By Jan Roberts-Dominguez

For The Bulletin

Recently I committed to bringing a party-sized bowl of homemade potato salad to a Fourth of July gathering. It got me thinking about all the other events over these sunny months that will be requiring super-sized edible offerings. Indeed, this is the time of year when lots of people are teaming up with lots more people, eating lots and lots of food. The gatherings range from informal picnics to fancy weddings, with the goal being to fill a long buffet table with plenty of delicious savories and sweets that will stand up to time and ambient temperature.

When contributing a dish to one of these affairs, you’re probably not wanting to invest an outrageous amount of time to the process. But you still want your dish to shine. So, take a cue from me and offer to provide one of the salad courses, because I have a few here that are delicious and easy to prepare.

The great thing about salads is that they typically have plenty of components that can be assembled or prepared far in advance. Chopped salads, for example, are all the rage these days and are one of the most buffet-friendly dishes you can consider since they typically are composed of ingredients that benefit from a bit of mingling with a flavorful dressing. On the other hand, shy away from the style of salad that requires too much last-minute fussing, or ones that will wilt within minutes of assembly.

Snazzy garnish

Tossing edible flowers onto a salad can jazz up a simple bowl of young salad greens. Then there’s the pea-shoot concept. Although a prominent ingredient in Asian cuisine for eons, pea shoots now are showing up at your local farmers markets and in community-supported agriculture boxes. Their soft, tender leaves, with the spiraling tendrils and crunchy stems, provide a hint of pea flavor. Use them raw in salads for a delightful visual effect as well as a tasty contribution.

Several years ago, when plotting the menu for a large gathering, I decided that pea shoots would be a delightful garnish on the salad course. So three weeks before the July event, I simply planted several flats of sugar snap pea seeds, just enough for the 150 guests I’d be feeding. On the eve of the dinner, the shoots were about 4 inches tall and I was able to harvest. They were, of course, a hit.

Aside from their garnishing potential, they taste wonderful in soups when added at the last minute, or tucked into a tortilla roll-up or pocket bread filling.

— Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, cookbook author and artist. Contact: janrd@proaxis.com.

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