Versatile Summer Crunch Salad

I think it is safe to say that summer has finally arrived here in the Northeast. We wait long and patiently. I’ve finally put away my heavy sweaters and traded cozy fireplace nights with dreams of warm days and cool nights. I also started dreaming up dishes that cool the palate and refresh during those toasty days. Chalk it up to another one of those times when I just started pulling whatever I had to create a salad for lunch. Now remember, salad is a term that sums up any combination of food that is cut up in small pieces, and can be served cold, room temp or even warm. Think about it; a salad can be of fruit or lettuce. It can be potato or pasta. Bean or tabouleh. You get the picture. The word salad is probably one of the most versatile words I know in the culinary world. So why not create a versatile salad, one that can be used in a variety of ways.

Here goes. As you know from other salads I’ve made, I cut each ingredient in ways that combine well for that particular salad. Some items sliced, others diced. In this salad, in order to create a chunky bite- ful, cut all the veg to approximately the same size.

The line up: Fennel, red onion, scallions, mini bell  peppers, English cucumber, celery.

The line up: Fennel, red onion, scallions, mini bell peppers, English cucumber, celery.

Ingredients

1 English cucumber, seeds removed, cut in cubes
7 mini bell peppers*, seeds removed, cut in pieces
1 heaping c fennel, stalks & bulb, cut in chunks
2 scallion, sliced
1/4 c red onion, diced
3 celery stalks, cut in pieces

* If you don’t have the mini peppers, use one regular sized red pepper

Dressing
3 T fresh lemon juice
1.5 T fennel fronds, minced
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper

I feel silly even writing the title ‘Instructions’ and giving a step by step since all this is chop and dress. Maybe I should just leave it at that. Chop. Whisk. Dress.

For some salads I leave the seeds in an English cucumber. For this one, no seeds. I use a demitasse spoon to scrap the seeds because it’s the perfect size. Then I cut down the center lengthwise and then cut cubes.

For some salads I leave the seeds in an English cucumber. For this one, no seeds. I use a demitasse spoon to scrap the seeds because it’s the perfect size. Then I cut down the center lengthwise and then cut cubes.

Chop all your vegetables and place in a bowl. As I mentioned, for this salad, the key is chopping everything into bite sized chunks. That helps to create the crunch factor.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Mini bell peppers

Mini bell peppers

Red onion

Red onion

Scallions

Scallions

I used both the fennel stalks and the bulb, chopping them in chunky rounds.

I used both the fennel stalks and the bulb, chopping them in chunky rounds.

For the dressing, just whisk together all the ingredients and pour over.

Super simple, fresh mix of lemon juice, fennel fronds, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Super simple, fresh mix of lemon juice, fennel fronds, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Pour and mix and sit and think of all the ways you will use this salad.

Pour and mix and sit and think of all the ways you will use this salad.

Chunky, crisp, refreshing with lots of flavors mixed up in every bite.

Chunky, crisp, refreshing with lots of flavors mixed up in every bite.

So why is this versatile? Because it can be the base to bigger salads or to fill out a lunch plate as I did. I grilled up some asparagus, sliced some avocado and spooned a heaping of this crunch salad for a satisfying lunch.

Then the next day I included it on a lunch plate for JuanCarlos which featured salmon, arugula as a base with the crunch salad on top alongside some store bought tabouleh. Now that is a lunch for a king. King JuanCarlos.

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But in case you need a few other ideas:

  • Add chick peas, or make it a multi bean salad adding black beans and cannellini

  • Add tuna and stuff the whole kit and kaboodle into a pita

  • Cook up some pasta shells and toss them all together

  • Use the full leaves of Boston or Romaine and fill them with this mixture

Ok, you get it. That’s a start. I trust you will come up with a few of your own. For now, start with the base and build from there. Salad: versatile no matter how you dice it.

Happy Summer!

 

Farmer's Market - A Field of Riches

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It's Farmer's Market season.  And the pickings are not just good, they are great. It's my favorite, and the most glorious way to shop for food.  Buying fresh, locally grown produce, and selecting from what is in season.  I am a firm believer that this is what our bodies crave and how they were meant to be nourished; eating what is available at the moment.  Don't just take my word for it.  Here are a few links about how to eat seasonally and the benefits.

Eating Seasonally and Locally is Better for You

The Health Benefits of Eating Seasonally

I could go off on a rant here about one of the possible 'why's' so many people are having food issues.  The list is long but I think a contributing factor might be eating out of season, and eating the same food over and over again because we like it so much, and it's available... even when it really shouldn't be.  In the good ole days, people ate what farmer's grew, harvested and sold in that season. Period, the end. They didn't have Fed Ex flying food all over the country or world, for that matter.  It's almost like our bodies yearn for the exact foods particular to that time of the year.  Like strawberries in the summer or pumpkin in the fall.  But now with super fast transportation,  you can have strawberries in the winter and pumpkin in the summer.  It's bat shit crazy, I tell ya.  

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I try to eat as seasonally as possible.  It's the reason that I don't really have a desire for salads in the winter. My body pines for warm foods, so I create salads that fit the bill by adding winter items to them.  A good example is my Salads: Hot & Cold.  And it's also why every summer I wait, like a child anticipating Santa's arrival, for our farmer's market to open its stalls.  I jump out of bed on Saturday, drink my java and grab my straw basket to head into town.  I never have a plan. Just $$$ in my pocket, joy in my heart and big, child like enthusiasm. That's all you really need. 

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Me in my local farmer's market get up ready to stuff my bag.

Me in my local farmer's market get up ready to stuff my bag.

I love everything about a Farmer's Market.  I love seeing all the people milling around, some willing to chat over what to make with this or should they buy that.  I love the artisans that come to sell their foods, their handcrafted wares and field flowers. I love the variety, and the natural look of the food.  Oddly shaped beauties made with nature's hand and stirred with love.  Not uniform, genetically duplicated food that looks as if it were pushed out of a mold. 

Carrots with character.

Carrots with character.

Jewel tones of swiss chard.

Jewel tones of swiss chard.

Rows of corn... or corn rows?

Rows of corn... or corn rows?

I love the intimacy of a market, where the producers/owners are beaming with pride to tell you about their products. It's a community, with mutual respect.

The owners of  Beth's Farm Kitchen . They were eager to have me try their Hot Loving Habanero Jelly.

The owners of Beth's Farm Kitchen. They were eager to have me try their Hot Loving Habanero Jelly.

I love it all so much that no matter where we are traveling, I find the farmer's market and make a bee line.

Whether in S.F area, or Aspen, Miami or Florence, Italy, Union Square NYC or my little town, venturing out to mingle among the masses of produce is how I get my jollies.

Have hat will shop, that is my motto. Me buying papaya and mangos at the  Sunday's Farmer's Market on Lincoln Road Mall  in Miami, FL.

Have hat will shop, that is my motto. Me buying papaya and mangos at the Sunday's Farmer's Market on Lincoln Road Mall in Miami, FL.

Artisan bread at the market in Marin County, CA

Artisan bread at the market in Marin County, CA

Have your best friends take you to their favorite markets, as Dominique and Neil did when we visited them in Marin County, CA

Have your best friends take you to their favorite markets, as Dominique and Neil did when we visited them in Marin County, CA

Fruits in Florence, Italy. Shopping in Europe is different than in the U.S. They shop more often, sometimes daily buying what they need for that day's meals. Then go out and get was is fresh for tomorrow.

Fruits in Florence, Italy. Shopping in Europe is different than in the U.S. They shop more often, sometimes daily buying what they need for that day's meals. Then go out and get was is fresh for tomorrow.

And what's not to love.  I have purposefully posted so many photos to show the absolute allure of this art form.  To tempt you. To lure you in and make you want to find the nearest market. Row after row.  Pile after pile. Each item perking up fresher than the next.

Plums and currants at the  market in Hudson, NY

Plums and currants at the market in Hudson, NY

Greens at the market in Hudson, NY

Greens at the market in Hudson, NY

Flowers at the  Aspen Farmer's Market .

Flowers at the Aspen Farmer's Market.

A length of peppers from which to choose at the  Union Square Market in NYC

A length of peppers from which to choose at the Union Square Market in NYC

Another huge plus is that you can discover new and interesting foods that don't usually appear at an ordinary supermarket. This is where the fun really begins, in the "what is that? and how can I use it?"

These Mexican Gherkins are similar to a cucumber

These Mexican Gherkins are similar to a cucumber

These mushrooms look like coral reef. They are earthy and vibrant.

These mushrooms look like coral reef. They are earthy and vibrant.

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It's Farmer's Market season y'all.  Grab a bag, satchel, basket or whatever brings you joy.  Put on sunglasses, grab a hat and mingle with both the food and your fellow shoppers. It's a visual feast in every regard. 

 
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You'll want to buy everything. But try and show better restraint than I do. Often times I over buy out of sheer excitement.

You'll want to buy everything. But try and show better restraint than I do. Often times I over buy out of sheer excitement.

There are goodies of all kinds to indulge and experience.  Snag a baked item, hold onto your coffee and weave your way through.  Get up and get out there. 

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I like to ask the farmer for recommendations, or how it was grown, and why it is special.  Alright, if you don't feel like going that far, just breathe in the glory of buying what you need for the immediate days, then get excited to return the following week.  It's a simple pleasure. Leisurely wander around with a curious set of senses, picking up produce, smelling it and thoroughly reveling in how fortunate we are to have such abundance.  Enjoy the moment.  As I do this time of year.

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Fill your basket, then once home start figuring out all the possibilities. If you need help, here are just a few recipes I made with my finds over the years.

Graped Up Bibb Salad

Tarts of Summer

Swiss Chard, Potato & Eggplant Hash

Zucchini Crudo with Shaved Parmigiano & Mint Oil

Balsamic Bathed Carrots Wrapped with Zucchini

Corn & Fruit Salad

White Eggplant App - Greek Style

Corn Salad - Fresh & Roasted

The Great Tomato Caper

Happy feeling, smelling, tasting and picking.

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