Back to the Kitchen: Really Big Salad Recipes for a Crowd (and some fundraising ideas)

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Recipes for a crowd

Recipes for a crowd

It is that time of year again — school fundraisers and end-of-the -year potlucks. Event locations like football fields play yards and parking lots can often create logistical nightmares.  I have rented equipment and built kitchens anywhere you can possibly think of —from the beach to the mountains, as well as a mausoleum at a cemetery.

For this column,  I created a lunch menu of all salads. Some of the challenges involved in preparing for a large crowd are satisfying the many different tastes and eating styles. This menu is simple and can be prepared ahead of time and kept for the day in coolers. It has lots of different powerful flavors and has something for vegetarians, vegans and meat eaters. You can serve two bowls of orzo, one without feta and even make a “chicken -less” salad for the vegans. These recipes can easily be expanded and you can add or delete items as it suits you. Have all of your elements washed, chopped and placed in plastic bags and kept in a cooler until ready to toss!

And speaking of fundraising here are two sites for all kinds of fun food related items: Fun Pasta Fundraising, Rewarding Fundraising Ideas.  If you want to learn how to fundraise,  here’s a book by Studio City resident Sarah Barrett that will get you started — A Mom’s Guide to Fundraising — it puts fundraising into perspective by comparing it to cooking.

Round this menu out  with whole fruit and sliced melon. Play with these recipes so you can create a perfect end of the year event or friends and family gathering!

Caprese Salad

1 pound dried orecchiette or pasta of your choice

2 pounds tomatoes roughly diced

1/2-1 pound fresh mozzarella, diced

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup basil, thinly sliced

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it heavily add the pasta and cook until done aldente (usually 2 minutes less than the package suggests.) Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes and cheese and put them in a very large bowl. Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Drain the hot pasta and shake it dry and add it to the bowl with the cheese and tomatoes and stir with a rubber spatula to combine. Add the dressing, and stir again, then fold in the basil and pine nuts. Garnish with more fresh basil. Serves 8.

Angel Hair Pasta Salad

1 pound dried angel hair pasta, broken

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1-cup broccoli florets

1-cup cauliflower florets

3 carrots, sliced

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 medium red and yellow sweet pepper, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1-cup mushrooms, sliced

2 cups pitted ripe olives, drained and sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1-cup maple balsamic vinaigrette (recipe follows)

1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain; rinse with cold water. Meanwhile, in a very large bowl, combine chopped tomato, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, celery, sweet pepper, onion, mushrooms, olives, and garlic. Add drained pasta to vegetable mixture. Add salad dressing; toss to coat. Sprinkle salad with parsley and Parmesan cheese. Toss again. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator for 4 to 24 hours. Stir before serving. Serves 8-10

Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2-tablespoon Dijon Mustard

1-tablespoon maple syrup

6-tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1-cup olive oil

Fresh ground pepper

Whisk all ingredients together and let stand for one hour.

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Buttermilk Balsamic

1 bunch asparagus

1 zucchini

2 yellow squash

1 eggplant

1 red pepper, seeded

2 ears corn

1 small jicama, chopped

10 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 bunch arugula

1 head romaine

Salt and pepper

Lightly coat asparagus, zucchini, squash, eggplant, pepper and corn with olive oil. Heat cast iron grill pan over high heat. Grill vegetables until tender. Toss arugula and romaine leaves with jicama and Tomatoes. With buttermilk balsamic dressing e in a bowl. Arrange on platter and top with grilled vegetables. You can top with ground pepper, shaved Parmesan or crumbled goat cheese.

Serves 10

Buttermilk Balsamic Dressing

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1-cup well-shaken low-fat buttermilk

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1-cup balsamic vinegar

1-cup olive oil

Whisk together all ingredients until well mixed. Let stand for one hour.

Turkish Salad

2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced

1 bunch radishes (about 10), sliced

1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)

1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley

1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled and pressed

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

50 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 (6-ounce) bag pita chips, crushed a little in the bag

In a large bowl, mix together the cucumbers, radishes, feta, and herbs. In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, oil, and garlic, then stir just enough into the vegetables to moisten. Refrigerate the salad for an hour or two if possible. Just before serving, stir in the tomatoes, more dressing to taste, and the pita chips, salt and pepper. Serves 8.

Asian Chicken Salad

For the dressing:

In a small bowl whisk together:

3 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1-cup peanut butter

1/4-cup soy sauce

1-cup rice wine vinegar

1-tablespoon wasabi paste

3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Crushed red pepper to taste

In a slow steady stream add:

1/4-cup sesame oil

1/2-cup canola oil

For the salad:

2 pounds chicken breasts, poached (see below)

3 cups white cabbage, shredded

3 cups red cabbage, shredded

2 large carrots, peeled, grated

4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro

Toss together and then lightly dress. Serves 8.

A note on poaching chicken breasts:

This is the simplest way to cook chicken breasts. (It even works for the frozen breasts in a bag.) Everyone says that my chicken is so tender. Place the breasts in a pot. Fill to cover with cold water. Add what ever you have and like. Garlic, salt, pepper onions, carrots, celery, fresh herbs, white wine. Bring to a boil and remove from heat and let stand for 20 minutes. It will be the most amazing chicken ever.

Broccoli Salad

1 large head broccoli

8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

1/2 cup finely diced red onion

1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1-cup mayonnaise

¼ cup Dijon Mustard

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1-cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Prepare broccoli by washing it well, trimming off large leaves, cutting florets into bite-size pieces and peeling the stem, then slicing thinly. Place in a large bowl and add crumbled bacon, onion and cheese; stir. In a small bowl combine mayo, mustard and vinegar. Pour over salad ingredients and toss well; refrigerate for at least 4 hours to let flavors blend. Just before serving, add the halved cherry tomatoes and stir again. Serves 12.

Orzo and Feta Salad

2 boxes (16 ounces) orzo pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cups feta cheese, diced

2 cucumbers, diced

2 red peppers, diced

2 pounds asparagus, grilled and chopped

2 cans large olives, sliced

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1-cup basil, chopped

1-cup virgin olive oil

1 cup lemon juice

Splash green Tabasco (to taste)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sauté 1 box of the orzo until golden brown. In a large soup pot bring water to a boil and cook all orzo until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Once orzo has cooled, in serving bowl mix orzo, olives, feta, red peppers, cucumbers, asparagus, parsley and basil. In small bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice and green Tabasco. Mix into salad. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate and chill before serving. Serves 12.

Soybean and Corn Salad

6 cups edamame, shelled and cooked

5 cups corn, off the cob cooked and cut or frozen, cooked

2 red bell peppers, finely chopped

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

3/4-cup limejuice

1-tablespoon cumin

Salt to taste

Mix all together. Taste. Adjust the lime. Unfortunately limes vary greatly in there flavor and juiciness. I always buy a few more than I need. Serves 8.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies.  

CLICK HERE to Learn from Gwen through her instructional videos featured on EHow.

Check out her websites and  Her Sweet and Savory Cookbook is available through AMAZON .



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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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