Food Fridays: Summer Salads

It’s predicted to be a wicked scorchah here today, at least as hot as it ever gets on the coast, and weather like this gives us permission to find a new kind of simplicity and creativity. Like, for example the cold cereal with milk and bananas I gave the boys for lunch yesterday. Which they thought was just HILARIOUS.

For me, I like to find the fewest possible ingredients I can put together and still call dinner. It seems like we’re entitled when it is this hot, and since you’d never eat like this on a crisp October day or a snowy January evening, I say celebrate the season.

I enjoy an excellent Watermelon Gazpacho each year at my village fair’s unrivaled “soup kitchen” (More than 25 types of hot and cold soups served for lunch in the gardens of a stately historic house. They are mostly all sold out by noon. Locals? Come early!) and I was looking for something along those lines—cool, crunchy and savory and sweet at the same time. (My guest blogger Laura from Cult of Domesticity shared a good sweet one, plus an excellent corn salad in her post for me earlier this month.)

I found this recipe in the June 2008 Bon Appetit, and while the reviews suggest things can get ugly quick when it gets watery, I was heartened when I spotted the same recipe tested at the always delicious Smitten Kitchen, and Deb made no mention of excessive watery-ness.

Try at your own risk. Deb’s photo is way better than the epicurious.com photo, and makes it look much more appealing, too.

Chopped Vegetable Salad with Watermelon and Feta

Bon Appetit, June 2008

Makes 4 servings

1 pound Campari or plum tomatoes, diced, drained

1 1/2 cups diced seeded watermelon

1 large green bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1/3-inch cubes

1/2 large English hothouse cucumber, seeded, cut into 1/3-inch cubes

1/2 cup very thinly sliced radishes

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

10 ounces feta cheese, broken into small cubes (about 2 1/2 cups), divided

2 green onions, chopped, divided

1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh mint leaves, divided

1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Toss first 5 ingredients and 2 tablespoons oil in large bowl. Add half each of cheese, green onions, and mint. Mix remaining cheese, green onions, mint, and oil in processor; add yogurt and oregano. Process just to blend (do not over-mix or dressing will get thin). Season dressing with salt and pepper; mix into salad.

But since that is completely untried, I feel it is only fair to give you something I HAVE made and can recommend. Since this is a completely made-up recipe based on something I spotted in the Whole Foods prepared foods section (when it was still Bread & Circus, that’s how long ago it was), I can only give you faint suggestions for quantity. Work with me, it all comes out fine in the end. I’m sure there are a zillion versions of this on epicurious.com and elsewhere if you are more precise than I.

Uh, let’s call it…

Black Bean, Pepper and Corn Salad with Lime-Cilantro Dressing

1 medium or half of a large Bermuda (the purple ones), minced

A couple of bell peppers, diced (go for color here. I recommend green and red, or green and orange)

About 4 cups corn kernels orn, can be from the cob or the bag. Grilled is nice, but I rarely make that much effort.

2-3 15-ounce cans of black beans, rinsed and drained. (Add 2, then mix and review your ratios. Add more if you like.)

The Dressing

Whisk together about 1/4 cup fruity green olive oil, the juice of one lime, 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon cumin, a dash of cayenne pepper and about a 1/4 of finely minced fresh cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste, and pour over chopped vegetables in a bowl. Adjust ingredients of dressing to taste, and add more as needed. Mix well. (Should just make a light film on the beans and vegetables.)

Note: Much like the Texas Caviar salad versions, also another good cold summer salad, this can be bulked up with 2-3 cups of cooked grains: rice, orzo pasta, quinoa, you name. it. Chill and serve cold with lime wedges on the side and a sprig of cilantro on top.

Okay readers, I can’t wait to see what YOU’VE got for summer salads on this historic Food Friday, the first to include readers. Leave a link to your blog, or a website with one of your favorite summer salads or just add the whole recipe in the comments. Because we’ve got plenty more of these hot summer days left.

Next Friday? Keeping cool with frozen treats! Tell me what you do, or would love to try making with ice cream, sherbet, sorbet or ices this summer. Need inspiration? Check out the July issue of Martha Stewart living, and this search on epicurious. Mmmmmm….

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9 Responses to “Food Fridays: Summer Salads”

  1. Sara Says:

    Here is one of my favorite things to serve with a nice summer salad (sorry, I am apparently terrible at following directions): chilled carrot-ginger soup. You can check it out here:

    http://ifihadtopickfive.wordpress.com/

    Thank you for inviting us to add to your food Fridays. I can’t wait to see what everyone posts!

  2. thelandofka Says:

    Those sound so yummy! I wouldn’t be able to feed the first to the hubby though…he doesn’t think anything sweet should be involved in a meal.

    Here’s mine – a BBQ favorite – Taco Salad

    http://thelandofka.com/?p=1050

  3. thelandofka Says:

    Anna, I posted but it got caught in your spam…Akismet has been doing that to me a lot when people post links. You might want to make sure you are checking that today. :)

  4. cdp Says:

    That first salad looks delicious! I will definitely have to try that out while we’re at the beach this week. The black bean and corn also sounds good. I have tried something similar to that before (down here we call it South Georgia caviar); anyway it’s also good served with tortilla chips for dipping. Tastes good with a cold beer!

    Have a great weekend!

  5. Sarah Says:

    My favorite summer salad doesn’t have a formal recipe. We change it up often but it generally consists of pasta (I like farfalle or fusilli), diced hearts of palm, mandarin oranges, diced artichoke hearts, fun (grape) tomatoes, olives, maybe some flaked tuna or salmon, all in a balsamic vinagrette. Actually, i *just* got some more hearts of palm yesterday to make this this weekend.

    I recently tried a nice rice pilaf/black bean/diced cucumber salad that was really great. (sshhhhh it was weight watchers)

    As for frozen treats, we’re so addicted to shave ice that we got a little machine. mmmm.

  6. sdh Says:

    My favorite is a corn and zucchini salad. The original recipe I found here:
    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/230474

    But as always, I made several changes and substitutions. I can’t seem to follow a recipe as written, there’s always something I don’t like (in this case cilantro)!

    My version:

    some olive oil
    some chopped shallots
    1/2 bag of frozen corn
    2 medium zucchini quartered lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick pieces
    some ground cumin
    some sea salt
    some black pepper
    1/2 of a red (or orange) bell pepper, diced
    some kind of green leafy thing cut up into small pieces (ie. spinach, watercress, parsley, etc)

    Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook shallots, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add corn, zucchini, cumin, red pepper, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the green leafy and stir until heated and mixed.

    It’s a very versatile and forgiving recipe. It’s good hot or cold, alone, or with pasta or rice. Last time I made it I burned the shallots a little, but it still tasted good!

  7. JenBun Says:

    I totally forgot to do this today! Well, here is my delightfully long comment o’ salads! :P

    My all-time fave is a regular green salad– I do mixed baby greens, chopped green onions, diced tomatoes and avocadoes, sliced mushrooms, and maybe some carrots or corn for excitement and color– and then I chop up two GardenBurger veggie burger patties on top (grilled or microwaved)— SOOOO good! Especially good topped with Annie’s Goddess Dressing! (from Henry’s or Trader Joe’s or the like)

    So easy, so delicious! I’ll try to post another recipe to my space and come back to comment when it’s up! :)

  8. Christina Says:

    I just can’t wrap my head around the idea of watermelon in a salad. I LOVE watermelon…I LOVE salad – just not together.

    the second salad sounds too awesome for words, tho. I’m gonna have to go buy me some peppers.

    I was lazy and didn’t get anything typed up, but this one from Pioneer Woman is a winner!
    http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2008/03/my_most_favorite_salad_ever_ever_ever_ever/

  9. Heidi Says:

    My hus loves anything made with cilantro. Soon we will have many fresh veggies from his garden so I will try one of these recipes. Thanks for sharing.

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