Coast Cooking

Keep your cool this Fourth of July with these chilled summer salads

Grilled okra takes on flavors that you might never expect from okra.
Grilled okra takes on flavors that you might never expect from okra. Special to the Sun Herald

Fourth of July is Tuesday, which is just around the corner, and I know most of you are planning to fire up the grills to cook up a holiday feast of burgers, steaks, chicken or what have you.

That’s wonderful, but I’m more apt to settle for some cooler foods this Fourth of July to help me escape the oppressive summer heat.

So, today I’ll share a few recipes for salads that can be served chilled. Only one of the three recipes included here requires grilling, although the shrimp in the second recipe could be grilled.

All of these recipes are inspired by some of the delicious creations served by Chef Alex Perry of Vestige at 715 Washington Ave., Ocean Springs.

The last time I was there, I had a watermelon gazpacho, a tomato-and-okra salad similar to the one presented here, and a cheese platter served with sliced apples, dates in local honey and a glass of Prosecco. It was one of the best meals of my life.

The recipes included here were not given to me by Perry, but are my attempt to mimic what I had at Vestige.

If, like me, you prefer to avoid a hot grill this Fourth of July, give these recipes a shot, or try them as a side dish to accompany something you cook on the grill.

Happy Fourth of July!

Tomato and okra salad

Heirloom tomatoes

Farmers market fresh okra

Olive oil or aioli

This salad is simple and delicious. Be sure to use fragrant tomatoes and fresh okra. Choose between a high-quality olive oil (smell and taste before you use it) or aioli (garlic mayonnaise). If you go for the aioli, you can fortify it with fresh basil.

Slice the tomatoes into bite sizes, slice the okra in half (don’t remove the seeds, they add a delightful crunchy texture to the salad). Toss the okra in olive oil and grill over hot coals until just barely tender and marked by the grill. Toss the salad and serve slightly chilled.

Shrimp, eggplant and tomato salad

1 pound wild caught shrimp, shell off

1-2 eggplants cut into thick sticks

Small red or green tomatoes (make sure they smell like they should)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Season the shrimp and sauté quickly in hot oil. Remove and set aside. Toss the eggplant in oil, season and sauté in the same pan, just until tender. Toss all the ingredients, add a little more oil if you like and serve chilled.

Squash zucchini and onions

1-2 yellow squash, cut into rounds

1-2 zucchini cut into rounds

1 small red onion cut into quarters, and broken apart

Salt and pepper, red pepper flakes

Toss the vegetables in oil, season and sauté lightly in oil. The onions should remain crunchy, while the zucchini and squash should be just tender. Toss in more oil, taste and re-season as necessary. Serve slightly warm or chilled.