The peak of the local summer harvest is here. And with all of the fresh vegetables and herbs in abundance at the markets now, it’s fun to mix and match to create delicious salads as sides for supper or to contribute to the next pot luck or cookout. I’m not talking about just the leafy green kind of salad. Countless other combinations are possible, many with a longer fridge life to make a big batch for sharing or saving to enjoy all week.
Here are some of thoughts, inspired by the rainbow of fresh stuff at market:
Red: There’s nothing like roasted beets, and this is a simple and efficient way to prepare the incredibly nutritious vegetable. Once they’re roasted, it’s easy enough to add them to a bed of greens for a lovely, sweet pop of color. However, one of my favorite beet salads doesn’t involve traditional salad greens at all.
The combination of basil and beets is magical—each strong flavors, but when paired create a beautiful, healthy balance. You could simply toss roasted beets with basil and olive oil but I like to add lemon juice and some sunflower seeds or toasted sesame seeds for crunch. In my opinion, it’s ideal to chiffonade the basil. This is a cutting technique in which you roll up a basil leaf then slice it very thin to create long, thin strips. This help the overall dish so the flavor basil doesn’t overwhelm each bite.
Orange: When preparing carrots for salads, I shred them with a food processor attachment. And I like to bring in other strong, ethnic flavors to help balance the pungent, earthy taste of local carrots.
Toss them with curry powder, ground ginger, turmeric, or anise, along with a sweet dried fruit such as raisins or currants. Top it with a dressing of plain yogurt with sweeter spices like cinnamon or nutmeg.
As fall approaches, you might want to try a different idea: Combine carrots with tahini, lemon, and maple syrup then add shredded or thinly sliced apples. It’s a salad in which the flavors match the season and it’s one that even my kids will eat.
Yellow and green: Summer squash and zucchini are the perfect candidates for spiralizing to make a raw vegetable “pasta” salad. Just replace traditional noodles with the long “zoodles” and then the sky’s the limit.
I like to toss vegetable noodles in pesto then add artichoke hearts and fresh tomatoes and lots of shaved parmesan and cracked pepper. Another idea is to simply toss the vegetable noodles in your favorite vinaigrette then let it sit over night. The next day, adjust the seasoning and enjoy.
White: If you haven’t fallen in love with roasted cauliflower yet, you will once you make it. Delicious and versatile, add it to mac and cheese, use it as a base for a veggie curry dish, or eat it straight up. It also makes a great cold salad.
Cut the head into quarters, then slice each quarter into 6–8 pieces so that you have a lot of flat space where the caramelization will happen. Toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil and some minced garlic. Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 425°. Flip the florets and roast another 10 minutes or so. Allow to cool, then toss with lemon juice, chopped herbs and other vegetables, and perhaps some kalamata olives and capers for an authentic Italian dish.
Purple: It’s technically called red cabbage but the rich purple is hard to miss in any dish. One of the most obvious places is in coleslaw. The thinly sliced crunchy goodness of red and green cabbage combined with some green onions and perhaps a few carrots then tossed in a sweet mayo and vinegar based dressing is a classic combination. A nice twist is to first grill the vegetables. Simply half the cabbages and carrots then brush everything with a little oil. Then grill them over medium-high heat until softened and charred. Slice thinly, and combine with dressing.
Hot Vinegar Slaw
I once worked at a little locally owned deli called Marie Catrib’s in Grand Rapids, Mich. Everything was made from scratch. Marie’s food creations were always a little outside the box and simply amazing. This is where I became hooked on slaw with a hot vinegar dressing. This recipe is inspired by Marie. For easy shredding, use a food processor attachment or a mandolin or chop by hand. I love this as a salad all by itself but it also makes a great addition to sandwiches.
1 small head red cabbage, cored and shredded
1 small head green cabbage, cored and shredded
2 carrots, shredded
2 green onions, sliced thin
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup olive oil
1/3 cup organic cane sugar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
In small saucepan bring the oil, vinegar, sugar, and mustard to a boil then reduce heat until sugar is dissolved. Place vegetables in a large mixing bowl and pour hot dressing over them. Toss until well coated.