Summer Entertaining: The Undone Salad

There’s no reason why a hearty salad can’t make a stellar main course for a late-summer get together. Simple to make, it can be prepped ahead of time, and it doesn’t have to be served hot.

The only drawback, potentially, is that a single bowl can look a little… shy.

Enter the undone salad. If you spread out all of those colorful ingredients, the food basically sets the table for you! All of that fresh, beautiful food and wine can be the centerpiece—and get its due.

I had some girlfriends over recently for dinner, some swimming, and some good conversation—a chance to connect before the school routine starts and the evenings grow cool. I appreciated that this menu also meant getting to linger around the table over glasses of wine without having to get up and down and miss a single moment.

I chose a California Cobb salad as my inspiration, but you could just as easily try this with another composed salad. For a Greek spin, think red onions, cucumbers, Kalamata olives, and feta, or for a Thai-inspired one think roughly chopped herbs, julienned carrots, with shrimp and peanuts.

The ingredient list is simple, so focus on using fresh, local ingredients—the best you can find:  Romaine lettuce, blue cheese (a Roquefort is the classic choice), bacon, hard-cooked eggs, tomatoes, avocado, and grilled, boneless, skinless chicken breast.

Bottles of Frei Brothers Reserve Wine—a long-standing Sonoma wine with whom I’m partnering this year—were brought out to fill everyone’s glasses. Their Russian River Valley Chardonnay—with its rich, nutty characteristics and silky finish—made for a perfect pairing.

Few things say summer like a big platter of ripe tomatoes. Roughly chop some of the best tomatoes you can find—I used a mix of large heirloom varieties and cherry tomatoes—and set out some extra for appearances.

Tip: Spread out the pre-cut slices ahead of time, and season with salt and pepper. Let them sit for atleast ten minutes, if not longer, and let them give up some of their water. Pre-salting will not only help them drain (less mess when served), but intensify the flavor of the tomatoes.

The great thing about serving chicken for a salad is that you can make it ahead of time and refrigerate it. It doesn’t have to be hot!

(Alternatively, you could pick up a roast chicken from your local market and stay out of the kitchen entirely.)

The same goes for the bacon (bake it) and the eggs (here’s a recipe for the perfect hard-cooked eggs).

A few easy snacks that look equally beautiful on the side? Bowls of olives, fresh fruit, or one of my favorites: radishes with butter and salt. I used a mandoline to slice these thinly and chose a good European-style butter—also from Sonoma!

I’m always looking for ways to keep things simple—but still special—when hosting (especially when Aron isn’t around to do the serious cooking). This is one of my favorite impromptu meals to throw together when I want to focus on friends, glass in hand, rather than on dinner.

Cobb Salad undone: delicious and beautiful!

This post is sponsored by Frei Brothers Sonoma ReserveThank you for your support! 

[Update: Thanks for asking! My swimsuit is by Mara Hoffman.]

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