Monday, July 25, 2011

Cool salads

This past January, I resolved to eat more raw foods. Near the end of winter—in the spring, really, but before any hint of spring produce in the markets—a co-worker turned me on to a food blog with an amazing celeriac salad. Authentically French, with an uncommon flavor and a refreshing, crisp texture, it put me on the hunt for composed side salads: the kind of dish that has a strong flavor and crunch, and which sets the stage for other flavors, whether as a complement to a rich, meaty entree or as a kind of amuse bouche. After celeriac season was over, I continued making the cabbage slaw I posted about at the same time: another good side salad, but we ate it all spring and I wore it out; and so this summer, I’ve been trying new ways to eat raw vegetables.

Through our long summer farm share season, we have lots of salad greens. I’ve whipped up a couple of vinaigrettes, adding a little dry mustard and ground cumin, fresh herbs, and green onions or garlic scapes if I had them, to pour over my usual salad of washed greens and lentil sprouts. I’ve also eaten some little salads of chopped summer squash and zucchini, with some sliced tomato and sprouts, with this dressing. This is a basic version:

Summer vinaigrette
Makes enough to dress 4 dinner salads

Ingredients
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup olive oil
1T chopped fresh herbs: any one or combination of parsley, thyme, rosemary, marjoram or oregano, mint, basil, and cilantro
2-3 green onions, chopped
½ tsp ground dry mustard
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

Put all of the ingredients into a cruet and shake well. Serve at room temperature. Store extra dressing in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

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Last night I had company over for dinner, and whipped up a little cucumber salad dressed with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and mint. This may become my chic little side salad this summer.

Cool cucumber salad
Serves 4 as a side salad

Ingredients
2 medium cucumbers
Juice of one lemon
2T olive oil
1T fresh spearmint, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel the cucumber and slice it lengthwise. Use a melon baller to remove the seeds. Slice the cucumber into thin half-rounds. Dress with freshly squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, mint, salt, and pepper. Serve immediately; it will be okay the next day, but watery.
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