Salad Days

by Danielle Charles

IMG_2506 The month of August has brought us a slue of hot, lazy summer days here in Vermont – a welcome gift after the endless cold rain that made up June and July.  It’s been so hot these past few days that even the thought of turning the oven on  makes me sweat. So, we’ve been getting creative with the salads – and fortunately, this weather corresponds perfectly with the bounty of fresh vegetables coming from the garden.

Its become my new routine, in fact, wandering up to the garden around supper time, plucking the first ripe tomatoes, cutting a few heads of lettuce, pulling up some carrots, and picking the snap peas and rattlesnake pole beans from the vine. I head back in with my basket full of goodies, and start assembling to me what are truly works of art. A few small additions, and you have a delicious and wholesome meal there in front of you that seems almost too beautiful to eat.

The important thing with transforming a salad from a lowly side dish into the star entrée  is to add a good protein and fat source to make it into a complete meal.  Here are some of my favorite salads:

Taco Salad

  • Cook up a pot of black beans (don’t forget to soak them overnight first). Drain them, and then season with salt and pepper, cumin, cayenne or other spices of choice.
  • While you’re cooking up the beans, cook up a pot of brown quinoa. Drain and season well with salt.
  • Brown some pasture raised ground beef (or tempeh if you’re a vegetarian)  in a frying pan with onion and garlic and a dash each of cumin, chili powder, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Combine cubed avocado, roughly chopped tomatoes, scallion, cilantro, jalapeño and lime juice in a bowl. Add salt to taste.
  • To assemble the salad:
    • Place a large pile of mesclun greens or chopped head lettuce onto a plate.
    • Top with a generous portion of quinoa and black beans, scattering them evenly over the plate.
    • Add a scattering of beef, and top with the avocado and tomato mixture.
    • Squirt lime juice over the salad and add a sprinkling of minced cilantro as a garnish.

Provençal salad

  • Hard boil 6 free range eggs. Cool them in cool water, then peel and mash them up with a fork. Add a 1/4 cup olive oil mayo, 1 tsp brown mustard, and 1/2 – 1 cup fresh chopped herbs. I like dill, chives, parsley and tarragon – but use what you have! Splash a little lemon juice in for a finishing touch.
  • Cook up a pot of white beans (soaked overnight first). Drain and rinse with cold water until cooled. Place 1 garlic clove, 3 shallots, a large bunch of fresh basil and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a food processor, and process until well combined. Add to the beans with a splash of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • To assemble:
    • Line a large plate with mesclun or chopped head lettuce
    • Place a large scoop of beans over the the salad
    • Scatter chopped heirloom tomatoes, green beans, shredded carrot and kalamata olives over the greens
    • Place a large scoop of egg salad on top
    • Squeeze a lemon over the top, and added chopped fresh parsley to garnish.
    • Bon appetite!

Fig, bacon and Arugula Salad

  • Place fresh arugula on a large plate. Top with sliced red onion, halved black mission figs, toasted walnuts, and crumble with blue cheese and bacon.
  • Whisk together honey, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and black pepper in a small bowl. Spoon over the salad and enjoy.

Other salad topper ideas:

  • toasted nuts + cheese of choice (almonds and goat cheese, hazelnuts and blue cheese, pine nuts and mozzarella, etc)
  • bean + grain combo of choice (chickpeas and bulghur, lentils and barley, etc)
  • grilled meats sliced thin – chicken, turkey, fish, tofu
  • smoked or canned fish (tuna, salmon, herring, etc)
  • seaweed
  • cottage cheese
  • thinly sliced meats – roast beef, prosciutto, smoked turkey, etc
  • steamed root vegetables – potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips
  • fruit – sliced grilled peaches or apricots with sliced pork loin, raspberries with almonds and goat cheese, figs, etc.