Satisfying summer salads

Easy-to-make dishes that are light but filling.

Summer salads (photo credit: Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)
Summer salads
(photo credit: Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)
During the summer, when I come home hungry, I often crave a salad that relieves my hunger pangs quickly, with no greens to get in the way of immediate satisfaction. At such times I am likely to choose one of the time-honored deli standards – egg salad, tuna salad or chicken salad. Staples of Jewish delicatessens in the US, they are also common on the menus of diners and other simple American eateries.
I particularly appreciate that they are very easy to make at home. The basic method for preparing these salads is to mix the main ingredient with mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Finely chopped celery is a popular addition, but I don’t put it in my egg salad. Even as a child, I thought it interfered with the wonderful combination of eggs and mayonnaise.
Actually what we consider old-fashioned egg salad has not been around forever. Ashkenazi Jews originally made egg salad without mayonnaise. They mixed hard-boiled eggs with schmaltz (chicken fat) and raw grated onion, or sometimes sauteed the onion in the schmaltz for a more mellow flavor.
Egg salad is so popular that even people who avoid eggs still want to enjoy it. They make eggless tofu “egg salad” by mixing crumbled tofu with mayonnaise, and adding mustard to make it yellow. It tastes fine to me, but I don’t consider it a substitute for the real thing.
When I make tuna or chicken salad, I occasionally add grated hard-boiled eggs. The eggs help balance the saltiness of the canned tuna and the chicken. Other salads can be made this way with different fish, such as canned salmon or, better still, cooked fresh salmon, cod or sole.
As much as I love the classic formulas of these salads, I very much enjoyed the delicious egg salad that my sister-in-law, Hedva Cohen, prepared at her home in Givatayim. Instead of adding celery, Hedva mixed the coarsely grated eggs and mayonnaise with aromatic fresh dill and with some finely chopped white part of green onion – just a bit, for a subtle kick. She served it with sliced whole-grain bread, tomatoes and cucumbers.
Instead of part of the mayonnaise, I like to add avocado to any of these salads, either in cubes or mashed. Not only is it tasty, it also improves the salad’s nutrition.
Eggplant with eggs is another pairing I like. One day, I mixed grated hard-boiled eggs into my usual eggplant-mayonnaise salad with garlic, and found the new salad very tasty. Eggplant with tehina is also good with chopped hard-boiled eggs added.
Sharon Lebewohl and Rena Bulkin, authors of The Second Avenue Deli Cookbook, which features recipes from the famous Jewish delicatessen in New York, enhance their egg salad with sauteed onions and mushrooms.
When preparing chicken salad, they recommend using boiled chicken chopped into pieces not bigger than 1 cm. (1⁄2 inch) and preferably then pulsed a few times in the food processor to create a shredded texture. For a fruity variation of traditional chicken salad, they stir in diced apple, dried tarragon and golden raisins that have been briefly sauteed in oil to bring out their flavor.
Russians love mayonnaise almost as much as sour cream, noted Anya Van Bremzen and John Welchman, authors of Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook, and combine both in their fish salad – Estonian cod salad with diced cucumbers, which is flavored with horseradish, fresh dill and chopped onion.
They commented that the mayonnaise-dressed Russian chicken and potato salad known as Salade Olivier, which they make with hard boiled eggs, cooked carrots, peas, diced apple, dill pickles and Dijon mustard, has become a classic and “seems to be on every hotel menu in both eastern and western Europe.” The first time I had Salade Olivier was at a Persian deli in California.
Compared to these European-style salads, Van Bremzen and Welchman’s Georgian chicken salad has an exotic character. It gains its lively flavor from cilantro (fresh coriander) and, in addition to the mayonnaise, is enriched with walnuts and wellbrowned onions.
You can serve any of these salads with fresh or toasted bread or use them as sandwich fillings. If you do want some greens, mound the salad on a bed of lettuce that has been drizzled with a bit of vinaigrette dressing and garnish it with cherry tomatoes.
The writer is the author of Faye Levy’s International Jewish Cookbook.
Make this salad with any cooked fish – poached, baked, broiled, grilled – or with canned salmon or tuna. It’s delicious in a sandwich with thinly sliced cucumbers or tomatoes, or served on greens. If you like, add chopped celery. For extra flavor, you can add a little chopped smoked fish or lox, or a sprinkling of capers. You can substitute lowfat mayonnaise for regular, or make the dressing with part yogurt, leben or sour cream.
2 cups cooked salmon or other fish, or 170 gr.(6 oz.) canned, flaked2 green onions, green and white parts, finely chopped3 to 5 Tbsp. mayonnaise2 to 4 tsp. strained fresh lemon juice, or to taste1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dillcayenne pepper to tastefreshly ground black pepper to tastesalt to taste (optional)
Combine salmon and green onions. Stir in 3 Tbsp. mayonnaise, 2 tsp. lemon juice and the dill. Season to taste with cayenne and black pepper, and if necessary, add more mayonnaise or lemon juice. Add salt only if needed. Serve cold.
Makes 2 servings
EGG SALAD WITH ONIONS AND MUSHROOMSThis recipe is from The Second Avenue Deli Cookbook.
Sharon Lebewohl and Rena Bulkin use schmaltz (chicken fat) to saute the onions and mushrooms and to enrich the salad, but note that you can substitute corn oil when sauteing and omit the final enrichment. To get 2 cups sliced mushrooms, you will need about 170 gr. (6 oz.) whole mushrooms.
For a smoother version of the egg-and-mayonnaise mixture, they recommend chopping the eggs finely in a blender or food processor and then using the processor to blend in the mayonnaise.
Anya Van Bremzen and John Welchman consider this kind of salad to be Russian and flavor their mayonnaise dressing with chopped dill, Dijon mustard and lemon juice. They recommend serving the salad on a thick slice of sourdough rye accompanied by a crunchy deli pickle.
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. corn oil2 Tbsp. schmaltz2 cups chopped onions2 cups sliced mushrooms, thoroughly scrubbed and cut into 2-cm. (3⁄4-in.) slices, then each slice cut into small pieces about 5 mm. (3⁄16 in.) wide12 hard-boiled eggs1⁄2 cup mayonnaise1⁄4 tsp. white peppersalt to taste (optional)
Heat 1 Tbsp. of the corn oil and 1 Tbsp. of the schmaltz in a large skillet, and saute the onions, stirring often, until nicely browned. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
Add 1 tsp. each of corn oil and schmaltz to the skillet, and brown mushrooms well over medium-high heat. Add to the bowl with the onions, and let cool.
Peel eggs, and mash them with a fork or potato masher in a large bowl. Add mayonnaise, 2 tsp. of the schmaltz and pepper, and mash in thoroughly. In a large bowl, use a fork to toss egg mixture with onions and mushrooms.
Add salt if needed. Serve chilled.
Makes 6 servings