Category Archives: Recipes – Salads

Sharpe Family Caesar Salad

Though a Caesar salad is a great choice any time, I enjoy making it as a one-dish winter meal. There is something so satisfying in the texture of the fresh romaine lettuce, the crunch of croutons, and the thick flavorful dressing; it just seems that this salad is the perfect pop of flavor for taste buds grown tired of heavy bland offerings.

The recipe, from good friends, Susan and Larry Sharpe, appears in my “Missouri to Maui” cookbook and it is simple to prepare with just six ingredients. I do have a few tips for preparing this salad: prep your lettuce early on so there is time to rinse and dry it thoroughly. If you don’t dry the lettuce sufficiently you will find that the dressing breaks down, diluted by any moisture still on the lettuce so don’t skip or rush the lettuce prep. I find it helpful to rinse the lettuce then layer it between large towels to dry. Once dry, I use my kitchen shears to chop it into coarse pieces. Another tip: mince the garlic early and use your fingers or a wooden spoon to smash the garlic around the sides of a wooden salad bowl before making the remainder of the dressing. Using a wooden bowl is a must here as the texture of the wood allows the smashed garlic to permeate the salad when tossed.

The dressing will be thick; if you have smashed the garlic in the serving bowl first, it consists of just of the parmesan (grated by hand from a large block, no substituting!), the freshly squeezed lemon juice, and the olive oil. It is the thickness of the dressing, well mixed into every bit and morsel of the salad that provides the distinctive flavor of a Caesar salad.

One note on croutons. You certainly can buy them packaged if you have a favorite brand, but nothing is as simple as preparing your own. I sometimes make them on the stove, in a skillet, using butter and seasonings, or, as i did last night, preparing them in the oven on a baking sheet after tossing them in olive oil and seasonings. The cooking blog, The Pioneer Woman, has quick recipes for each method. It’s always a good idea to freeze any left over partial loaves of French bread for making your own croutons because they can be used in so many ways. Last night all I found in the freezer was a package of sliced wheat bread squares so that is what I used and they were delicious though too flat for my liking. Croutons are easy to make, remember that!

So, just six ingredients and a little foresight about prepping, and you will soon enough have a salad to satisfy your every taste bud. Why not prepare it on the next cold night and jazz up your table? This dish is  great with a bowl of soup or a meat dish  such as a steak or venison, or, as it was very much enjoyed last night, just on its own, unaccompanied. After all, the bowl is chock full of salad AND bread AND cheese, PLUS extra flavor. You really don’t need anything more. Enjoy mightily!

Sharpe Family Caesar Salad


1 large package Romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped (at least 4 stalks)
Prepared plain croutons or homemade croutons


2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Directions Coarsely chop romaine lettuce and place in serving bowl; add crotons. Prepare the dressing, in deep mixing bowl, by using the back of a wooden spoon to smash garlic cloves against the sides of the bowl. Add oil and lemon juice, whisk briefly. Add Parmesan and whisk well; mixture will be thick. Do not make the dressing too early, just before serving is best. Add dressing to lettuce and croutons, folding thoroughly, coating well. Serve immediately.

Mama’s Curried Chicken Salad


Is there anything better than a good chicken salad sandwich on a summer day?  Okay, maybe a bowl of lightly salted chilled watermelon, but other than that, you can’t do better than a chicken salad sandwich on a soft dinner roll; add curry to your dressing and toasted pecans to the salad and you will feel strictly uptown and satisfied!  I intended to have a photo of this salad ready to serve on soft butter and egg rolls but the café was jumping on Wednesday and the chicken salad flew out the door before there was time for an additional photo op!

This old recipe of mama’s originally used a can of cooked chicken but I changed that years ago and began using either skinless boneless chicken breasts, or, as I did last week, 6-7 large chicken thighs with the skin on for cooking then skin discarded and meat cut from the bone and shredded.  That is the only change I would even consider for this delightful flavorful  salad.

Prep your vegetables while the chicken simmers in enough water to cover and prepare the dressing and you’ll be all set once the chicken cools enough to shred.  Add everything to a large mixing bowl and pour on the dressing, folding gently.  Chill at least 4 hours or overnight and you’ll be uptown in no time!  Serve on a large dinner roll or bun or lay the salad into a quartered ripe juicy tomato, add crackers, and ohhh-la-la!


4-5 chicken breasts or thighs (around 1-1/2 lbs.)
1/2 lb. seedless green grapes, ends trimmed and each cut lengthwise
1-(12 oz.) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 cup celery, sliced very thin
1-1/2 cups pecans, chopped and toasted

For the dressing

1-1/2 cups Hellman’s mayonnaise
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. shoyu (soy sauce)
1/2 T. curry powder, or less, to taste

Directions Gently boil the chicken until tender. Don’t overcook the chicken as it will turn hard and rubbery. Drain well, cool, then chop or shred into small pieces. It is fine for the chicken to shred small; it doesn’t need mincing as then it wouldn’t absorb the dressing as readily. In large bowl, combine chicken, grapes, water chestnuts, celery and pecans.

Prepare the dressing by combining the mayonnaise, lemon juice, shoyu (soy sauce), and curry powder. Use a whisk to thoroughly blend, tasting as you go and adjusting to your taste. Spoon the dressing over the salad ingredients, folding gently but thoroughly to coat well. Chill covered for several hours, or overnight, allowing the flavors to mingle.

Shell Macaroni Tuna & Pea Salad

The last of our ‘salad bar night’ recipes from the Sharpe’s house this month, this dish, as listed in both our James Family cookbook and my own “Missouri to Maui” collection, comes from a first-cousin of mama’s.  Maude states in the recipe that she “carries this in” to many family and church functions and it is always a hit; I think you will find it most satisfying also if you give it a try!

You must use the best quality albacore tuna you can lay hands on and find the smallest and most tender canned peas available.  I cut the celery in this dish in very thin slices and mince the onion well.  The many textures of this salad are so enticing and you don’t want to have everything in it cut the same size; get creative with your chopping for the prettiest presentation!

Two things make this salad a winner: the taste of ample chopped onion is one so don’t skimp on the onion, and the evaporated milk which is the ‘secret ingredient’ in the dressing.  The dressing is thin but it thickens nicely when you chill the salad well before serving.  Simple macaroni, fresh veggies, and canned tuna in a salad: who knew!?!?  Maude did, and now we do too!  It’s a definite keeper, y’all!

Shell Macaroni Tuna & Pea Salad


For the salad:

1-(8-oz.) pkg. small seashell macaroni
1-(12oz) can albacore tuna drained and flaked
1 small can English peas, drained
2 stalks celery, sliced thinly
1/2 large onion, chopped fine

For the dressing:

1 small can evaporated milk
1/2 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
1/2 T. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
Celery seed, to taste, option

Directions Cook macaroni until done. Drain and set in fridge to chill. Mix evaporated milk, mayonnaise, salt and pepper in medium bowl, whisking well to blend. Combine macaroni, tuna, celery, and onion in large bowl, toss to distribute ingredients; add dressing, peas and the celery seed if using and blend thoroughly. Serve well chilled.


This is the second of the salads we enjoyed  at the Sharpe’s house earlier this month when we did a salad bar evening.  Panzanella is a refreshing Italian bread salad best prepared when tomatoes are at their juiciest in the summer.  We were on a “salads-for-supper” kick one evening and this tasty salad was one of our stars of the show.

There’s very little cooking required here; prepare your croutons before beginning and you’ll be well on your way.  We used part of a loaf of crusty French bread for croutons and very ripe Roma tomatoes that were begging to be used. Don’t forget the basil and the Mozzarella as they add both flavor and creaminess here.

For best results, make this salad an hour or so before you sit down to the table and serve it at room temperature. Whether eaten as a main dish or a simple side with grilled meat, this one is sure to please everyone at your table.



1/2 loaf (8 oz.) rustic bread such as a French loaf
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
4 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 small cucumbers, peeled, seeded, chopped
1 red or green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small red onion, sliced
10 leaves fresh basil, snipped into small pieces
1-1/2 cups Mozzarella cheese, diced or shredded

Directions: Heat oven to 350. Cut or tear the bread into 1-inch pieces and spread on a baking sheet. Bake until it is dry and slightly crisp (think croutons), about 8 minutes; remove from oven and set aside. In medium bowl, whisk vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic; set aside. In large serving bowl, toss the bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, onion, basil and the mozzarella. Add dressing and mix well. Allow salad to sit before serving, room temperature is fine.

Garbanzo Bean Salad

As promised, per request, I am posting some “catch up” recipes from my summer vacation cooking marathon at the Sharpes’ house!  The Florida weather was a mix of oppressive humidity and bright sunshine and we quickly fell into a “salad bar” state of mind.  My next few blog posts are the result of one such evening.

I normally make this flavorful salad using canned garbanzo beans (also known as chick peas), but because Larry had a bag of dried garbanzos from a visit to the local health food store, this day I cooked and used dried garbanzos.  If you do use canned beans, rinse them well!

The simple dressing enhances the nutty flavor of the beans, and, when served well-chilled, this is the perfect summer salad. I sometimes also add pieces of thinly-sliced raw cucumber to the mix so feel free to substitute here.  The salad goes well with any tasty cracker or pita chips.  If you are feeling a little of that oppressive summer heat in your area today, do try this one!  It is refreshing and tasty and so enjoyable!

Garbanzo Bean Salad


3/4 cup olive oil
2 T. red wine vinegar
1-1/2 t. salt
1-1/2 t. pepper
2 cups Garbanzo beans, drained
1 medium red onion, chopped and small dice
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 bunch fresh basil, to taste, torn small pieces

Directions Combine oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and whisk well. Add remaining ingredients and stir gently to thoroughly blend. Chill well and serve cold.