Salads for the Season

As the temperatures outside continue to rise, a yearning for light, fresh cuisine steadily intensifies. Nothing seems to satisfy the appetite more this time of year than a healthful, delicious salad filled with seasonal ingredients.

We managed to pare down the choices and find the most superlative salads available in the Western Wake area. Herein, then, are five of the most distinctive offerings found at as many local restaurants. Whether you enjoy spinach or arugula, blueberries or dried cherries, bleu cheese or goat cheese, there’s plenty of variety here for you to consider.

Pepper's Apple WalnutSALAD: Apple Walnut

PURVEYOR: Peppers Market & Sandwich Shop, Grace Park, Morrisville

(919) 380-7002 peppersmrkt.com

COMPONENTS:  Fresh baby spinach, maple-glazed walnuts, dried cranberries, red grapes, herb goat cheese, sliced apple, homemade champagne mango dressing served on the side.Alternative dressing choices includehouse balsamic vinaigrette, Caesar, sweet bacon, ranch, non-fat creamy Italian and bleu cheese.

DISTINCTIVES: “It is really fresh tasting and packed with vitamin- and antioxidant-rich ingredients,” said chef and proprietor Jess Fowler, who runs the restaurant along with his wife, Missy. “The mango dressing starts with stewing mangos with jalapeños, red onion and a few secrets. This is then blended with a touch of vinegar, canola oil, honey and champagne. It is the most popular dressing for this salad and every other salad as well.”

BACKSTORY:  “We were trying to create something that contained mostly super foods, and this is really a healthful and satisfying salad,” Fowler said. “We use Gala, honey crisp and red delicious apples depending on market and quality.”

PRICE: $9.25 for full version. Half-size is available and can be paired with a scratch-made soup or half of any gourmet sandwich.

OPTIONAL ADD-ONS: Any proteins you wish including grilled chicken, smoked ham, in-house roasted turkey, jalapeño bacon or applewood smoked bacon for $2.25 extra. A vegetarian-friendly black bean burger also is offered for $2.25. Mahi mahi (pictured), wild salmon or shrimp is available for an additional $3.95.

RECOMMENDED WINE PAIRING: Santi Apostoli Pinot Grigio from Italy

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Spirits Fusion ChickenSALAD: Fusion Chicken

PURVEYOR: Spirits Pub & Grub, 701 E. Chatham St., Cary

(919) 462-7001 spiritscary.com

COMPONENTS: Fresh baby greens with ginger-beer marinated and grilled chicken breast, goat cheese, grilled asparagus, toasted walnuts, carrots, wonton crisps, cilantro and a sweet soy-lime vinaigrette.

DISTINCTIVES: The chicken is generally marinated overnight in Saranac 1888 brand ginger beer. “The longer it sits, the better it tastes,” said Chef Caleb Buckner.

BACKSTORY: “I created the salad when I was a sous chef,” said Buckner. “I decided to mix Italian and Asian, which I know seems weird. The dressing recipe is simple: sweet soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, lemons, lime and fresh ginger.”

PRICE: $11

OPTIONAL SUBSTITUTION: Ahi tuna

RECOMMENDED BEER PAIRING: LoneRider Shotgun Betty Hefeweizen, Carolina Brewery Sky Blue Golden Ale or Red Oak Amber Lager

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Chef's Palette Mixed Green SaladSALAD: Mixed Green Salad with Nuts and Berries

PURVEYOR: Chef’s Palette Restaurant & Bar, 3460 Ten Ten Road, Suite 118, Cary

(919) 267-6011 chefspaletterestaurantandbar.com

COMPONENTS: Fresh greens withstrawberries, blueberries, candied pecans, pan-seared goat cheese and made-in-house strawberry vinaigrette dressing.

DISTINCTIVES: “This is the perfect warm-weather salad,” said owner and general manager Kathie Clark. “It’s light, satisfying and refreshing. A lot of people are health-conscious these days, so this is a great choice — perhaps with the exception of the candied pecans!”

BACKSTORY: The salad was created by Jounté Burwell, the restaurant’s classically trained executive chef.

PRICE: $10

OPTIONAL ADD-ONS: Grilled or blackened chicken breast ($5); salmon ($6); beef tenderloin ($7); shrimp (pictured, $8); scallops ($9).

RECOMMENDED WINE PAIRING: Castello Banfi Vigne Regali Principessa Gavia. “This is a fresh and fruity dry Italian white wine with gentle acidity and a crisp balanced finish,” Clark said.

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Cafe Caturra Raspberry WalnutSALAD: Raspberry Walnut

PURVEYOR: Café Caturra, Stone Creek Village, Cary

(919) 481-0230 cafecaturra.com

COMPONENTS: Fresh romaine lettuce, gorgonzolacheese, toasted walnuts and dried cherries tossed with scratch-made raspberry walnut dressing.

DISTINCTIVE: Walnuts are toasted in house.

BACKSTORY: “This is a classic salad on our menu that has gone through some minor tweaks,” said Phillip Henderson, area directing partner. “It used to have cranberries instead of cherries.”

PRICE: Full size $9; half size $5.

OPTIONAL ADD-ONS: Grilled chicken ($2); curry chicken salad or tuna salad ($3); grilled skewered shrimp ($4)

RECOMMENDED WINE PAIRING: MichaelPozzan Russian River Chardonnay ’10, Sonoma, Calif.“It is a nice, well-balanced wine that has the body to stand up to the bold flavors in the salad,” Henderson explained.

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Peak City Grill Roasted Baby BeatsSALAD: Roasted Baby Beets

PURVEYOR: Peak City Grill & Bar, 126 North Salem St., Apex

(919) 303-8001 thepeakcitygrill.com

COMPONENTS: Fresh baby arugula, flat leaf spinach, baby beets, goat cheese, candied pecans, orange supreme, house-made maple sherry vinaigrette dressing.

DISTINCTIVES: “We use 100 percent maple syrup in the sherry vinaigrette dressing, which complements well with the beets,” said Executive Chef Franz Propst.

BACKSTORY: The unique salad was concocted by Propst, whose desire was to give patrons a bright, earthy menu offering tinged with citrus.

PRICE: $7.95

OPTIONAL ADD-ONS: Grilled chicken ($5); marinated beef medallions ($6); grilled shrimp ($7); grilled salmon ($9)

RECOMMENDED WINE PAIRING: La Crema Chardonnay ’11 Sonoma, Calif. “It’s a full-bodied wine with pear and oaky flavors,” Propst said.

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