Southern Summer Salads: Three Ways

The classic salad typically features raw veggies paired with oil, vinegar, or dressing. Over the years, the concept of “salad” has taken on various forms, from the gelatin salads of the ’60s to today’s popular green goddess salad. The essence of this dish is as versatile as gravy, spanning a wide spectrum of interpretations. I’ve crafted three salad variations to pique the interest of both our Southern sensibilities and our taste buds.
First up, a simple grape salad topped with caramelized pecans. This dish offers a burst of freshness and flavor, infusing the sweet and sour elements with a Southern twist.

Grape Salad Ingredients
4 tbsp unsalted butter (melted)
1 cup whole pecans
½ cup brown sugar (packed)
2 cups green grapes
2 cups red grapes
4 oz cream cheese (softened)
½ cups sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp white sugar
1 tbsp heavy cream

Grape Salad Directions
1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) In a bowl add butter, brown sugar, and pecans. Mix well making sure to coat every pecan with the brown sugar and butter. Spread covered pecans on a baking sheet, making sure to include any remnants of the butter and sugar as well.
3) Bake for 5-7 minutes. Remove from oven and set to the side to cool.
4) In a large mixing bowl, add cream cheese, sour cream, heavy cream, and vanilla. Mix the ingredients together until smooth. Add sugar to the bowl and mix well again.
5) Add grapes into the bowl and gently mix the grapes into the mixture making sure that the grapes are well coated.
6) Once the pecans are cooled, roughly chop them.
7) Add the pecans into the grape salad and gently mix. Make sure to get all of the crumbles off of the pan. This is a caramel crunch and it’s a great addition!
8) Chill for 1-2 hours and serve.

The next two salads include one common addition: the homemade ranch. A Southern woman’s ranch recipe is almost as sacred as the bacon grease she keeps in a mason jar on her counter. However, I am going to grace y’all with the best ranch you’ll ever have.

Ranch Ingredients
¼ cup sour cream
¾ cup Dukes mayonnaise
2 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp minced garlic
½ pack ranch mix
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Optional: 2 tbsp fresh dill

Ranch Directions
1) In a medium size mixing bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and heavy cream. Mix well.
2) Add ranch, salt, pepper, garlic, and dill (if you choose to use it). Mix well.
3) Chill for no less than 30 minutes covered in the refrigerator.

Now that our ranch dressing is ready, let’s move on to the next salad. The BLT pasta salad is hearty, budget-friendly, and downright delightful.

BLT Pasta Salad Ingredients
6 oz bowtie noodles
4 cups lettuce (chopped)
1 ½ cups grape tomatoes (halved)
8 oz bacon (crispy, chopped)
1/3 cup red onion (finely chopped)
Homemade ranch (recipe above)

BLT Pasta Salad Directions
1) Follow the instructions on the pasta box. Once pasta noodles are cooked, rinse them with cold water, this not only removes the starch, but it also cools the noodles down.
2) Making sure to drain the noodles, add them into a large mixing bowl along with all of your remaining ingredients.
3) Gently toss ingredients together until all of the elements of the salad are coated with the homemade ranch.
4) Allow to chill, covered, for 30 minutes before serving.

Finally, the tomato salad I’ve crafted embodies the essence of summer. Whether you opt for its purest rendition or use it as inspiration for your culinary creation, this vibrant dish exudes freshness and warmth.

Tomato Salad Ingredients
2 medium tomatoes ( ¼ inch slices)
¼ red onion (sliced)
1 fresh corn on the cob (roasted and cobbed)
½ seedless cucumber ( ¼ inch slices)
1 cup crumbled cheese (herb infused is amazing)
5-6 sprigs of chives (chopped)
6-7 fresh basil leaves
Ranch (recipe above)

Tomato Salad Tips
When plating, opt for a platter and arrange the vegetables in a staggered yet intertwined manner, ensuring each serving contains a variety of ingredients. Drizzle ranch dressing over the vegetables and finish with a sprinkle of chives and basil for garnish.
Additional topping suggestions; bacon, feta, fresh parsley, red pepper flakes, and fried onions.

Chelsea Gieselmann is a mom, photographer, columnist, food blogger, and home-cook. Cooking has been a passion of hers since she was old enough to cut out biscuits with the mouth of a mason jar. Her great-grandmother taught her the basics and she is ever so grateful to have been able to learn from her. Since then, she has honed in her craft a great deal and continues to. Instagram: @Southrngritskitchen

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