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HCC Culinary Arts presents cool and creative summer salads for Fourth of July celebrations

Jun 27, 2019

If you can’t stand the heat this Independence Day, Houston Community College (HCC) says it is more healthy for you to get out of the kitchen. Chef Christy Sykes, Culinary Arts faculty for HCC’s Consumer Arts & Science Center of Excellence, promotes salads as alternatives to the usual meat-heavy meals served during the holiday.
 
“You’re firing up the grill outside anyway,” said Chef Sykes, who teaches a healthy cuisine class. “So why not jazz up the menu with these salads that you can serve with or without meat.”
 
Chef Sykes and her class offered two entrée salads, two side salads, and two “mocktails” that would step up any backyard barbecue. As a student showed her the quinoa salad to be presented, she asked for red pepper to be finely diced and added to the dish because it needed more color.
 
“Eat the rainbow,” Chef Sykes said, advising everyone she meets of the health benefits of color. “That represents the nutrients our body needs.”
 
Chef Sykes is also passionate about the health benefits of quinoa, a gluten-free seed that is often considered a grain, but it is actually more closely related to spinach.

"Quinoa is one of the only greens that has all eight essential amino acids, and it is a complete protein food," she said.
 
Another summer favorite is simple potato salad, but Chef Sykes doesn’t believe that it has to be ordinary.
 
“We added chipotle and cilantro for a kick to the potato salad,” she said. “We want to elevate it to another level.”
 
For one of her main dish salads, Chef Sykes used fennel and leeks served warm with caramelized oranges and topped it with grilled salmon.
 
“Citrus and fennel are popular with seafood, in general,” she said. “But adding salmon naturally enhances the flavor profile and has the added health benefits of that salmon provides.”

She grilled the salmon, like the chicken she used as an optional part of the warm spinach and strawberry main course salad she prepared, but only those two of the six were cooked, and they could both be grilled outside.
 
“This entire meal was very fresh and required very little cooking,” said Chef Sykes, adding that, the less processed the food it, the better it is for us.
 
“More and more people are passionate about the origins of their food,” she said. “This farm-to-table movement is not going away anytime soon.”
 
To make sure her health tips have been seared into the minds of home cooks, HCC offers the following cooking advice:
 

A summer holiday gathering is also a great time to put a new spin on drinks, so Chef Sykes has offered two made with club soda.
 
“I came up with the idea to do these drinks because seltzers are super popular right now,” she said. “I didn’t want to make them overly sweet, so I thought I would use the natural sweetness of berries and agave and lime juice for some tartness.”
 
She came up with a blackberry and cucumber seltzer, with mint, that can also become a true cocktail by adding gin, said Chef Sykes.
 
Heart Healthy Summer Recipes for a Happy Fourth of July:
 
Healthy Summer Recipes
 
 
Agua Fresca
Yield: About 2 cups
 
Aguas Frescas are incredibly refreshing, unfiltered fruit juices that are perfect for summertime.
 
 
INGREDIENTS:
1 c.            Fresh Fruit, roughly chopped
(strawberries, peeled cucumber, cantaloupe, pineapple, or watermelon recommended)
1 c.            Water
(if using watermelon, no added water necessary; just use reserved juice)
½ ea.         Lime, juice only
1 tsp.         Sweetener
(pure cane sugar, agave nectar, or stevia)
2 lf.            Fresh Mint, optional
(perfect with cucumber)
 
 
METHOD OF PREPARATION:
In a blender container, combine the fruit, water, lime juice, sweetener and optional mint leaves.
Purée until very smooth.
Taste and, if necessary, add more lime and/or sweetener, then blend briefly again.
Serve immediately, over ice.
 


 
Blackberry Mint Mocktail
Yield: 4-6 servings
 
Chef Note: This tart and refreshing drink is great as is, or especially festive with your favorite gin!
 
Ingredients:
10 sprigs                Fresh Mint, leaves only
½ med.                  Seedless Cucumber, sliced ¼” thick
2 pt.                       Fresh Blackberries
¾ cup                    Fresh Lime Juice, about 4 limes
½ cup                    Filtered Water
3-4 T                      Turbinado Sugar (you may sub powdered or superfine sugar)
 
1 cup                     Cold Club Soda
                  Crushed Ice
Garnishes: cucumber slices, fresh blackberries, lime wedges, mint sprigs
 
Method of Preparation:
Place first 6 ingredients in a large pitcher.
Gently press mint leaves, cucumbers, and blackberries against side of pitcher with a wooden spoon to release flavors; allow to rest in the refrigerator for about an hour, up to four.
For service, divide infused mixture evenly into glasses with ice and stir in club soda.
Garnish as desired.
 
 
Caramelized Fennel, Leek & Orange Salad
Yield 4 servings
 
Chef Note: This salad is wonderful as is, or add your favorite protein like grilled salmon for an entrée salad option at your next get together!
 
 
Ingredients:
    1 T   Butter
    1½ T            Coriander Sugar (or whisk freshly ground coriander with unrefined sugar)
    1ea  Navel Orange, peeled and pith removed, fruit cut into 1/2-inch rounds
 
    2T    Extra-virgin olive oil
    1 ea Fennel Bulb, cored & sliced 1/4-inch thick
    1 ea             Leek, white and light green parts sliced 1/4-inch thick on the diagonal
            Freshly Ground Coriander
    ¼ c  Sambuca White or Ouzo (liqueur)
            Salt and pepper
            Zest of 1/2 Orange, for garnish
    2 T   Fennel Fronds, chopped or picked, for garnish
 
Method of Preparation:
Caramelize the Orange Slices:
In a skillet just large enough to hold your orange slices in one layer, heat the butter.
When it’s melted and is foaming, add the coriander sugar and stir to melt sugar.
When sugar has started to caramelized, lower heat to medium and add the orange slices.
Cook 3 minutes, flip, lower heat to medium-low, cook 2 minutes more, and remove from heat.
 
For Salad:
In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
When it’s hot, add the fennel and leek slices and sprinkle with ground coriander.
Allow to sear for 3 minutes, flip, and deglaze with Sambuca; Sprinkle somewhat generously with salt and cook 3 minutes more.
Remove the fennel and leeks from the heat and transfer carefully to a serving bowl.
Layer the orange slices carefully over them, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and toss the fennel fronds and orange zest over; Serve.
 
Caramelized Fennel, Leek & Orange Salad
Yield 4 servings
 
Chef Note: This salad is wonderful as is, or add your favorite protein like grilled salmon for an entrée salad option at your next get together!
 
 
Ingredients:
    1 T   Butter
    1½ T            Coriander Sugar (or whisk freshly ground coriander with unrefined sugar)
    1ea  Navel Orange, peeled and pith removed, fruit cut into 1/2-inch rounds
 
    2T    Extra-virgin olive oil
    1 ea Fennel Bulb, cored & sliced 1/4-inch thick
    1 ea             Leek, white and light green parts sliced 1/4-inch thick on the diagonal
            Freshly Ground Coriander
    ¼ c  Sambuca White or Ouzo (liqueur)
            Salt and pepper
            Zest of 1/2 Orange, for garnish
    2 T   Fennel Fronds, chopped or picked, for garnish
 
Method of Preparation:
Caramelize the Orange Slices:
In a skillet just large enough to hold your orange slices in one layer, heat the butter.
When it’s melted and is foaming, add the coriander sugar and stir to melt sugar.
When sugar has started to caramelized, lower heat to medium and add the orange slices.
Cook 3 minutes, flip, lower heat to medium-low, cook 2 minutes more, and remove from heat.
 
For Salad:
In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
When it’s hot, add the fennel and leek slices and sprinkle with ground coriander.
Allow to sear for 3 minutes, flip, and deglaze with Sambuca; Sprinkle somewhat generously with salt and cook 3 minutes more.
Remove the fennel and leeks from the heat and transfer carefully to a serving bowl.
Layer the orange slices carefully over them, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and toss the fennel fronds and orange zest over; Serve.
 
Smoky New Potato Salad
Yield 4 servings
 
Ingredients:
1 ½ #         Small Red New Potatoes
¼ cup        Mayonnaise
1 T.            Shallot, minced
2 tsp.         Fresh Lime Juice
1 tsp.         Adobo Sauce
2 tsp.         Olive Oil
1 cl.           Garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T.                        Fresh Cilantro, minced
 
Method of Preparation:
Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover by 2 inches with cold salted water.
Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until just tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the mayonnaise, shallot, lime juice and adobo in a medium bowl; set aside.
Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes; set aside.
Drain the potatoes and let them sit until cool enough to handle but still very warm, 3 to 4 minutes; Cut the potatoes into wedges and add to the mayonnaise mixture.
Toss to combine, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil and garlic mixture. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve warm or room temperature.
 
 
Summer Strawberry Spinach Salad
Yield 4 servings
 
Chef Note: This salad is wonderful as is, or add your favorite protein like blackened or grilled chicken for an entrée salad option at your next get together!
 
Ingredients:
½ #      Fresh Baby Spinach
2 sl.      Bacon, minced
2 T.      Clarified Butter
1ea.     Shallot, medium, finely minced
1oz.     Brown Sugar
2oz.     Canola Oil
2oz.     Red Wine Vinegar
½ T.     Fresh Lemon Juice
6 ea.    Fresh Strawberries, sliced thinly
½ ea.   Red Onion, julienne
1 c.      Toasted Pecans, chopped
2 oz.    Goat Cheese, crumbles
 
 
Method of Preparation:
Place clean, dry spinach leaves into large mixing bowl; reserve.
In a skillet over medium heat, render bacon with butter until crisp and all fat has melted; remove bacon bits.
Add minced shallots & brown sugar to the pan and stir, allowing it to melt into the fat.
Once sugar is melted, whisk in oil, vinegar and lemon juice.
Season lightly if needed and reserve warm.
For Service, carefully place a portion of the spinach on a chilled salad plate; dress with about 1.5oz of the reserved dressing
Garnish with sliced strawberries, julienne red onion, and pecans
Finish sprinkling crumbled goat cheese over the entire salad.
Serve immediately or chill until service, up to 2 hours.
 


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