The season for fabulous fresh flavors is officially on!
Even if you don't have a garden of your own, there is a neighbor's garden or farmer's market somewhere near you. They are all filling up with fresh flavors—tiny tomatoes, onions and cucumbers, even if the lettuces may have bolted in the heat.
This is the best season to celebrate those flavors and those farmers. It is also the greatest season for quick meals, sharing some of the bounty with others and just enjoying rich, deep flavors from the garden.
My favorite supper this time of year is a great big salad.
You can make up a salad with almost any vegetables from your garden without the hassle and heat of cooking, so think about salad for supper tonight. I have several suggestions.
If you have cucumbers, summer squash or zucchini coming in, think about slicing it very thinly (even use a mandoline if you have one.
If lettuce is waning in your garden, use those slices as the base for a hearty salad. If you have red onions, slice them thinly and toss them in a bit of vinegar for quick pickled red onions that will add a dash of flavor to many dishes and salads.
Tiny tomatoes are bursting with flavor and add bright colors to salads too. You can even use chopped herbs as part of the mix—I have an overabundance of flat leaf parsley. Those big leaves off the stem add a fresh twist to salads.
Here are my suggestions for keeping the salad situation bright and seasonal. Skip making the same salad every night. Stop using the same bags of salad or bottled dressings and get adventurous. Maybe even make your meal a new salad creation by adding grilled meats, vegetables or seafood.
Try some inspirations from different countries.
For Latin inspiration, think about adding fresh corn kernels and perhaps some cooked black beans to greens. Toast up some tortilla strips and toss them on top. Use a creamy avocado dressing to finish the dish. (You can also buy those tortilla strips pre-toasted in a bag at most groceries.)
For a Greek salad inspiration, follow the lead of many restaurants in Athens, where cucumbers are plentiful and lettuce is hard to come by. Thinly slice cucumbers. Toss them with pitted olives, red onion and halved cherry tomatoes. Use a quick balsamic vinaigrette or a light olive oil and lemon juice dressing. If you add Feta cheese and some grilled chicken or lamb, you have a Greek salad that makes a meal. If you stuff it into halved pita breads, you have salad for a picnic.
Latin Style Chicken Salad with Avocado Dressing
4 cups crisp clean lettuce pieces
1 cup corn off the cob
1 cup cooked white meat chicken, shredded or cut into strips
1 cup black beans
¼ cup crumbled Cotija cheese
¼ cup crisp tortilla strips
Avocado Dressing (recipe below)
Toss the lettuce, corn, black beans and chicken all together with 2-3 Tablespoons of dressing. Garnish with the cheese and tortilla chips. Serve immediately with extra dressing on the side.
1 large ripe avocado
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup vinegar
¼ cup fresh lemon or lime juice
½ teaspoon Badia Complete Seasoning or other Latin seasoning mix
Salt and pepper to taste
Blend all the ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Taste and add more juice, salt or pepper as needed.
Simple Greek Salad
3 cups thinly sliced peeled cucumber
½ cup pitted and halved Kalamata olives
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
¼ cup chopped red onions
½ cup crumbled Feta cheese
2-3 tablespoons Italian or vinaigrette dressing
Toss all the ingredients together. Serve chilled.