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There’s a special music that marks the long, lovely twilight of a summer night: The crack of a baseball bat at a nearby park, the “shhhh-tik-tik” of the sprinklers and the hiss of a cold beer as it’s opened on the deck.

Then there’s the rumbling of stomachs and the age-old refrain: “What’s for dinner?”

If, like Elaine from “Seinfeld,” you are dreaming of The Big Salad but don’t have a deli nearby, don’t fret.

Chefs Chris and Ciara Greenwald of Bay Laurel Kitchen in Petaluma, who serve all kinds of killer salads to rock stars at venues such as the Greek Theatre, have a few tricks up their chef’s coats. From their trips throughout the world and their combined culinary experience, they give the salads of summer a new, refreshing twist.

“At home, we fight over who makes the salad,” said Ciara, a native of Ireland who met Chris at Relish Culinary Adventures in Healdsburg. “We love the dinner salad. It’s healthy but filling, so you don’t feel deprived.”

At Bay Laurel Kitchen, which opened in early June, the caterers cook for all kinds of music shows, weddings and winery events, plus provide boxed lunches that include hearty sandwiches, bowls and salads.

One of the most popular salads is a twist on an old standard, the Chinese Chicken Salad. Their Sesame Chicken Salad comes studded with crunchy carrots and daikon radishes, shredded Napa cabbage and fried wontons.

For the chicken, they dry brine whole Mary’s Chicken in salt and white pepper overnight, then roast and pick the meat by hand. All the ingredients are tossed together with a savory Sesame Tamari Dressing.

“Every bite has something in it,” Chris said. “And the white pepper gives it that Asian flavor.”

If you’re short on time, they suggested picking up a rotisserie chicken from your favorite market. Ready-made fried wontons are available at Asian markets and G&G Market in Santa Rosa and Petaluma.

When they went on a backpacking trip to Argentina’s Patagonia region a few years ago, the couple discovered an interesting salad served by a little cafe in Buenos Aires.

“They mixed the quinoa and lentils, and added goat cheese,” Chris said. “I thought, ‘This is a genius idea. Why didn’t anybody think of this before?’” For their own spin, they add cucumber, parsley and radish to the quinoa and lentils, then serve it over hearts of Romaine leaves for added crunch.

“You can also add green onions, and it becomes a vehicle for whatever you have on hand,” Ciara said. “Not only is it delicious, but it will totally fill you up.”

For the lentils, it’s best to use black beluga or green Puy lentils, since both hold their shape after cooking and don’t get mushy. Once you blend the al dente lentils with the quinoa, the texture is surprisingly light and fluffy.

“You can also put it inside a lentil cup and serve it as an appetizer,” Chris said. “We’ve served this to tech company parties in Golden Gate Park, and everybody loves it.”

If you’re thinking about throwing a piece of chicken or salmon on the barbecue, what could be simpler than a classic side salad of tomatoes and lettuce?

Ciara came up with her own twist after planting an extensive home garden that yielded a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes.

“I slow roast them in the oven ... with olive oil and thyme,” she said. “They’re sweet but have a more subtle flavor than the sun-dried tomatoes.”

Once you pack them into a jar and top them off with olive oil, the slow-roasted tomatoes can be thrown on top of some tender salad greens, such as baby romaine and butter lettuce.

As a dressing, nothing could be more delicious than a creamy, lemony vinaigrette made with mustard, shallot and garlic. As a garnish, simply shave some Dry Jack cheese on top.

“The vinaigrette can also be drizzled on grilled veggies,” Chris said. “And you can save the olive oil from the tomatoes and use it with pasta.”

The chef named his catering company Bay Laurel after the venerable culinary and medicinal herb, Laurus nobilis, regarded as the most noble of all the herbs. He planted a Turkish Bay tree outside his new kitchen so that he can always have some fresh bay leaves to add flavor to his dishes.

“Throughout time, they made bay laurel wreaths and put them on their heads,” he said. “It also ties into the Bay Area and the bay trees that grow here.”

Sesame Chicken Salad with White Pepper and Coriander

Makes 4 servings as main dish

1 3 1/2-pound chicken

1 tablespoons kosher salt

2 teaspoon ground white pepper

2 pound Napa cabbage (washed and dried)

2 carrots, peeled

1 medium daikon, peeled

1 bunch scallions

1/3 cup packed cilantro leaves and stems (with more for garnish)

1/8 cup packed mint leaves

1/8 cup packed Thai basil leaves

1/2 package won ton wrappers

2 cups rice bran oil (for frying)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

— Salt and white pepper to taste

Clean chicken and pat dry, salt and white pepper all over and inside cavity. Truss chicken and let rest uncovered in refrigerator overnight. Next day remove chicken from refrigerator and let rest on counter for 1 hour.

Meanwhile preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place rested chicken in oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until thermometer registers 165 degrees in thickest part of thigh meat and juices run clear.

Let chicken rest again until cool enough to pick meat without burning fingers or losing an excessive amount of steam. Pick chicken meat off of bones and remove all skin (bones can be used for stock).

Shred cabbage as thinly as possible. Julienne carrot and daikon. Slice scallions 1/8-inch thick on a sharp bias. Roughly chop cilantro and chiffonade mint leaves and basil. Place all of the vegetables and herbs in a large salad bowl. Julienne won ton wrappers.

Place oil in a medium fry pot and bring up to 350 degrees. Fry won tons in batches to not overcrowd and drain well on paper towels so they are not greasy. Cool won tons, add some to salad bowl and reserve some for garnish.

Add chicken and toss salad with desired amount of Honey-Tamari-Sesame Dressing. Place salad on plates and garnish with desired amount of remaining crispy wontons, cilantro and sesame seeds.

Honey-Tamari-Sesame Dressing

Makes about 2 cups

1 1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup tamari

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 tablespoon sesame oil

In a medium size bowl, mix together mayonnaise, tamari, vinegar and all of the sesame oil.

Mix in the honey and pepper. This dressing will last one week in the refrigerator.

Red Butter Lettuce with Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette, Sungold Tomato Confit, Dry Jack & Leek Blossoms

Makes 4 servings as side salad

For Sungold Tomato Confit:

2 baskets Sungold cherry tomatoes

1 bunch of fresh thyme

2 tablespoons olive oil

For salad:

1 large head of red butter lettuce, washed, dried and separated into leaves

1/4 cup shaved Vella Dry Jack cheese

2 tablespoons leek blossoms

— Salt and pepper to taste

For tomato confit: Heat oven to 220 degrees. Line a non-nonreactive baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the tomatoes in half and place cut side up in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with stems of fresh thyme. Place in the oven and allow to cook until collapsed but not fully dried. (Approximately 4 hours).

Cool completely and pack in a sealable jar, topped off with olive oil. Make sure the tomatoes are fully submerged in the oil. Can be stored in the fridge for up to one month until ready for use.

To finish salad, toss lettuce with desired amount of Lemon-Dijon dressing, arrange on plate or platter with Dry Jack and top with tomato confit and leek blossoms to garnish. A pepper grinder set on a coarse setting works well here.

Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 1/4 cup

1/2 shallot

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 lemon (juice only)

1 cup olive oil

— Salt to taste

Roughly chop shallot and garlic and place in blender with Dijon and lemon juice. Blend, and with motor running slowly add olive oil to form an emulsion. Taste for salt and use immediately. Dressing will keep for one week in refrigerator.

Quinoa & Lentil Salad with Cucumber, Radish & Feta, Hearts of Romaine & Red Wine Vinaigrette

Makes 4 servings as main dish

1/2 cup quinoa

1 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup beluga lentils

4 small, Mediterranean cucumbers

1 bunch breakfast radishes

4 ounces sheep’s milk feta (or crumbly goat cheese)

1/2 cup loosely packed Italian parsley leaves

1 small bunch of chives

— Salt to taste

4 hearts of romaine (washed and split lengthwise)

Place the quinoa in 1 cup of water with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low; cook for 15-20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed and quinoa is cooked through.

Remove quinoa to a sheet pan with a fork and fluff to let steam escape and cool. Meanwhile cook lentils in 4 cups of water with a pinch of salt and a bay leaf.

Bring to a boil and simmer until cooked but slightly al dente. Drain lentils and cool on a sheet pan. Slice cucumbers and breakfast radish about 1/8 inch thick and place in a large salad bowl. Crumble cheese over vegetables and add cooled quinoa and lentils to the mix.

Chop parsley and mince chives and add to salad. Toss salad with desired amount of Red Wine Vinaigrette and taste for salt. Place one split romaine heart on each plate and top with salad. Garnish with any leftover cheese or chives.

Red Wine Vinaigrette

Makes about 3/4 cup

4 green onions, white part only (minced)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

— Pinch of salt

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

— Pinch of fresh nutmeg

1/2 tablespoon black pepper

Place the scallions and vinegar in a small bowl with salt and let sit for 10 minutes to macerate. Slowly whisk in oils, nutmeg and pepper. Check for seasoning.

Dressing will keep for up to a week in refrigerator.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

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