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It’s summertime and the salads are easy. Fruits and vegetables are now at the peak of their season, so all you have to do is clean them, peel or cut them and just toss them into a salad bowl and enjoy their raw, fresh taste.
Farmers’ market bounty and too-hot-to-cook temperatures combine to push this modest first course to center stage this time of year. In our area, Indigo Farms Produce and Holden Bros. Farm Market have an abundance of lettuces, squash, berries, corn, cucumbers, peppers, peas, fruits, melons, and, of course, tomatoes. Take home everything that looks good. Don’t worry about how you’re going to use it all—you only need a salad bowl and an appetite.
Anything can be a salad
A salad is the perfect way to use up that leftover grilled chicken or steak. Any kind of lunchmeat will also work well. Smoked turkey, ham, tuna, salami, corned beef and prosciutto are all great on salads.
For meatless salads, try topping them with a can of beans, such as kidney, cannelloni, garbanzo or black beans. They all make tasty, satisfying salad toppers.
Use the whole leaf of young herbs, such as dill fronds, basil, cilantro sprigs or flat-leaf parsley. The more you chop them, the stronger the flavor, but using the whole leaf gives you a more subtle flavor and a different texture.
Salad dressings are something that we’re used to pouring out of one of those bottles in the refrigerator door, but they are unbelievably easy to make from scratch, and one taste of a homemade dressing should convince you.
My favorite salads
Some of my favorite summertime salads don’t even use any lettuce at all. My wife makes great summer salads and she has graciously allowed me to share a few of our favorites.
Try a Greek salad of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, Greek olives and tangy feta cheese mixed with a simply delicious dressing of lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, sugar, mint leaves and chopped oregano.
Or make a guacamole salad, using chopped avocadoes, tomatoes, green onions and a can of chopped chili peppers. Chill for at least an hour.
Try a great presentation consisting of slices of garden-fresh tomatoes topped with fresh Havarti cheese covered with fresh basil leaves and sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil and salt.
And don’t forget tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern favorite, made with nutty, chewy bulgur wheat, cucumber, tomato, green onions and fresh mint and parsley.
Cilantro Melon Salad with Fresh Mint
The combination of fresh honeydew melon with cilantro and mint is tossed with sweetened limejuice for a refreshing fruit salad option. Add cantaloupe and/or strawberries for larger gatherings.
4 cups honeydew melon, 1-inch chunks
1 Tbsp. fresh limejuice
3 Tbsps. chopped cilantro leaves and stems
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
Sugar to taste
Combine the honeydew, limejuice, cilantro, mint and sugar in a bowl; toss to combine; refrigerate at least two hours before serving.
Raspberry Bean Salad with Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 Tbsps. raspberry vinegar
3 Tbsps. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) yellow cut beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) green cut beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup slivered red onions
1 cup sliced colossal ripe black olives
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced red bell peppers
In a medium bowl, combine the mustard, vinegar, garlic, oil and salt to make a vinaigrette. Add the yellow and green beans, parsley, onions, olives, Parmesan and red peppers. Toss well. Serve chilled. Makes 6 servings.
Broccoli Cucumber Salad
1 large bunch broccoli
1 medium cucumber
1 large tomato
1 medium red onion
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup salad oil
1/4 cup wine vinegar
1 tsp. garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the broccoli into bite size pieces, including some of the stem. Cook in boiling water for 2-3 minutes; drain and run cold water over it to stop the cooking. Peel and slice a cucumber. Cut tomato into bite size pieces. Mix together and add cheese. Mix together dressing ingredients and pour over the salad. Toss to coat. Chill until ready to serve. Makes 4-6 servings.
2 bags spinach leaves
1 can Mandarin oranges, drained
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup raisins
1 small red onion, sliced
1 cup pecans (optional)
For the dressing:
1/2 cup dark current jelly
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Melt jelly in small saucepan on low heat or in microwave. When cool, stir in vinegar. Clean spinach leaves, dry and remove stems. Mix all salad ingredients together, except for the pecans. About 1-2 hours before serving, add the dressing to the salad ingredients to desired consistency. Keep chilled until served. Add one cup of pecans just before serving. Makes four to six servings.
Web site update
For those of you that also use our Web site (www.brunswickbeacon.com) to read this column or search for recipes, it just got easier. From the menu list at the top of the home page, just go to “Features” and select “Cooking.” The current food column will appear, along with a few previous columns. Use the search box at the top right of the page to search for recipes. The recipe will not appear, but rather the column that the recipe appeared in. Just scroll down until you find the recipe you want.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at email@example.com.