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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

summer kitchen sink salads

One of my favorite vendors at our farmers' markets is a young couple, just graduated from college. They grow interesting and heirloom varieties of all crops, and I always stop by their stand first. For the past month, their table has been filled with head lettuces of all textures, colors, and sizes. From crunchy Ice Queen (a flavorful and crisp iceberg style lettuce) to frilly Lolla Rosa, to baby romaine, all of the lettuces are delicious, and provide a perfect bed for "kitchen sink" style salads.

Every Saturday, I buy three or four heads, and come home and wash, de-slug, and spin the tender leaves. Every weekday at lunchtime, I haul out the salad spinner and fill a small serving bowl with lettuce before contemplating my next toppings. I've let the farmers' market offerings guide my toppings, which means I've been incorporating strawberries, cherries, sugar snap peas, scallions, carrots, and radishes into the salads. I've added avocado, various cheeses, pecans, chickpeas, and/or pan fried tofu for protein and complexity.

I always make my own dressings, a single serving at a time. With a variety of vinegars, several olive oils, citrus, and sweeteners to choose from, I craft tangy, light, and satisfying vinaigrettes.

vinaigrette fixins from Michigan, Italy, and Wisconsin
Here are a few particularly winning combinations for inspiration. Let your fridge and pantry, as well as your taste and cravings, guide you:

Strawberry-Avocado-Carrot-Cucumber-Sugar Snap Pea-Scallion-Pecan-Bel Gioso Four Cheese Blend with Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

 [no photo of this one. sorry!]

Cherry-Avocado-Feta-Pecan-Carrot-Scallion-Chickpea with Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Juicy Michigan cherries are the star of this salad. 
Sugar Snap Pea-Carrot-Scallion-Tofu with Spicy Peanut Dressing

A glamour shot of Ice Queen lettuce, which holds up particularly well to this heavier spicy peanut dressing in this Thai-influenced salad.

These salads make lunch different and delicious everyday. Filled with several servings of fruits and vegetables, and lean protein, these salads are nutritional powerhouses...that taste decadent, and provide lasting satisfaction and fullness, especially when paired with a homemade roll or buttered honey whole wheat toast. 

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