What’s your go-to plan for Mother’s Day weekend? My guess is that it involves brunch, a meal that is tailor-made for the holiday, giving Mom the perfect reason to get her hair done, don that new dress, and dote adoringly on her grandchildren. Maybe you’re going out, or maybe you’ve invited the family to your house for a mini reunion. If you’re hosting, I’ve got some advice: do as much of the food prep in advance as you can. And don’t skimp on the libations. (Your family’s coming, remember?)
To help you enjoy/survive the day, I’ve compiled a few easy salad recipes that are real crowd-pleasers and require almost no time to pull together. In fact, most of the work can be done the day before. And I’ve paired them with three wines that should also play well with the other dishes on your buffet table.
My fellow food and wine bloggers will be weighing in on the topic, too. It’s Wine Pairing Weekend, and we’re broadening the brunch menu and widening the wine list, with can’t-miss suggestions for your own Mother’s Day event. We’ll convene (virtually) this Saturday, May 13th at 11 am EDT via Twitter to exchange our ideas. You can join us, too! Chime in with your own thoughts: just be sure to add #WinePW to your tweets so we can welcome you to the group. Want a preview of what’s on offer? Scroll down to the bottom of my post to see a list of participants and what they’ll add to the conversation. I always enjoy these chats, which inspire me to expand my recipe repertoire and try wines I’ve never tasted.
Salad might not be the first thing you imagine when you think about brunch. Visions of a fluffy frittata or savory bread pudding, perhaps even a stack of syrupy pancakes would be more likely. But for me, salad is a no-brainer. I don’t eat eggs so, right away, many options are off the table, including French toast and omelets. And I’m not a big fan of super-sweet dishes either. That doesn’t leave much! Honestly I’d rather coast right past noon and just order some lunch. Salad, however, can bridge the gap. It complements all those dishes I just mentioned and, if you provide a few different options, they can be a complete meal.
Here are three salads that taste good, look pretty, and won’t eat up too much of your time. And I’ve given an affordable yet delicious wine suggestion to accompany each one.
Pesto Pea Salad with 2014 Domaine Ricard Tasciaca Chenonceaux Touraine (SRP $25)
This bright green dish provides a lively accent to the buffet table and is super-easy to make. It comes from Ina Garten of The Barefoot Contessa. A simple concoction of pasta, spinach, pesto, and garden peas, it’s as tasty as it is convenient. You can find the recipe here.
Sauvignon Blanc makes a lovely pairing with green vegetables and herbs, so it’s wonderful with this triple-green salad. Hailing from the Loire Valley, from 40-year-old vines perched on the best Cher River slopes, the Tasciaca has richness and depth in addition to its clean citrus profile. Three-quarters of the wine fermented in barrels (400 liter; second and third use) and the remaining quarter in a single cuve tronconique.
On the nose, there is lemon and grapefruit, green pear, and dill. Flavors of citrus, apple, and pear mingle with basil and grass, wrapped up by medium+ acidity and a saline finish. It’s a fantastic choice as an afternoon sipper or alongside mild cheese, seafood, and vegetable dishes.
Banana-Lentil Salad and 2015 Weingut Emrich-Schönleber Lenz Riesling (SRP $22)
Using classic ingredients from the Canary Islands, this salad is traditionally served with rabbit, but I find it suits grilled chicken and roast pork equally well. It brings together both tropical and earthy flavors for a taste experience that calls to mind sandy beaches and ocean breezes. This recipe comes from one of my old favorite cookbooks, Nuevo Latino by Chef Douglas Rodriguez. It’s chock-full of imaginative ideas that will wake up your taste buds! (Note: The only part of the preparation that takes a little time is the cooking of the lentils, which you can do a day ahead. You can also use one type of lentil if that’s easier.)
1 cup green lentils (cooked)
1 cup red or yellow lentils (cooked)
3 tbsps olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsps chopped parsley
3 tbsps chopped cilantro
3 semi-ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onion, pepper, and garlic and sauté over medium heat until tender (about two minutes.)
Add to large mixing bowl and add cooked lentils.
Stir in remaining ingredients and mix well. Add sliced bananas on top and serve.
Because of the spice and sweetness of the salad ingredients, I chose an off-dry (11.5% abv) Riesling from Germany’s Nahe region. Grown on terraced slopes on the famous slate soil of Monzingen, the grapes benefit from a warm thermal wind that rises from the valley floor and protects them from frost. The wine itself smells like yellow peaches and ripe pears, with notes of wet stone and honey. On the palate, the stone fruit flavors persist, along with apple and pear. It’s a wine of richness and medium+ body, carrying its slight sweetness and acidity in perfect balance. It’s a knock-out with the Banana-Lentil Salad.
Greek Salad with Grilled Chicken and 2016 Proprietà Sperino Rosa del Rosa Rosato (SRP $19)
This is my own recipe, one that I’ve adapted from a multitude of Greek Salads over the years. It couldn’t be more simple to make or more satisfying to eat. And I always pair it with a rosé.
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
½ medium red onion, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup pitted black olives, chopped
2 tbsps capers
2 tbsps chopped dill
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 bag arugula, washed and dried
Ken’s Steak House Greek Salad Dressing (or whatever you prefer)
Mix all ingredients except chicken, arugula, and dressing in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss, using as much as you need to coat all the ingredients. Set aside until ready to serve.
Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and dried oregano and brush with some of the dressing. Grill over medium heat, turning once, until cooked through. Let cool, then slice on the diagonal, brushing a little more dressing over the top.
Place a bed of arugula on each plate (or, if serving buffet-style, put in a bowl).
Spoon the vegetable mixture over the greens, topping with slices of chicken.
Serve with grilled pita.
A Nebbiolo rosé isn’t as rare as it used to be, but it’s hardly the norm. This one, from the Piemonte district of Ori near Monte Rosa, is gorgeous rose-gold in color and gives off aromas of cherry, thyme, and wild strawberries. Its flavors are dominated by red fruit, with savory herbal notes and tart acidity. It really is a gentler version of its older siblings, Barolo and Barbaresco, and a real treat for summer-time sipping.
So I hope I’ve given you some (literal) food for thought as you prepare for the holiday weekend. Read on for more inspiration from the rest of the Wine Pairing Weekend bloggers:
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm will post My Choice for a Casual, Relaxed Brunch……comes in a box!! #WinePW
Michelle of Rockin’ Red Blog asks “Bubbles for Breakfast? It Must Be Brunch!“
Lori from Dracaena Wines is sharing When You Don’t Want a Typical Quiche for Your #WinePW Brunch.
Gwen and Sue from Wine Predator say, May There Be Bubbles for Brunch! Plus Negronis, Strata for #WinePW.