The spring and summer months are filled with gatherings - celebrations, family reunions, office picnics, you name it. Hosting these events can take a lot out of a person. Here's an idea, set up a salad bar. As the host, you get to join the group to socialize rather than fret in the kitchen. It takes a little advance planning and a good imagination, but it can be colorful and creative.
In the planning stages it is helpful to organize lists of serving dishes and utensils to be used, food choices, and a fairly precise time schedule for preparation. Many of the items will require chilling, so check the refrigerator for plenty of space, as well as sources for extra ice.
Provide generously sized plates at the front end of the salad bar. The plates should be made of china, plastic or glass. Avoid paper plates, as they get soggy and limp. Plates and eating utensils should be cold, but not chilled, particularly if it is a casual, sit-anywhere event.
At the other end of the salad bar provide a cluster of dressings, both clear and creamy. Olive oil, balsamic or cider vinegar and lemon juice should also be included. Whatever the dressing, it is a courtesy and a convenience to your guests to make the serving vessel a pitcher or small wine carafe for spill-proof pouring. Identify dressings with labels so that guests need not guess, sniff or taste to discover their favorites.
Every salad bar needs bread. Make it fun and interesting by serving a variety of hearty loaves, rolls, crackers or bread sticks.
Consider a themed salad bar. It's fun and different. Here are a few ideas to get you started
Mediterranean Theme Create antipasto salad with fresh mozzarella cheese, marinated beans, fresh or pickled mushrooms, giardinira vegetables, an assortment of olives, vinaigrette dressing, sliced zucchini, and marinated eggplant. Have plenty of fresh spinach, butter lettuce or crisp Romaine leaves. It's nice to offer both creamy and traditional Italian dressing. A crusty, hearty loaf style bread compliments this theme. Add Fennel Salad and a lovely Aegean Salad.
Asian Theme Consider offering shredded Napa or Asian cabbage, as well as Romaine lettuce. Add chopped bean sprouts, water chestnuts, fried noodles, sliced celery, cold cooked rice, pineapple, green and red peppers, ginger, chutney, and toasted almonds. Offer an Asian ginger-soy sauce dressing. Thai Fruit & Vegetable Salad and Oriental Ramon Salad complement this collection.
Tex-Mex Theme Makings for a taco salad to be assembles as follows: shredded lettuce, tortilla chips, taco seasoned ground beef, chopped tomatoes, sliced black olives, chilies, cooked corn, chopped onion, black and pinto beans, pepitas, and shredded cheese. Make certain to have both hot and mild fresh salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. Texas Slaw, Black Bean Salad and a Fiesta Salad will make this a feast!
Middle East Theme Start with small spinach leaves, kalamata and a variety of other olives, thinly sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese, chickpeas, zucchini spears, curried rice, toasted sesame seeds, fresh or dried figs. Your group will love the Shrimp & Orzo Salad and traditional Tabbouleh Salad.
The selection of foods to put in a salad bar is limitless. Cater to all taste buds with sour, sweet and salty choices. Here are a few suggestions, but your own experience or knowledge of your guests will lead you to dozens of discoveries of your own!
Vegetables alfalfa sprouts, asparagus spears, avocado slices, baby corn, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, broccoli, carrot sticks, cauliflower, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, chopped mushrooms, cooked pears, cucumber slices, garbanzo beans, green onions, green and red pepper rings, guacamole, kidney beans, marinated artichoke hearts, marinated green beans, onion rings, parsley springs, pea pods, pickled beets, radishes, sauerkraut, water chestnuts, watercress, zucchini spears
Fruit apple wedges, banana slices, blackberries, blueberries, craisins, grapefruit sections, golden raisins, grapes, melon balls, nectarine and peach slices, orange sections, papaya slices, pear slices, persimmons, pineapple cubes, raspberries, strawberries
Protein bacon bits, bleu cheese crumbles, cottage cheese, ham and turkey cubes, hard boiled eggs, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, shredded cheeses, sliced almonds, sunflower seeds
Other fun things capers, chilies, chutney, croutons, crystallized ginger, hummus, jellied cranberry sauce, Jello cubes, lemon wedges, mint sprigs, pickles, pimientos, olives, salsas, seasoned salts
Make it fresh, make it special...Make it a Salad Bar!
More fun ideas for your salad bar....