Wednesday, July 14, 2010

variety of veggies means saying goodbye to ho-hum salads - recipe: caprese salad skewers

Arugula, mache or dandelion greens? Hallumi, chevre or gorgonzola? Meyer lemon dressing, Asian sesame drizzle or Ponzu vinaigrette? Don’t forget the accompaniments such as crispy wonton strips, candied nuts and apple chips. Due to the plethora of grocery store items from which to choose, gone are the days of ho-hum salads.

While salad ingredients and their combinations are more creative than ever, the presentation of salads hasn’t changed all that much. As a food shop and catering business owner, one of my favourite tasks is coming up with creative ways to present standard fare such as salads.

Here are five ideas for one-or two-bite salads that are consistently received with what I like to call the “wow factor”.

fresh salad rolls

Rice paper wraps (pre-soaked in water) filled with Asian ingredients like shrimp, fresh herbs, shredded vegetables, mango and hoisin sauce. For a twist, try something different like Japanese caesar salad rolls (romaine, edamame, crispy bacon, wasabi caesar dressing) or pad thai summer rollas.

mini parmesan cup salads

Make tiny parmesan cups using mini-muffin tins. Stuff cups with chopped mixed greens and roasted grape tomatoes; drizzle with reduced balsamic to finish.

mini cucumber

cup salads Cut a cucumber into one inch slices and use a melon-baller to scoop out the centre of each slice, leaving a shell of flesh. For a one-bite Greek salad, fill cups with chopped tomatoes, olives, fresh oregano, red onion and feta cheese. For something less conventional, how about sesame Asian chicken or shrimp salad?

mini filled cherry tomato salads

Using a bread knife, cut a thin slice off the bottoms of cherry tomatoes so that they will sit flat. Then cut a thin slice from tops of the cherry tomatoes. Using a melon-baller, carefully scoop out the centres, leaving ‘shells’ of tomato flesh.

For mini BLT’s, stuff the tomatoes with bacon, lettuce and lemon-pepper mayo. For a Mexican twist, fill them with guacamole and top with a few black beans and a sprig of cilantro.


I’ve found that almost any salad can be re-invented using a skewer. Skewers make for a fun presentation and are perfect for buffets or casual “fork only” dinners where guests sit on a chair or sofa instead of at the dining room table. In a nutshell, you skewer the various salad items.

I always use a mini four inch skewer. Guests dip the skewers into dressing.

For a Cobb salad, thread a skewer with a piece of bibb lettuce, a piece of avocado, a grape tomato, a piece of bacon (or a cube of ham) and a piece of hard-boiled egg (or a halved quail’s egg). Serve with a blue cheese dipping sauce.

For a pasta primavera salad, thread a four inch skewer with a small (cooked) cheese tortellini, cubes of roasted grilled vegetables (i. e. pepper, eggplant, zucchini) and finish with a second cheese tortellini. Dip in marinara sauce or red pepper pesto.

Caesar, Greek and Caprese salad skewers work well too.

caprese salad skewers

makes about two dozen

ingredients for skewers

  • 48 grape tomatoes
  • 48 mini bocconcini mozzarella balls
  • 1 cup homemade or store bought pesto

ingredients for reduced balsamic dressing

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup light soya sauce

method for skewers

  • Marinate bocconcini in pesto for an hour or up to two days in fridge.
  • Thread a four inch skewer with a grape tomato, a bocconcini ball and repeat.
  • Dip skewers into reduced balsamic dressing, or drizzle skewers with balsamic dressing before serving.

method for dressing

Place all ingredients in a pot and boil on high heat until thickened, about six to nine minutes.

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