Saturday, July 13, 2013

Summer Salads

Simple and easy ways to use up those farmers market finds... and keep up with how fast my herbs are growing.

The Green Salad

Asparagus and pea salad
This idea came from an amazing omelet from The Bongo Room, which combined asparagus with English peas, with some additional brainstorming with my friend Suzanne, who suggested ideas for how to dress it, which I mostly adhered to...

We got the last peas from the farmers market last weekend; they are now officially Out of Season.  Some asparagus too.  Since I wanted the asparagus to retain some nice snap, I prepared that solely by blanching in boiling water for two minutes, then immediately dunking in ice water to stop the cooking.  The peas came already shelled, half of which I'd earlier used in a pasta salad (yum), so those simply got dumped in the bowl.  Once cool, the asparagus followed, cut into two-inch spears.

For the dressing, I threw some lemon juice, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, and coriander in the blender.  I had some leftover lamb's quarters that I needed to use up as well -- a leafy green "forage food" that's mildly bitter and great in salads with strawberries and balsamic vinaigrette. So I threw in a few leaves and blended everything together.  After finely chopping some mint leaves, I threw everything into the bowl and tossed to coat.

It turned out to be a very fresh-and-earthy tasting salad.  Despite using only a little lamb's quarter, that flavor really came through and nicely complemented the earthy asparagus and the fresh pea and mint flavors.  It had a nice balance between light and cool, and grounding.

The Red Salad

As much as we love watermelon in our household, it can still be a challenge for only two people to get through a whole big melon before it starts to go bad.  Enter the watermelon salad, a new take on watermelon that makes it different enough from ordinary, plain watermelon to make it disappear much faster.

This one is even easier than the first. Open up your watermelon, and cut the flesh into bite-sized chunks. Put the chunks into an enormous bowl, because it's a big watermelon and there's a lot of it. Throw in chunks of crumbly, tangy cheese – we have used goat cheese and feta and have loved both. On top of that, chiffonade a whole bunch of basil. This is easy to do: just stack your basil leaves on top of each other, roll them up into a little cigar, and then slice the cigar cross-wise to make long, thin strips. If you "fluff" them a bit, they will separate, and you can toss them in with your melon and cheese, then stir the whole thing up. If you have a big container with a lid, so much the better, because then you can just snap the lid on and shake.

Altogether the salad is cool, sweet, and juicy, with some nice tang from the cheese and a little accent from the basil. This could also work with mint instead of basil, although we haven't tried that yet.

My herbs are growing like crazy this year! So if you have ideas for ways to use mint, catnip, basil, sage, or cilantro, feel free to let me know. They grow faster than I can seem to eat them.

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