tray and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 250 degrees and continue roasting for two hours, tossing occasionally.

Combine basil, mint, pistachios, garlic, lemon juice, and a big pinch of salt in a food processor. Blend well, periodically streaming in olive oil. Stop to taste. Add more salt and lemon juice as desired. If pesto is too thick, thin with additional olive oil.

Cook orzo following packaging instructions. Run under cool water while straining. Combine with pesto, adding heaping teaspoons to taste. Toss in arugula and red onions. Gently fold in tomatoes and blue cheese. Add more salt, pepper, or pesto as desired.

Pair with: Potter’s Craft Passion Fruit Mosaic cider


Unexpected bursts of flavor—fresh dill, fried sardines, hickory syrup—enliven this beauty from Oakhart Social’s Tristan Wraight. Photo: Tom McGovern

4) Sweet and salty summer salad

From Tristan Wraight, executive chef, Oakhart Social

“For me, I need a salad to have a sweet element, a salty element, and crunchy element,” says chef Tristan Wraight. Here, he rounds out the essentials with some soft herbs and an acidic dressing.

Serves four


2 cups watermelon, cubed (Wraight sources his from Pleasant Pasture Farms, in Virginia Beach.)

8 radishes, quartered (also from Pleasant Pasture)

1 cup Lunix (red oak-leaf) lettuce

1/4 cup shaved fennel

2 tbsp. sunflower seeds, sautéed until golden brown

1 tbsp. fried charales (or fried sardines) tossed in Old Bay Seasoning

Fresh Thai basil and dill to taste, chopped

Pinch of Maldon sea salt

Hickory-syrup vinaigrette

2 tbsp. shallots, minced

2 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice

2 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice

2 tbsp. hickory syrup (can also use Grade-A maple syrup)

1 cup grape seed oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste


Soak minced shallots in lemon
and lime juice for 10 minutes. Add syrup and salt, and whisk in oil. Toss with salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Pair with: A dry white wine with mineral palate, like Albariño. Best local choice: Horton Vineyards 2017 Rkatsiteli


Pearl Island Catering chef Javier Figueroa-Ray balances the sweetness of watermelon and pineapple with the earthy flavors of kale and walnuts. Photo: Amy and Jackson Smith

5) Pearl Island summer salad

From Javier Figueroa-Ray, executive chef, Pearl Island Catering

Don’t forget the fruit! Pearl Island’s summer salad sweetens things up with tropical pineapple and the emblematic food of the season: fresh watermelon.

Serves four


8 oz. organic kale

8 oz. organic baby spinach

1 1/2 cups watermelon, cubed

1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple, cubed

1 cup carrots, grated (reserve some for garnish)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Shallot vinaigrette dressing

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. dijon mustard

1 tbsp. fresh shallots, minced

1 cup brown sugar (or less, to taste)

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper


Place walnuts on baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and roast at 350 degrees for five to ten minutes, or until fragrant.

In a large bowl combine kale, spinach, watermelon, pineapple, and carrots, and toss together.

Place dressing ingredients in blender and mix well, about one minute at high speed.

Transfer salad ingredients to platter, drizzle with dressing, and top with walnuts and carrots.

Pair with: Stinson Vineyard’s sauvignon blanc

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