Be surprising with salad ingredients, textures

Sugar Snap Pea Salad With Crispy Prosciutto and Mint

Editor's note: Whether potato, pasta or chopped, salads are essential summer eating. So celebrate the delicious diversity of salads by following 'The 20 Salads of Summer' series featuring the best recipes by the biggest names in the food world. Go to postandcourier.com/food to find new recipes and photos each week.

The queen of culinary cool says that if you want a killer salad, kick up the salt and ditch the unripe tomatoes.

"There are too many other delicious veggies you can use to rely on unripe tomatoes," Food Network star Anne Burrell said in a recent e-mail interview.

"And if a salad isn't dressed or seasoned properly, that's also a problem for me.

"Salt brings out the flavor in food and makes it taste like what it should be," she said. "An under-dressed or under-salted salad is just not cool."

Burrell, whose cookbook "Cook Like a Rock Star" (Clarkson Potter) is being released in the fall, also likes to add an element of the unexpected to her salads.

"I try to be surprising when I make salads. I love using less traditional greens, like escarole, which has a real bite to it and can stand up to other strong flavors. And I like to play with textures. One of my favorite salads is based on raw asparagus cut really thin so it's super crisp but still tender."

For the AP's 20 Salads of Summer series, Burrell offered a sugar snap pea salad that contrasts the sweet taste of the peas with salty prosciutto and fresh mint.

"This salad just sings of summer to me. When I was developing it, I kept thinking of how the crisp, crunchy peas and the crisp prosciutto work together for texture, and how the arugula and mint provide a lovely, fresh bed for everything. It's all so bright and green!

"I decided to use the pan juices from the prosciutto -- with a bit of garlic and red pepper, of course -- to make a warm dressing because I've always loved greens when they're just slightly wilted but still super-fresh."

Start to finish: 25 minutes

Servings: 4

1 pound sugar snap peas, stem ends and strings removed

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, smashed

Pinch of crushed red pepper

1/4 pound prosciutto, thinly sliced, cut crosswise in 1/4-inch strips

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 cups baby arugula

1/2 small red onion, julienned

1/4 cup pecorino cheese, shaved

8 to 10 fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of well-salted ice water and set it nearby. Add the peas to the boiling water, let the water return to a boil, cook for 2 minutes. Remove peas from water and immediately plunge them into the ice water. When the peas are cold, drain them and lay on paper towels. Cut the peas in half lengthwise, then set aside.

Coat a medium saute pan with olive oil, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Set pan over medium heat and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic. Add the prosciutto and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until crispy. Add vinegar. Turn off the heat. In a large bowl, combine the arugula, snap peas and onion, along with the prosciutto and any juices from the pan. Toss well. Add the pecorino and mint, then taste and adjust salt if needed.

Nutrition information per serving: 230 calories; 110 calories from fat; 12g fat (4g saturated; 0g trans fats); 25mg cholesterol; 11g carbohydrate; 13g protein; 3g fiber; 890mg sodium.

Recipe from Anne Burrell's forthcoming "Cook Like a Rock Star," Clarkson Potter, October 2011.