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Seasons Magazines

Stepping into Summer: Easy Recipes From Local Connecticut Chefs

By ALEX Acquarulo


Hosting that perfect summer meal does not need to be an all-day cooking event. These easy summer meals from local chefs and restaurant owners in Connecticut can expand your summer menus and make meals marvelous. Plus, they’re easy to prepare ahead.

Louise Albin, owner and operator of Café Louise in West Hartford, has been in the same West Hartford plaza for more than 30 years, providing elegant gourmet catering and delicious meals-to-go.

Chef Albin’s tarragon chicken salad and curried chicken salad are among Café Louise’s most popular items. To make these even easier, use store-bought roasted chicken. Elevate both of them by adding the chicken salad into a sandwich or serving it as an hors d’oeuvres in a filo cup, tart shell or cream puff, or on a Belgian endive slice or bed of lettuce.


Tarragon Chicken Salad with Grapes and Walnuts

To Prepare Chicken Breasts:

Bring 8+ cups of water to a boil with ½ cup dry white wine or dry Vermouth. Add chicken, return to boil and turn heat off. Cover tightly and let steep for 20 minutes. Check to see the breasts are cooked through. Remove from water and let cool before cutting into cubes.


5 cups poached chicken breast, approximately 2 pounds raw breasts

¾ cup sliced red seedless grapes

¾ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon dried tarragon or more, or 2 teaspoons fresh tarragon

¾-1 cup of your favorite mayo

Salt and pepper to taste


Wash and slice the grapes and chop the walnuts. When the chicken is slightly cooled, dice into bite-sized pieces; add it to a bowl with the nuts, grapes and tarragon. Stir in the mayo. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add more tarragon, grapes and walnuts if you prefer.

Chef Albin’s Tip: You can add dried cranberries, diced apple or diced pear for more of an ambrosia-type salad.


Curried Chicken Salad


5 cups poached chicken breast, approximately 2 pounds raw breasts

½ cup diced celery

¾ cup coarsely chopped raw cashews

¾ cup raisins (golden raisins are a good option for look and taste)

1 tablespoon curry powder or more

¾-1 cup of your favorite mayo

Salt and pepper to taste


Cut the chicken into pieces as above, and add the raisins and cashews. For a nuttier taste, roast  the cashews before adding. Add the curry powder, and stir in the mayo. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Chef Albin’s Tip: Granny Smith apples are a great addition.


Israeli Couscous Salad 


4 cups Israeli couscous

¾ cup julienned fresh basil

2 cups julienned, fresh baby spinach

½ cup diced pitted kalamata olives

2 cups diced artichoke hearts (either in water or marinated)

½ cup diced fresh green onion/scallions

Bring a pot of water to a boil with salt. Add couscous and cook for approximately 8-10 minutes. Check after 8 minutes so it’s al dente. When done, drain, strain, rinse and add to a big bowl.


Lemon Herb Vinaigrette


4 cups blended oil

1 cup champagne or white wine vinegar

1 cup lemon juice

2 cups fresh parsley

2 cups scallions/green onions

1-2 teaspoons dried thyme (If using fresh, double the amount.)

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons sugar or honey

Zest of two lemons


Blend together in either a food processor or blender. This dressing is great on all sorts of salads. It can stay in the refrigerator for at least a month. Make it ahead of time and spend more time basking in the beautiful summer sun.


Orzo Pasta Salad


1 pound orzo pasta

½ cup sliced fresh basil

1½ cups sliced fresh baby spinach

1½ cups crumbled feta cheese

1 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes

½ cup diced fresh scallions/green onion 


Cook orzo for approximately 12+ minutes in boiling salted water. Drain, rinse and transfer to a large bowl. If you are using sun-dried tomatoes in oil, add the oil to the pasta. Toss all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and add ample dressing to the salad.

All these salads will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.


Avocado & Tomatillo Gazpacho

Chef Jared’s chilled gazpacho doesn’t have a tomato base and is refreshing and cool. The recipe makes 10-15 servings.


5 tomatillos, peeled and washed

6 garlic cloves

5 jalapeno peppers, cut in half and deseeded

4 fennel stalks, chopped

1 cup shallots, chopped

1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 quart vegetable stock

1 cup water

4 tablespoons fresh lime juice

5 avocados, pitted and halved

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons sugar


Put vegetable stock and water in a large bowl or saucepan. Preheat the oven to 275°F. Place the tomatillos, garlic and jalapenos on a sheet tray covered with foil. Roast for 5 minutes, turn, and roast for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven. Put roasted vegetables and all juices into a blender. Add all other ingredients, and blend until a smooth consistency. Add blended ingredients to the stock and water. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow flavors to blend. Serve chilled.

Enjoy your summer meals!