There comes a moment in summer when there are almost too many fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Each meal becomes a true omnivore's dilemma--whatever will I eat this time?
There also comes a moment in summer when temperatures rise and the desire to turn on the oven or stovetop decreases. (note: a chilly midwestern summer means *these* moments are rare, but i pretend, out of a perverse desire for a hot, humid summer. must be all those years spent living south of the mason-dixon line).
At these moments, your best friend is a summer salad, crafted out of the freshest ingredients, and arranged in endless iterations. My go-to food reference, Mark Bittman, just posted a list of 101 salads on the NY Times website last week, and he's the inspiration behind this post.
Here are two of the many salads I've been making lately.
Nicoise inspired Salad
boiled new potatoes
steamed green beans
basil (italian and thai)
This vegan salad is tasty and adaptable. Some kind of potato and bean is essential, as is the lemon and olive oil dressing. A traditional Salad Nicoise also contains hard boiled eggs and tuna, neither of which I like.
Trattoria Stella inspired Salad
Trattoria Stella is a gem of a restaurant, tucked into a former mental hospital in Traverse City, Michigan. (the buildings are gorgeous, with a touch of the gothic. the whole "campus" has been transformed into upscale housing, restaurants, and shops).
Two summers ago I enjoyed a salad of butterhead lettuce, sweet cherries, and goat cheese that was transcendent. I had just started eating sweet cherries, and this salad was a revelation.
My version is built around some of my favorite ingredients.
local lettuces (whatever is available, from butterhead to spring greens to heirloom iceberg)
toasted pecans (don't skip the toasting--it adds the perfect level of complexity)
sweet cherries (halved and pitted)
bellavitano cheese (an amazing wisconsin cheese, a fruity parmesan style that crumbles)
balsamic vinaigrette (olive oil + aged balsamic vinegar)
Imagine a lunch with *both* of these salads and a little wedge of bread, and you'll have my staple lunch this week. Yumm. Next week I'll try some new combinations...