by Jolene Lamb, coordinator, LLCC Culinary Institute
Summer is finally here! Seriously, after what seemed like an eternity of dreary, stormy, monsoon spring weather, we are finally enjoying longer days of sunshine. Gardens, for those who somehow managed to plant between rains, are finally producing, and fresh produce is showing up at local farmers markets. Which is great, because I like nothing better than simple dishes made from fresh local produce. In season, fresh picked foods are naturally bursting with flavor, which makes them quick to prepare, since not much has to be done by way of cooking or building flavor. Actually I prefer minimal cooking or eating raw foods in the summer. When the heat and humidity rise, I have no desire to turn on the oven or stand over the grill. So naturally, I turn to salads.
The word salad can be used to describe many dishes, from a simple green lettuce-based dish, to pasta or grain-based with a zesty vinaigrette, and even a variety of mayonnaise-based dishes such as potato or chicken salad. The following two recipes can loosely be considered salads. The carrot salad might even be described as a slaw. With flavors of India, this carrot dish is an interesting way to spice up your garden carrots.
When peaches, plums and nectarines come into season, I get busy trying to find new ways to enjoy the pitted fruits. I found the combination of fruit and cheese years ago in a dish made from brie topped with honey and sweet dried fruits, wrapped in puff pastry and baked. I fell in love with it and every season since, I search for more fruit and cheese-inspired combinations. Recently I tried a recipe from Bon Appetit which featured plums, parmesan and black pepper with a touch of honey. The recipe also works well with peaches, or feel free to use a mix of plums, peaches and or nectarines.
Another of my favorite fruit and cheese salads comes from a class I taught many years ago on watermelon dishes. The sweet and pungent watermelon feta salad was a big hit in class. I often make it to take to summer get togethers. Choose a large watermelon and there will be enough salad to feed a crowd!
Finally, one of my favorite summer salads consists of several local garden veggies. In fact, six of the 10 ingredients can be grown in your garden. Summer corn salad is also versatile. Dice all the vegetables into small cubes and puree or crush the tomatoes. Add a little tomato paste. Leave out the feta and you can turn this dish into summer corn salsa. It can also be made into a main dish casserole with the addition of ground beef. Brown the ground beef, layer it into a casserole dish with the rest of the ingredients, top with cheese and bake until golden brown.
Carrot salad with cashews and raisins
Makes two servings
10–12 ounces carrots, grated (about 4- 5 cups)
1 tablespoon lime zest
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced (or use ginger paste)
⅓ cup raisins (golden or regular)
½ cup toasted cashews
½ cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
salt and pepper to taste
½ teaspoon ground turmeric (or use 1–2 teaspoons fresh grated)
1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne (optional, and/ or more to taste)
Place all ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Taste. Adjust salt, acid and sweetness to taste.
This will keep up to 4 days in the fridge.
Plum Salad with Black Pepper and Parmesan
From Bon Appetit
Don’t bother trying to halve and pit the plums before slicing them for this plum salad recipe. Instead, cut off slices, working your way from the outside to the pit.
Makes two servings
2 Tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper, plus more
6 ripe red, black, and/or green plums, some thinly sliced, some cut into wedges
¼ cup shaved Parmesan or Pecorino, plus more for serving
2 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt
Stir vinegar, honey and ½ tsp. pepper in a medium bowl until honey is dissolved. Add plums to dressing and toss until coated. Add ¼ cup Parmesan and gently toss again just to evenly distribute throughout salad.
Transfer plum salad to a shallow bowl. Top with more Parmesan, drizzle with oil, and season with salt and more pepper.
Watermelon Feta Salad
1 small red onion
Juice of 4 fresh limes
3 ½ pounds sweet, ripe watermelon
9 ounce crumbled feta cheese
Bunch of flat-leaf parsley
Bunch of fresh mint, chopped
3 –4 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounce black olives, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
Peel and halve the red onion and slice thin. In a small bowl, combine onion and lime juice. Set aside. The acid from the lime juice will somewhat pickle the onions and mellow their flavor. Two limes’ worth should do it, but if the limes are not very juicy, add more juice.
Using a chef’s knife, cut away the watermelon rind. Dice watermelon into ½ inch pieces. In a large bowl, combine watermelon, cheese, oil, olives, onions and lime juice, and salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Top with parsley and mint. Chill or serve immediately.
Summer Corn Salad
This beautiful salad truly captures the summer season.It’s chock full of fresh veggies and basil, and feta cheese gives it a rich, tangy flavor.
Adapted from Taste of Home
Makes 4 servings
5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 minced hot pepper from the garden
1-1/2 cups fresh sweet corn
1-1/2 cups heirloom tomatoes, medium dice
1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
In a small bowl, whisk 4 teaspoons oil, lime juice, minced pepper and salt; set aside.
In a large skillet, cook and stir corn in remaining oil over medium-high heat until tender. Transfer to a salad bowl; cool slightly. Add the tomatoes, cucumber, onion and basil. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat.
Let stand for 10 minutes before serving or refrigerate until chilled. Sprinkle with cheese just before serving.