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Simple Elegant Salad for a Crowd

In the next two weeks, I'll need to bring salads to several parties (book club, birthday party and potluck.) I'm stumped for ideas that are easy for me to throw together yet looks really nice and appetizing. What's your favorite simple dressing and what are your favorite salads that people go wild over? Best lettuce mixes, cheese and other yummy things do you throw in?

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  1. I'm a huuuuuuge fan of baby romaine, thinly-sliced tart green apples, toasted walnuts, sliced green (or spring) onions, not-too-salty Feta, and lemony olive oil vinaigrette. Another nice, classic salad is avocado and sliced grapefruit with a chopped green-olive vinaigrette. And if you want to go all retro, layered salad: shredded iceberg, tomato cubes, bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, green onions, green bell pepper,frozen peas, and chopped egg: layer it in a straight-sided clear glass bowl. Now mix 1&1/2 c. good mayo with 1/2 c. shredded parmesan, and pour over top, sealing it completely. Refrigerate overnight; when ready to serve, toss well. People go crazy for this. Chopped panzanella salad (tomatoes, cukes, onions,cubed provolone cheese, basil, croutons, rough-chopped) tossed w/ vinaigrette is great served in hollowed out med. tomatoes.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mamachef

      I do the layered salad as well. I add a layer of diced celery and one of diced water chestnuts as well as they give it an extra crunch but don't use egg. My last layer is always the peas. I've also been know to add diced red pepper for color. For the topping, I spread on the mayo first just like you would icing, then a layer of parm, then sprinkle with about a tablespoon of sugar. I am always asked for the recipe and I never have any to take home.

      1. re: boyzoma

        I LOVE your additions, what a nice crunchy layer of munchable goodness. And you know, the sugar is a pretty brilliant touch. It would totally bring out the flavor of the parm without being overkill. And diced red pepper; I think I'd combine green and red just for another layer of contrast. And A good sharp grind of black pepper too, just before tossing. Yeah, baby.

        1. re: mamachef

          I've actually done all the different types of peppers. Depends on what is in my fridge. Sometimes it is a combo of red, green, yellow and orange. Good call on the grind of black pepper too. I usually have left that to the guests if they need it. But the best thing is being able to make this the day before. Sure saves time for the day of.

    2. Mamachef's suggestions are awesome. One of my favorites consists of mixed greens, chopped walnuts or pecans, chopped fresh mango, crabmeat, feta & a raspberry vinigarette. If you have wonderful fresh heirloom tomatoes, a simple caprese is always good.

      1. If you can still get good peaches, I highly suggest a salad of arugula and/or mixed baby lettuces, shaved red onion, seeded cukes and fresh sliced peaches with Vidalia vinaigrette; it's been my suummer go to salad. You can slice peaches just before serving.

        I also like to do a pasta salad with small pasta like shells, bow ties, etc. Roast off some tomatoes, onions & garlic for a vinaigrette. Toss pasta with frozen & thawed peas, blanched broccoli, grated carrot, diced seeded cukes, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped raw onion, thinly sliced celery, some shredded smoked gouda and the tomato vinaigrette. Serve in a pretty bowl lined with lettuce.

        Finally, a lot of people love my Caribbean Coconut Jerk Chicken Salad with Sweet Potatoes... Season chicken breasts with jerk seasoning blend & grill then cool & thinly slice or dice. Peel, dice & simmer sweet potatoes until fork tender then drain & cool. Toss the sweet potatoes & chicken with diced celery, cilantro, red bell peppers, red onions and a coconut vinaigrette. Garnish with lightly toasted coconut & cilantro.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Cherylptw

          OK, Cheryl, your meals are always amazing, but you're killing me with that Caribbean Coconut Jerk Chicken Salad with Sweet Potatoes -- would you mind posting proportions/instructions? Thanks!

          1. re: Cherylptw

            Cheryl how do you make your coconut vinaigrette. I would like to make this for a Christmas Dinner next week.

          2. I love a great panzanella but prefer mine to be tomatoes, celery, cilantro, shaved parm, red onion and stale bread cubed - dressed with fresh squeezed lemon juice and olive oil. Many times will also add chopped port mushrooms, left over corn off the cob, shaved carrots for lil more color.

            One day (when my kitchen is done) I want to hold a big potluck where everyone just brings a salad - I just love them and find they can be so diverse. I also enjoy a great couscous salad loaded with roasted veggies.

            I think it's epicurious that has a fantastic grilled salad, and dressing to die for:
            http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

            1. Make a cherry tomato and green bean salad with some light salad dressing of rice wine vinegar, lime juice, EVOO and some diced garlic (with s/p to taste).

              The color contrast between the tomatoes (red) and the beans (green) makes a stunning presentation, and if you use a deft touch with the salad dressing the herbal flavors of the beans and sweet/tartness of the tomatoes really play off each other like a well-orchestrated Mozart symphony.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                Second this....especially if you still have access to multi-colored tomatoes to throw into the mix!

                Also, I'll often use lemon juice instead of lime, and add in the lemon zest so that lovely yellow bits are running throughout. You may want to add a drop of honey to the dressing if the tomatoes seem overly acidic.

                1. re: 4Snisl

                  I've made this salad with grilled corn, thinly sliced red onions and nectarines with the Caesar vinaigrette I posted below. DE-LIC-IOUS! A truly beautiful summer farmer's market salad.