Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My Favorite Summer Salads

How are you holding up this summer? If you're on the coast, congratulations. Go sit on your deck with a cocktail and enjoy the cool breezes. If, like me, you're further inland, you've probably got the AC cranking and are dreading the coming SDG&E bill.

My 10-year-old dog Ketzel trying to find cold comfort with the tile.
In short, it's been hot and sticky. I have all these ideas for dishes I'd like to make and eat--but the thought of turning on the oven or stovetop and generating heat makes my hair wilt.

So, I've been focused on chilled soups, smoothies, and salads. Over the years I've published lots and lots of salad recipes and in honor of this sultry season, I thought I'd collect six of my favorites here for you to try--again or for the first time. Look how colorful these all are!

Balela Salad: Ah, this was a wonderful revelation. Thanks to Trader Joe's, which sells this ready made, I decided to make it myself. It's easy and so refreshing! Tomatoes, garbanzo beans, black beans, red onions, and lots of parsley and mint make it the perfect summer salad.

Spicy Kale, Corn, and Mango Salad: This crunchy salad was the result of refrigerator scavenging. It was a hot and humid day and I had no patience for cooking. The ingredients seemed random--a bunch of kale, an ear of corn, a not-quite-ripe mango, as well as a tomato, jalapeƱo, and salty capers--but together they worked, bathed in vinaigrette.

Trish's Tangy Summer Cucumber Garden Salad: Trish Watlington of The Red Door and Bar by Red Door is known for the bountiful garden she maintains at her Mt. Helix home. The garden supplies much of the restaurants' produce. Several years ago I invited her, along with other friends, for brunch and she brought this salad with veggies straight from her garden. It combines crisp summery cucumbers with crunchy radishes, sweet red onion, and juicy cherry tomatoes to round out the flavors and textures. Then she made it all pop with fresh mint and basil leaves, and flavored balsamic vinegar before smoothing it out with unctuous extra virgin olive oil. The best part is that it's one of those salads that tastes just as good on day two as when it's first prepared. In fact, it could easily be the topping to a bowl of room temperature quinoa or wheat berries for a full meal.

Sara Polcyznski's Shaved Baby Squash and Blossoms Salad: Sara Polcyznski of Sabor Imports has evolved into the consummate Mexican chef. I turn to her for magnificent Mexican flavors and a few years ago she walked me through three recipes, including this crunchy salad that makes the most of the proliferation of summer squash. Because this is a marinated salad, it can sit in the fridge for a couple of days and not lose its charm.

Maria Speck's Barley Salad with Figs and Tarragon-Lemon Dressing: Okay, okay, I said no cooking. But this marvelous salad takes prime advantage of the short fig season. So put on the barley to cook and just leave the kitchen. Then come back and put together this very simple but impactful salad. It's wonderful to bring to a potluck. The flavors are so surprising--including the barley--that people will be begging for the recipe.

True Food Tuscan Kale Salad: I know. Kale seems to have jumped the shark. But this is actually one of my hands down favorite salads. I'm so grateful to Chef Nathan Coulon of True Food Kitchen for teaching me how to make it. In fact, just writing about it makes me want to run to the market to buy the ingredients. I love a lemony garlicky anything. The brilliance of this salad is that the acid from the lemon juice cooks the kale and makes it--enjoyable. Plus, there's the saltiness of pecorino cheese--and I'll eat anything with good bread crumbs. I swear you'll love this salad.

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