With gardens and farmer’s markets in their prime this time of year — and hot weather setting in as well, salads are the logical choice for lighter summer meals. They can be made of just about anything you have on hand or have growing in your garden — fresh, raw or cooked.
Some thoughts are: all sorts of leftovers augmented by nuts, fruits, lots of greens, marinated mushrooms, cooked shrimp, pastas, canned beans. Just keep the colors and textures balanced — some darks, some lights, some leafy greens, and some more solid fare. Some whole, some cut in matchsticks, and maybe a decoratively cut radish or two.
I think Mark Bittman’s wonderful cookbook “How to Cook Everything” has the best salad section I know of — both for adventurous and not-so-adventurous diners. Packaged greens and bottled dressings have their place in the world — and I’m sure they have increased salad consumption in general — but it is so very easy to make your own more healthful and original concoctions.
Start with a basic compliment of salad and salad dressing ingredients. For dressings, the most important item in my larder is good, extra virgin olive oil. If you don’t already have a favorite, buy the smallest bottles you can find and taste until you find one you like. They vary tremendously as does the price, and you don’t have to spend a king’s ransom for a nice one. Next would be small bottles of a neutral (such as canola or grapeseed) oil, and perhaps a sesame oil for Asian-type salads. Next comes vinegar: red and/or white wine, rice (my favorite), and maybe a balsamic. Lemons (lots) and limes. Salt and pepper. Fresh herbs if you like. If you prefer creamy dressings (such as Ranch), add your choice of plain yoghurt, sour cream, mayonnaise and buttermilk.
Today’s recipe will use lots of fresh herbs, which are plentiful in the garden right now, as are several varieties and colors of lettuce. The other ingredients for our composed and arranged-on-a-platter salad will have to come from the market or the farmer’s market: Zucchini, eggplant, peppers, big red onions. By summer’s end, we should be able to use all home grown produce.
ROASTED VEGETABLE SALAD WITH GREEN HERB DRESSING
Serves 4 - 6
For the salad:
About 4 or 5 cups assorted greens – lettuce, arugula, frisee, or others of your choice – washed and chilled.
Brush lightly with olive oil and grill until crisp-tender, then set aside and chill:
One eggplant, sliced about ½ inch thick
Two or three zucchini or yellow squash, sliced ½ inch thick
One large red or green pepper, cut in strips
One or two red onions, sliced and held together by toothpicks (to keep them from falling apart when grilled)
Hard boil, chill, then peel and quarter: 4 to 6 eggs.
To assemble — arrange lettuces on a platter or serving dish, layer grilled vegetables and eggs attractively on top of greens, and pass the dressing separately.
For the dressing — which is best done in a blender or food processor:
Vary the amounts of the following to suite your taste.
Whirl until well blended and pale green.
1/3 cup parsley — no stems
3 tablespoons each snipped chives and tarragon leaves(no stems)
2 cloves garlic, lightly chopped
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (such as Nakano)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream, plain yogurt or buttermilk
Salt and pepper to taste
David and Muffy Vhay own Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast. Contact the ranch at 775-882-3643.