Monday, July 2, 2012

Prep-Ahead Summer Salads

Recently, I was in charge of planning and preparing food at an event, for nearly a hundred people.  

Now-- it's only taken me 30 years to get there, but I finally know myself well enough to realize that in order to pull that off, I would need a plan that left almost nothing to the last minute.

So, I spent several days tinkering and testing to come up with not only recipes that I thought tasted and looked great, but also a system where I could do most of the prep-work the day before and still have things come out fresh and perfect the day of, and that would be fool-proof for other people to help plate and serve.

And you know what? It totally worked! Things came together so smoothly, and I cannot tell you how good (and foreign!) it felt to not be running around frazzled at the last minute. And people really seemed to like the food.

I thought I'd share my recipes and directions, in case you find yourself trying to figure out what to make for a baby shower, wedding lunch, dinner party-- or any event where you need to feed a large group of people, and have a similar ineptness with last-minute prep for these kinds of things as I do. 

Creamy Asparagus Pasta Salad

Makes 12 Cups


Day before:

Cook 1lb Farfalle Noodles for ten minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat in a skillet over med heat until softened (about 2 min):
1/3 C. Olive oil, with
6 sliced green onions-- whites and stems,
4 TBSP Minced Garlic from a jar (use 1/2 the amount if fresh)

Toss oil & onion mixture with noodles. Store in plastic storage bag in the refrigerator.

Blanch 1 bunch thin Asparagus, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces, 3 min until just tender. Plunge in ice bath to stop cooking. Drain, and store in a plastic storage bag in the refrigerator.

Prepare 2 C. Cooked Chicken Breast either by baking your own, or using pre-cooked Rotisserie Chicken meat etc. Cube it, and store in refrigerator.

Finely chop 1/4 C. Flat Leaf Parsley and store in refrigerator.

Prepare 1C. Parmesan Cheese Shavings, by shaving the face of a block of Parmesan Cheese with a Vegetable Peeler. Store in the refrigerator.

Optional: Toast 1C. Pine Nuts, in a frying pan over low heat until just golden. Set aside and store.

Day of:

Heat till warm:
1 Pint Cream, with
2 tsp. Salt,
1/4- 1/2 tsp. Pepper

Place noodles in a large bowl. Add Asparagus, Flat Leaf Parsley, and Chicken.

Pour warm cream mixture over noodles.

Add 2 TBSP Lemon Juice and mix gently.

Serve warm or at room temp. garnished with:
Toasted Pine Nuts, and
Parmesan Cheese Shavings

Strawberry Green Salad

Makes 12 Cups

Day Before:


In a nonstick pan over medium heat:
Melt 4 Tbls. Butter, with
4 Tbls. Light Brown Sugar
add 1 C. Raw Pecans, mix until coated and cook 1 additional min.
Turn out nuts on wax paper until cool. Store. 

Slice 2 C. Strawberries. Store in refrigerator in a crush-proof container. 

Thinly slice 1 C. Red Onion. Store in refrigerator.

Day of: 

Toss 2 lbs of Mixed Greens, with
Raspberry Vinaigrette to taste, add
sliced Red Onions

Plate salad and top with:
Sliced Strawberries, and
Candied Pecans

*I started with a basic Alfredo recipe for the pasta. I added lemon juice, parsley,  and chicken, changed the proportions of ingredients, and put the Parmesan cheese shaved on top instead of in the sauce.  
*You can also substitute half or more of the cream with milk for a lighter recipe.
*The salad recipe isn't mine, but just a basic yummy kind of standard salad. But it's the balance between the creamy savory pasta, and the light tangy sweet salad that makes this meal work so I included it as part of "my" recipe.
*You can obviously just make this and eat it all in the same day too. I made this so many times as a test beforehand, that my family never wants to eat it again.



  1. That looks delicious! I love food that can be prepped ahead (because otherwise I am always late). Thank for sharing your recipes.

  2. Way to go on not procrastinating! The strawberry one is a good recipe and I sure wish I could eat the other one. Can't go wrong with a pint of cream!

  3. Great, now my mouth's watering. Pinning for possible fourth of July eats! I'm sure I'll still procrastinate though. Hehe.

  4. Ooh I want to try these out! Yum.

  5. These look so good! I definitely using these recipes. Thanks for sharing!

  6. How far ahead of time could you make these? Thanks for sharing.


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