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story.lead_photo.caption Southwestern Chopped Salad includes lettuce, beans and fresh vegetables in a flavor-packed cilantro-lime-avocado dressing. ( Food styling/KELLY BRANT / Staton Breidenthal)

Summer is the season of potlucks and cookouts.

Photo by Staton Breidenthal
Layered Cornbread Salad combines cornbread, lettuce, turkey, tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, celery, bacon and cheese and tastes best when mixed in advance, making it ideal for a potluck or get-together.
Photo by Staton Breidenthal
Cashew Chicken Rotini Salad
Photo by Staton Breidenthal
Three Bean Salad is sweet and spicy, combining pinto and cannellini beans and black-eyed peas in a marinade of lime, cilantro, chile and sweetener.

Summer is also the season of foodborne illness.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, foodborne illness peaks during summer thanks to higher temperatures and higher humidity creating the ideal bacteria-breeding environment, not to mention how difficult it is to keep things sanitary while preparing foods outside.

According to food safety experts, most bacteria flourish between 90 and 110 degrees -- common daily temperatures for Arkansas summers. That's not to say you shouldn't take your favorite dish to the lake or your neighbor's potluck.

But there are a few things to keep in mind to keep the party going.

Food should never sit out for more than two hours -- one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees.

The Agriculture Department reminds consumers to clean, separate, cook and chill to keep foods safe.

Clean: Wash hands, surfaces and utensils often.

Separate: To prevent cross-contamination, wrap raw meats, poultry and fish well, place in zip-close bags and store them apart from other foods. Never place cooked food on the same plate or platter that was used for raw food unless the dish has been washed thoroughly in hot, soapy water. Don't use the same cutting board for raw meats that you use for fruits, vegetables and cooked foods.

Cook: Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are heated to the appropriate temperature -- 165 degrees for all poultry and ground meats including beef and pork; and 145 degrees with a 5-minute rest for steaks, chops and roasts.

Chill: Perishables such as deli meats, cooked meats and chicken, dressed salads (including pasta and potato) and anything with mayonnaise or dairy should be kept in an insulated cooler with several inches of ice, ice packs or frozen bottles of water. Consider separate coolers for foods and beverages since beverage coolers will likely be opened much more frequently than food.

Other tips to keep in mind:

• Serve large recipes in batches, keeping the bulk of the recipe in a cooler until it's time to replenish the serving bowl.

• Don't set up the food tables in direct sun. Keep coolers in a shady area as well.

I recently polled friends and family via Facebook about their favorite potluck salads, with delicious results. Among their answers were the expected potato salads, bean salads and seven-layer salad, but there were some new ones, too.

Any of these would be excellent for taking to an Independence Day get-together.

My Aunt Frances Shaw introduced me to this chopped salad, which is full of summery flavors.

Southwestern Chopped Salad

2 avocados, peeled and pitted, divided use

1 1/2 cups loosely packed cilantro leaves

Juice of 2 limes

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1/3 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar

Salt, to taste

1 large head romaine lettuce, finely chopped

1 (15-ounce) can beans such as black beans, pinto beans or kidney beans, rinsed

1 cup diced red, yellow or orange bell pepper, or a combination

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

2 cups corn kernels

5 green onions, finely chopped

In a blender, combine 1 of the avocados, the cilantro, lime juice, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and salt to taste. Puree until smooth. Chill until ready to serve.

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, beans, bell pepper, tomatoes, corn and green onion. Toss to combine. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Just before serving, dice the remaining avocado, add it to the salad and toss with dressing. Dressing can be served on the side, if desired.

Makes about 16 cups.

Recipe adapted from thegardengrazer.com

This Ghanaian-style bean salad gets a kick of heat from one of the world's hottest chiles. For a tamer version, use a less-hot pepper such as jalapeno or Fresno.

Three Bean Salad

1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans

1 (15-ounce) can black-eyed peas

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves

1 Scotch bonnet chile, seeded and diced OR other hot pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Juice of 1 lime

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon honey

Drain and rinse the beans. Drain again. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cilantro, chile, garlic, salt, black pepper, lime juice, olive oil, brown sugar and honey. Add beans and toss to coat. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Makes about 8 servings.

Recipe adapted from Zoe's Ghana Kitchen: Traditional Ghanaian Recipes Remixed for the Modern Kitchen by Zoe Adjonyoh

Here chicken salad is combined with another summer favorite, pasta salad for a filling, yet refreshing salad fit for a crowd.

Cashew Chicken Rotini Salad

1 (12- or 16-ounce) package rotini pasta

4 cups diced cooked chicken

1 cup halved green grapes

1 cup halved red grapes

2 to 3 ribs celery, diced

1 (5-ounce) package dried cranberries

1 1/2 cups ranch salad dressing

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

2 cups salted cashews

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Rinse in cold water; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, grapes, celery and cranberries. Add pasta and dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill at least 1 hour. Stir in cashews just before serving.

Makes about 18 cups.

Recipe adapted from Julie Evink at julieseatsandtreats.com

Black Bean and Corn Salad

2 cups corn kernels, thawed if using frozen

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or olive oil, optional

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and well drained

5 or 6 green onions, white and green parts, chopped

1 large sweet banana pepper, seeded and chopped (can substitute Anaheim or other mild pepper)

1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

1 teaspoon chile powder

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro OR flat-leaf parsley

If desired, skillet-roast corn in an iron skillet with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat, just until lightly browned.

In a large bowl, combine corn, black beans, green onions, banana pepper and tomatoes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the 6 tablespoons olive oil, the lime juice, red-wine vinegar, chile powder, salt and pepper. Pour over vegetables and toss to coat. Cover and chill for 1 to 12 hours before serving. Stir in cilantro just before serving.

Makes about 8 servings.

Recipe adapted from Southern Holidays: A Savor the South Cookbook by Debbie Moose

Layered Cornbread Salad

1 (6-ounce) package buttermilk cornbread mix PLUS ingredients listed on package (see note)

1 medium-large head romaine lettuce, finely chopped

1/2 pound chopped smoked turkey (we used deli turkey)

2 red or yellow bell peppers or a combination, chopped

2 large tomatoes, chopped OR 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered

1 small or 1/2 large red onion, diced

1 cup diced celery

2 cups shredded cheese such as Swiss, cheddar or Monterrey jack

10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 1/2 to 2 cups creamy salad dressing such as parmesan-peppercorn or buttermilk ranch

2 green onions, thinly sliced OR 1/4 cup fresh snipped chives

Prepare cornbread according to package directions. Cool and crumble; set aside.

In a large serving bowl, or in individual serving vessels such as wide-mouth canning jars, layer half of the crumbled cornbread, lettuce, turkey, peppers, tomatoes, red onion, celery, cheese and bacon. Spoon about half of the dressing over the top. Repeat layers, ending with dressing. Cover and chill 8 to 24 hours. Top with green onions or chives just before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Note: Can substitute your favorite cornbread recipe to make 4 cups crumbled.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living's Community Cookbook

My cousin Elizabeth Martindale turned me on to this potluck-friendly take on the taco salad.

Doritos Salad

1 pound lean ground beef

1 (1.25-ounce) packet reduced-sodium taco seasoning OR 2 tablespoons homemade (see note)

1 medium or large head iceberg lettuce, cored and chopped

1 medium or large tomato, diced

2 cups shredded cheddar or jack cheese

1 (15-ounce) can pinto or black beans, rinsed

1/2 red onion, diced

1/4 to 1/2 cup sliced black olives, optional

1 cup bottled Catalina or roasted red pepper vinaigrette

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced, optional

1 (10-ounce) bag OR 10 (1-ounce) bags Nacho Cheese Doritos, broken into small pieces

In a large skillet, cook the ground beef, breaking it up into crumbles, until browned. Drain off excess fat/liquid. Stir in taco seasoning until well coated. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, tomato, cheese, beans, diced red onion, olives and dressing. Toss to coat. Add cooled beef and mix well. Cover and chill until ready to serve. If using the large bag of chips, add them along with the avocado when serving. For portable individual servings, spoon salad mixture into the small bags of chips. Top with avocado.

Makes 12 servings.

Note: To make your own taco seasoning, combine 4 teaspoons onion powder, 1/4 cup chile powder (hot or mild), 1 teaspoon salt (optional), 4 teaspoons cornstarch, 11/4 teaspoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons cumin, 11/2 teaspoons dried oregano, ground red pepper and/or crushed red pepper flakes to taste and mix well. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Zoltan Lapicz suggested this broccoli salad.

Broccoli Cranberry Salad

1 cup mayonnaise, more or less to taste

2 tablespoons agave syrup or other sweetener

2 tablespoons lemon juice OR red-wine vinegar

3 crowns broccoli, cut into tiny florets

1/2 cup chopped red onion

6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1/4 cup dried cranberries

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, agave and lemon juice; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, onion, bacon, walnuts and cranberries and mix well. Drizzle mayonnaise mixture over vegetable mixture and toss to coat. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Makes about 8 servings.

Food on 06/28/2017

Print Headline: Salad days

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