Superb, not a sidekick

June 29, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

Fourth of July means fireworks, family and food.

When preparing the family picnic or a summer meal, consider treating the side salad like more than just a sidekick.

"People get so caught up on the 'center of the plate item' that they neglect to remain focused on all aspects of a dining experience," Roccoco Executive Chef Stephen J. Brown Jr. wrote in an e-mail along with the recipe for the downtown Hagerstown eatery's potato salad.

"I feel that the side dish, be it potato salad with a sandwich, or a vegetable, starch and sauce of a great entree is as important if not more so than the 'main item' itself," Brown said.

The texture, flavor and appearance of potato salad can change depending on the cooking technique and how the ingredients are combined, he said.


At Shaharazade's Exotic Tea Room and Restaurant on West German Street in Shepherdstown, W.Va., the couscous salad, or tabbouleh, is served as a side dish with grilled sandwiches or as an entree, owner Susan Dom said.

Side salads or salatat are served at nearly every type of Middle Eastern meal, Dom wrote with her recipe.

Ingredients can include raw or cooked vegetables, legumes, cracked wheat, bread, cheese and meat with favorite ingredients being chopped red Italian, Bermuda or Spanish onions, crushed garlic and chopped parsley.

Salad ingredients should be as fresh as possible, she said.

Shaharazade's couscous salad is a tabbouleh or grain salad. While Dom uses coarse organic whole-wheat couscous, often cracked wheat or bulgur wheat can be used, she said.

The coarse couscous provides a different texture with the chunky pieces of vegetables.

If it's pasta salad you're looking for, Rhubarb House owner Shellie Ralston also has shared her pasta salad recipe, which uses artichokes.

Roccoco's potato salad

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons whole-grain or pommeray mustard

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon (to taste) salt

1 teaspoon (to taste) black pepper

2 pounds large red potatoes, quartered

Fresh water

2 tablespoons salt

1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

1/4 cup fresh chopped chives

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Prepare dressing by combining balsamic vinegar, cider vinegar, mayonnaise, whole-grain mustard, Dijon, sugar, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl or food processor. Mix well and set aside.

Wash and quarter red potatoes, place in a pot with cold, fresh water and salt. You will need enough water to cover the potatoes completely. Place pot over high heat and bring potatoes to a boil. Let potatoes cook at a boil for 5 minutes or until they are fork tender. Remove pot from heat and strain.

While potatoes are boiling, clean and chop herbs. Reserve.

While potatoes are still hot, fold dressing and potatoes together with the grated Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs and additional salt and pepper as needed.

When potato salad has cooled, mix in desired amount of shredded Parmesan or any cheese of your choice.

Serve chilled.

Serves 8.

- Courtesy of Executive Chef Stephen J. Brown Jr.

Shaharazade's couscous salad

2 cups whole grain, coarse couscous.

2 cups boiling water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper

1 1/2 cups chopped English cucumbers, peeled.

2/3 cup very finely chopped red onion

1 cup mixed chopped green and red bell peppers

1 cup sliced baby carrots

1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes

1 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (fresh mint, chopped, may also be added if desired)

1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1 1/2 cups feta cheese, crumbled, more if needed, plus some for garnishing

1 cup fresh pine nuts plus extra for garnishing

Calamata olives, grape tomatoes and sprigs of parsley as topper

Butter bibb lettuce

For vinegar dressing:

1/2 cup of good (expensive, aged) balsamic vinegar

2/3 cup good, imported, extra virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon salt

5 cloves fresh garlic, pressed

3 1/2 tablespoons sugar: Granulated, raw, tubinado or honey

3/4 teaspoons coarse black pepper

Add boiling water, with 1 teaspoon salt dissolved in it, to couscous. Cover steaming bowl with plate and set aside while preparing vegetables.

Chop vegetables (except onion and parsley) into chunky 1/2-inch pieces. Place vegetables in large bowl. Drain excess liquid.

Fluff cooled couscous with fork, adding fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Toss together to mix in lemon flavor.

Place the couscous and lemon juice into the larger bowl with vegetables. Toss gently, yet thoroughly.

Mix vinegar dressing ingredients together. Recipe makes more than you will use so it also makes a great salad dressing. Adjust dressing to taste.

Add dressing to salad, a little at a time, tossing and tasting, to adjust salt, sugar or lemon juice.

Add enough vinegar dressing to flavor the salad well, but prevent it from becoming too wet and heavy. Wait a few minutes after each addition to allow flavor to mingle before adding more.

Incorporate cheese and nuts into salad lightly.

Top each serving with a bit more crumbled feta and a few pine nuts.

Serve over butter bibb lettuce, place a bit more vinegar dressing to lettuce, top with calamata olives, grape tomatoes and sprigs of parsley.

Keep refrigerated. Serve cool.

Accompany the salad with lavache flat bread or lavache "crackers."

- Courtesy of Shaharazade's owner Susan Dom

The Rhubarb House's pasta salad

Penne pasta

Olive oil

Garlic, minced

Sun-dried tomatoes, julienned

Artichoke hearts, quartered

Calamata olives

Feta cheese, crumbled

Parmesan cheese, shredded

1 teaspoon white wine

The quantity of each ingredient is up to the individual cook, according to Shellie Ralston, owner of The Rhubarb House on Hagerstown's Public Square.

Cook pasta and drain. Mix in olive oil, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives and wine. Put Parmesan cheese on top so it's melted by warm noodles and top with crumbled feta cheese.

- Courtesy of Rhubarb House owner Shellie Ralston

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