I love the summertime for all its produce and freshness, but the same old salad can get a bit boring. My sister was feeling the solstice ennui when she sent me an email asking for some inspiration! Here is my approach to making the most of summertime veg all the days long…
If it grows together, then it goes together.
Let the seasonal goodness as it appears in your local markets give you guidance on great salad combinations. Some examples of seasonal pairings as the summer progress are asparagus & spring peas & dill or peaches, tomatoes & basil. Other harvest combinations are zucchini(a.k.a. courgettes), chives with ricotta or cucumbers, watermelon, mint, and feta cheese.
(Did I just wish for a tree that grows cheese? Why yes, Dr. Suess, I will do as I please!)
Keep it bright & light
I keep lots of lemons, olives, capers, kinds of vinegar, mustards and other zingy and zesty ingredients at the ready all summer long. The goal is to have loads of flavor while complimenting the natural healthiness of the ingredients. Check out my videos for preserved lemons and flavor ideas in my videos.
Herbs, herbs, herbs
I grow loads of herbs and buy loads of herbs. When it looks like the herbs may start to wilt or turn, I minced them up and put them in a jam jar topped with olive oil. I top up as I go and mix, always making sure to cover the herbs with oil which keeps them preserved. I add a dollop of this herbs mixture to everything! Salads, soups, eggs, meats – I’ve never had to worry about it going off because, once made, we go throughout pretty quickly. It’s a summertime no-brainer!
Soup, Suppers & Salads
The key to not getting stuck in a rut is to think beyond the salad. I have a general formula for summer cooking: all seasonal veg can be prepared in at least three ways -soups, salad or suppers. You have the same ingredients to choose from but three basic techniques to prepare: fresh, in liquid, cooked.
I love soup all year around – and its perfect for vegetables that come in bushels and heaps from the garden like tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini. Gazpacho with pickled shrimp is a personal favorite. It’s like a veggies smoothy and will use up those tomatoes & cukes! I will also make soup to the prolong the enjoyment of veg that can be overly abundant but doesn’t freeze well. Squash and zucchini with basil or dill is a sloppy mess when frozen and then reheated but, in soup, it’s delightful! I also will so a “Spring Green” soup with has frozen spring peas, leeks, asparagus, spinach, zucchini and as many tender herbs(basil, dill, parsley) as possible all bound together in quality, flavorful chicken broth. I cut everything bite-sized, so it’s like a swimming chopped salad! A tasty chicken bone broth is essential, so a summer soup doesn’t taste flat or watery. I get cheap chicken from the butcher and make my own, but you can usually buy good broth from the butcher too. Good for the belly and the soul!
Sometimes you want a satisfying hot meal in your belly even when its too hot outside to be in the kitchen for long.
All of these options make a big batch or sheet pan meal which makes them relatively hands-free and makes plenty of food for days(without days of prep):
- Greek “lasagne” with tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, red peppers with eggplant noodles(or real noodles) and feta
- A pan of chicken enchiladas with extra veg tucked in (squash, zucchini, black beans, tomatoes)
- Sheet pan meatballs(any meat) with spaghetti squash/zoodles + pesto
- Madras curried egg salad(which you can also make with tofu if the thought of boiling & peeling eggs sounds tiresome)
Sometimes you want a salad but need a little twist or originality. Here are some of my favorites along with the combinations I mentioned in the “grows together” section.
- A Panzella salad is always really satisfying– This of it as a pasta salad but with toasted bread croutons instead. For me, I love a little chopped Italian deli meat(like capicola or salami) or sundried tomatoes in this. A sneaky treat that is still pretty healthy!
- Chopped greek salad with lamb & mint meatballs (no lettuce in this one!)
- Peaches, tomatoes, fresh basil, & mozzarella balls with thick, agedbalsamic vinegar drizzle
- Peas, watercress, celery, broccoli florets, cheddar cubes & ham cubes. This is a CRUNCHY salad
- Hot smoked salmon, baby new potatoes, dill, arugula, capers, rye croutons
- Proscuitto wrapped chicken breast + pretty much any veg. Proscuitto wrapped anything is going to make it yummy!
As you can probably see, I have a general formula for building a salad. Maybe I will make that process my next post?
Until then, eat the rainbow!