The Main Menu: Welcoming the month of May with some alfresco dining ideas

The month of May is here and with it the hopes or warm days to come. Jan Main shares some recipes perfect for outdoor dining in this edition of The Main Menu.


May is a month of firsts: first time to the cottage, first barbecue, first picnic, first swim (brrrr!), first planting. May is also one of the most beautiful months; a feast for all the senses including taste and a perfect time for outside dining experiences.

My friend Deb recommended these special occasion recipes which have become family favourites. After tasting the recipes several times, I would like to share them with you for the first alfresco dining experience of the season.

Pear and Blueberry Salad

This salad has become so popular with Deb Soroka that she serves it regularly for dinner and special occasions. It is ideal to accompany barbecued or baked salmon, chicken or pork. It can be made several hours in advance, covered and refrigerated.

1/4 cup (50 mL) walnut or pecan pieces, toasted
2 celery stalks, diced
3/4 cup (175 mL) fresh blueberries
1 large (2 small) ripe Bosc or Bartlett pears
2 tbsp (25 mL) finely grated lemon rind (1 lemon)
4 cups (1 L) loosely packed arugula
1/4 cup (50 mL) light olive oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) cider vinegar
1 tbsp (15 mL) Dijon mustard
1 tbsp (15 mL) liquid honey
2 tsp (10 mL) fresh grated ginger
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

To toast nuts: Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange nuts in a single layer on paper and bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant. Watch carefully so that they do not burn. Cool and coarsely chop.

Place celery and blueberries in medium mixing bowl. Leaving skin on, cut pear in half lengthwise; remove core with paring knife, then slice each half in half again, then again to create 8 equal slices. Slice each into 4 equal chunks and place in bowl. Add pear and nuts to the bowl; fold in to gently combine. Sprinkle lemon zest overall and drizzle with oil.

Fold together gently to mix evenly. Just before serving, fold in arugula. Serve dressing on the side. Makes about 5 cups (1.2 L).

Barley, Mushroom and Hazelnut Salad with Dilled Vinaigrette

This hearty barley salad is a flavourful companion to meat, fish or vegetarian main courses.

3/4 cup (175 mL) barley
1/4 cup (50 mL) olive oil (divided)
2 cups (500 mL) cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup (250 mL) red skinned apple, cored and coarsely chopped or…1 large pear, cored and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (125 mL) toasted hazelnuts or walnuts
2- 3 cups (500- 750 mL) baby spinach, arugula or beet greens, stems removed


1/2 bunch fresh dill: wash, dry, remove leaves from stem. You should have 1 cup (250 mL) of dill leaves
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fresh black pepper
1/2 cup (125 mL) olive oil
3 tbsp (45 mL) white wine vinegar

In medium saucepan cover barley with about 6 cups (1½ L) water. Bring to boil; reduce heat to simmer; simmer uncovered until barley is tender about 30 – 40 minutes. Drain rinse in cold water. Put barley in bowl; toss with 2 tbsp (25 mL) olive oil: Let cool. In frying pan, heat remaining oil. Cook mushrooms until softened about 1-2 minutes. Add to barley with prepared fruit and toasted nuts.

Toast nuts in 350 C (180 F) oven on parchment paper lined baking sheet about 10 minutes or until golden and fragrant. Cool; coarsely chop.

Dressing: In food processor or blender combine dill leaves, garlic, salt and pepper until finely chopped then add oil and vinegar. Combine. Makes about ¾ (175 mL).

To Make Salad: Combine cooled barley with half dressing, mushrooms, fruit, nuts and enough dressing to coat lightly. Toss to combine. Taste; add more vinaigrette if necessary. Serve at once or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

To serve: Arrange barley on bed of greens lightly coated with dressing.

Serve with additional dressing on the side. Makes 4 – 6 servings.

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