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Seven fun new takes on the seven-layer salad

  • Quinoa, edamame and orange-ginger dressing jazz up this seven-layer salad. (Brenton Gospodarek/MCT)
  • Woman dicing vegetables in kitchen at ome

It’s the quintessential potluck food: seven-layer salad. With its layers of iceberg lettuce, peas, tomatoes, onions, cheddar cheese, bacon and mayonnaise, it’s colorful, crunchy and creamy all in one bite.

Food legend has it that it was born out of the South and originally called “seven-layer pea salad.”

Although many recipes include hard-cooked eggs and cucumbers (which actually makes a seven-layer salad nine layers), this dish has pretty much remained the same for decades. Until now.

We’ve decided it’s about time this salad got a makeover.

Whether it’s different greens, new types of vegetables or a sweet addition, layered salads just got a lot more fun.

LAYERED VEGGIE TORTELLINI SALAD

This recipe came courtesy of James Schend, food editor at Taste of Home. The addition of pasta and Parmesan dressing gives an unexpected twist to a traditional seven-layer salad.

Makes 8 servings

1 package (16 ounces) frozen cheese tortellini

2 cups broccoli florets

2 cups cherry tomatoes

2 celery ribs, finely chopped

1 can (2¼ ounces) sliced black olives, drained

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

PARMESAN DRESSING:

¾ cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Cook tortellini according to package directions; drain and rinse in cold water.

In a 2½-quart glass bowl, layer the tortellini, broccoli, tomatoes, celery, olives and cheddar cheese.

Prepare dressing, whisking together all ingredients. Spoon over salad. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

LAYERED TOMATO- WATERMELON SALAD

Watermelon isn’t a salad ingredient you typically think of outside of fruit salad, but it pairs deliciously with fresh garden tomatoes, arugula and feta cheese. This recipe came courtesy of Rebecca Guralnick, a personal chef, cooking instructor and caterer in Milwaukee.

“You can really get creative with this salad,” she said. “Optional add-ins might include diced, roasted beets, orange segments, shredded carrot, diced avocado or even crumbled bacon.

“The rule of thumb to maintain a beautiful presentation is to layer from heaviest at the bottom to lightest at the top, but in this case I put the watermelon beneath the tomatoes because it will release the most juice as the salad sits on the table.”

Makes 6 servings

Tested by Alysha Witwicki

Ingredients

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1½ tablespoons red wine vinegar

8 cups seedless watermelon, diced into 1¼-inch chunks

3 tablespoons chopped assorted fresh herbs (such as dill, basil and mint) (divided)

½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt (divided), or to taste

About 3 pounds ripe tomatoes (preferably heirloom), cored and cut into 1 ¼-inch chunks (6 cups)

5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1 cup sprouts (such as sunflower or alfalfa)

5 cups arugula

½ cup sunflower seeds, lightly toasted

In a 1-cup glass measure, whisk together oil and vinegar. In a large bowl, toss the watermelon with half the oil-vinegar mixture, 1½ tablespoons assorted herbs and ¼ teaspoon salt. In another bowl, toss the tomatoes with remaining olive oil-vinegar mixture, 1½ tablespoons herbs and ¼ teaspoon salt.

In a clear glass bowl, layer watermelon, tomatoes, feta cheese, sprouts, arugula and sunflower seeds.

HEALTHY SEVEN-LAYER SALAD WITH AVOCADO DRESSING

Seven-layer salad can get a bad nutritional rap. This recipe, adapted from dashingdish.com, removes any of the guilt without sacrificing flavor.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

1 package (10 ounces) spring lettuce mix

1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

2 medium red bell peppers, diced

1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

6 slices turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled

AVOCADO DRESSING:

1 avocado

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons lemon juice

½ teaspoon garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons honey

In a large glass bowl or trifle dish, layer spring mix, beans, peppers and tomatoes. Refrigerate several hours.

Before serving, layer with cheese and bacon.

Blend all dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth and add to top of salad.

INGER’S SEVEN-LAYER FRUIT SALAD

Food blogger Inger Wilkerson (from artofnaturalliving.com) thinks sweet when it comes to seven layered ingredients. She came up with this dish based on a fruit salad she learned to make while studying abroad in Ireland and living with a Le Cordon Bleu cook.

“The fruits are pretty interchangeable as long as you use things that are juicy,” she said. “With so many colors, it almost can’t help but be pretty.”

Makes 8 servings

Tested by Alysha Witwicki

Ingredients

3 cups diced watermelon

2 cups green grapes, halved

1½ cups cherries, pitted and halved

2 peaches, diced

2 cups blueberries

2 cups diced honeydew melon

2 cups diced strawberries

7 teaspoons sugar (divided)

Place the watermelon on the bottom of a large clear bowl or trifle dish; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar. Layer grapes on top and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar. Repeat this process of sprinkling the sugar as you layer the cherries, peaches, blueberries, honeydew melon and strawberries. Refrigerate several hours before serving.

INDIVIDUAL LAYERED SALADS WITH ORANGE-GINGER DRESSING

The seven-layer salad instantly becomes more fun when it’s in individual servings. When looking for a container, Mason jars aren’t only cute, they’re practical. Just pop on a lid, secure the ring and travel anywhere. This recipe is slightly adapted from the blog Oh She Glows.

Makes 6 servings

Tested by Alysha Witwicki

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked wheat berries, rinsed

Pinch of salt

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed

1½ cups diced green bell pepper

1½ cups diced red bell pepper

1½ cups shredded carrots

1 package (12 ounces) edamame

Orange-ginger dressing:

¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

⅓ cup apple juice

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 tablespoon lime juice

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

In a medium pot, combine rinsed wheat berries, 3½ cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer about 1 hour, or until tender.

In another medium pot, add quinoa and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until fluffy, about 20 minutes.

When the grains have cooked, grab your Mason jars, and add into each: ½ cup wheat berries, ¼ cup green pepper, ¼ cup red pepper, ½ cup quinoa, ¼ cup carrots and ½ cup edamame. Push the ingredients down in the jar after you add the quinoa and edamame. Repeat with the remaining jars.

Prepare dressing, whisking together all the ingredients, and pour over top of the salads.

Note: You will have wheat berries and quinoa left over.

MEXICAN SEVEN-LAYER SALAD

Makes 8 servings

Tested by Alysha Witwicki

Ingredients

4 cups chopped lettuce

1 cup chopped tomato

½ cup chopped green onion

1 can (15½ ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup salsa

1 cup crushed tortilla chips

Layer lettuce, tomato, green onion, beans, cheese and salsa in a large bowl or trifle dish. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, top with crushed tortilla chips.

LAYERED SPINACH SALAD

This recipe is from Cooks.com.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

¾ pound spinach

1 medium-sized cucumber, thinly sliced

½ cup thinly sliced radishes

¼ cup thinly sliced green onions

½ cup ranch dressing

5 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled

½ cup peanuts

Remove and discard spinach stems. Rinse leaves well; drain and pat dry. Tear spinach into bite-size pieces and arrange evenly in a large bowl. Evenly layer on cucumber slices, radishes and green onions. Spread dressing over top.

Cover and chill up to 24 hours. Just before serving, sprinkle with bacon and peanuts.

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