Ask Chef Lynn – Dog Days of Summer

| November 16, 2015


In my early days of my culinary career, with my former partner Cecil, we helped to open a new restaurant that was owned by a retired Colonel in the Air Force. This was the Colonel’s first attempt at running a restaurant and as what seems to be a common presumption that “anybody can run a restaurant” mentality, he thought it would be, excuse the pun—a piece of cake.

He was a brusque and demanding man that enjoyed a few Heinekens before noon on a daily basis.

By 1pm his nose started to radiate red and his glassy eyes just about said it all about his inebriated condition.

Probably anyone else would have escaped, sighting the obvious warning signs, and sought better employment. Unfortunately back then jobs were scarce that paid a decent salary in the hospitality field. The only perk to working for the Colonel was that we were paid a decent salary and he usually left the restaurant by 1-2pm. When he wasn’t there then Cecil and I were in charge of everything. We trained the wait staff, created the menu, ordered supplies, inventory, all kitchen prep, and cooked the ordered meals. So, we felt a loyalty towards the restaurant considering we were the ones who actually breathed life into it every day and were proud of our work.

The menu concept was progressive for the late seventies-healthy, tasteful, all fresh ingredients, and a revolving daily menu. We limited the menu to just homemade soups/stews and fresh made salads- that’s it.

Soup and Salads. We offered several different soups-cream based, broth based, tomato based, noodles, rice, or potato based. Salads were everything from basic Chef Salad, wilted Spinach with Bacon, Greek Salad, Spring Greens with choice of veggies or fruits, Garden or Caesar salads with choice of grilled veggies, chicken, shrimp, or tuna steak, Fresh fruit salad medley, Italian Pasta Salads, several different Potato salads….the choices were endless. People loved it.   The restaurant was called “Souper Salad Plus”. By the second month open, the word got out and every day we had a line out the door at lunch time.

Here are a few simple salad choices for these” Dog Days of Summer” when you really don’t feel like turning on the stove because it’s already way too hot out to cook anything anyway. These recipes require very little prep time and are light, fresh, and tasty combinations to toss together for a snack, side dish, or even a meal.

Black Bean Salad1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained; 2 (15 ounce) cans whole kernel corn, drained; 1 green bell pepper, chopped; 6 green onions, chopped; 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced; ½ fresh red pepper, chopped; 3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped; 1 avocado – peeled, pitted, and diced; 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro; 1 lime, juiced; 1/2 cup Italian salad dressing; 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt.

Combine the black beans, corn, green onions, jalapeno peppers, bell pepper, avocado, red pepper, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, and Italian dressing.
Season with garlic salt.
Toss, and chill until serving.

Thai Cucumber Tomato Salad-2 tomatoes, seeded and cut into wedges; 1 large cucumber; 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced; 1/4 cup rice vinegar; 2 tablespoons lime juice; 1 teaspoon white sugar, or to taste; 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro; 3 tablespoons chopped peanuts (optional)

Peel the cucumber in stripes lengthwise with a vegetable peeler, alternating skinned stripes with peel for a decorative effect.
Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise, and then thinly slice.
Place the cucumber in a salad bowl with the tomato and red onion, and mix together.
Pour the lime juice and rice vinegar into a separate bowl, and stir in the sugar until dissolved.
Pour the dressing over the salad; mix, cover, and refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes.
Just before serving, stir in the cilantro and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese1 jar pickled beets, cubed; 1/3 cup chopped walnuts;1 (10 ounce) package mixed baby salad greens; 1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate; 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar; 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil; 2 ounces goat cheese

Place the walnuts in a bowl and microwave at medium-low heat. Heat until warm and starting to toast (approx. 45 seconds), then stir in the maple syrup.
Cook another 30 seconds and stir until evenly coated, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice concentrate, balsamic vinegar and olive oil to make the dressing.
Place a large helping of baby greens onto each of four salad plates, divide candied walnuts equally and sprinkle over the greens.
Place equal amounts of beets over the greens, and top with dabs of goat cheese.
Drizzle each plate with some of the dressing.

Marinated Cucumbers –2 large cucumbers, peeled; 4 teaspoons white sugar; 1/3 cup rice vinegar; 1 teaspoon salt;  1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root.

Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise and scoop out any large seeds. Slice crosswise into very thin slices.
In a small bowl combine vinegar, sugar, salt and ginger.
Mix well.
Place cucumbers inside of the bowl; stir so that cucumbers are coated with the mixture.
Refrigerate the bowl of cucumbers for at least 1 hour before serving.

Marinated Cherry Tomato Salad4 cups halved cherry tomatoes; 1/4 cup vegetable oil; 3 tablespoons cider vinegar; 1 teaspoon dried parsley; 1 teaspoon dried basil; 1 teaspoon dried oregano; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar. 

In a small bowl or cup measure, mix together oil, apple cider vinegar, herbs, salt, and sugar.
Pour dressing over cherry tomatoes in a serving dish, and gently stir to coat.
Chill for at least 2 hours. Gently stir from bottom to top, coating all tomatoes, before serving.

Strawberry Avocado Salad-2 cups torn salad greens; 1 avocado – peeled, pitted and sliced; 10 strawberries, sliced; 1/2 cup chopped pecans. Dressing-2 tablespoons olive oil; 4 teaspoons honey; 1 tablespoon cider vinegar; 1 teaspoon lemon juice*

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, olive oil, honey, vinegar, and lemon juice. Set aside.
Place the salad greens in a serving bowl, and top with sliced avocado and strawberries.
Drizzle dressing over everything, and then sprinkle with pecans.
Refrigerate for up to 2 hours before serving, or serve immediately.

*this dressing recipe can be used in a variety of salad combinations

Asian Broccoli Coleslaw-1/2 cup canola oil; 1/2 cup white sugar; 1/4 cup water; 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar; 2 (3 ounce) packages chicken-flavored ramen noodles, crushed, seasoning packets reserved; 1 (12 ounce) package broccoli coleslaw mix; 1 bunch green onions, sliced; 1 cup roasted cashews; 1/4 cup roasted sunflower seed kernels.

Whisk canola oil, sugar, water, balsamic vinegar, and seasoning packets from ramen noodles in a bowl until thoroughly combined and sugar and seasoning packets have dissolved.
Toss ramen noodles in a large salad bowl with broccoli slaw mix and green onions.
Pour dressing over the salad and let stand 1/2 hour to 4 hours – shorter for crunchier noodles, longer for softer ones.
Just before serving, toss salad again with cashews and sunflower seeds.


After 6 months of working at Souper-Salad Plus, which seemed like years, Cecil and I took a mini-vacation of ONE day off and drove up to Washington, D.C. to get away and re-charge our very low energies. While there, Mother Nature decided to blanket the entire DC and Maryland region with 6 inches of snow overnight and looked like another 3 inches were on the way. Here we were in DC, where it was obvious that absolutely no one knew how to drive in the snow. Southern Maryland got it worse with many more inches of snow landing there. So, being the dedicated and loyal workers, we called the Colonel and told him of our predicament being stuck in DC, in a blizzard, sighting road conditions and safety. Obviously, we couldn’t make it home in time to open up the restaurant the next day. Most Bosses would have been disappointed but would understand. Not the Colonel, he demanded that we return or “else”. So, Cecil and I drove home through the blizzard that, normally would take 90 minutes from DC to arrive home under normal weather conditions, took us 5 hours through the blizzard. Roads were treacherous with “black ice” patches leaving there toll on other drivers. The highways were littered with cars who had lost control and slid off the road. Within 10 minutes after arriving at the restaurant the Colonel decided to close because no customers had come in to eat. That was the straw that “broke the camel’s back, so to speak. We quit right there on the spot and tossed our restaurant keys at him. We were dedicated indeed but refused to endure anymore of his poor judgement, his tantrums, and disrespectful demeanor brought on by his alcohol consumption. The restaurant permanently closed down three months after we left…Seemed like nobody wanted to put up with an abusive Boss, even then, plus he changed the menu to pre-fab frozen soups and basic simple salads. The customers definitely noticed the lack of quality and ingenuity.

Through this restaurant, we learned to experiment with fresh foods and introduced our customers to healthy and very tasty dishes. We kept our customers satisfied with our innovative menu and opened up many minds to try our new recipes that were created with Love. It was a learning experience for everyone.

Bon appetit!

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