This is the time of year when everyone starts talking about "eating light." Of course, it's also the time of year when we tend to drink more fruity cocktails, and eat ribs, and stand in line for ice cream. I didn't say we are actually eating lighter, I just said we're all talking about it.
It's also the time of year when seasonal produce is abundant, making salads more of a joy than a chore to eat. When I go to the farmer's market these days I always want one of everything, more than our refrigerator can even hold. My greediness inspired the colorful, chopped up use-up-the-vegetables-before-they-spoil mixture you see above.
So here are two options for salads: one is the cutoff jeans and flip flops of the salad world--easy to throw together, perfect for potlucks and picnics. The other, a little more refined and elegant, is like salad's cute summer sundress equivalent--ideal for dressier occasions. Although, in my circles, cutoffs are pretty appropriate for any get-together. And the same goes for these salads.
Kitchen sink summer salad
This salad is infinitely flexible. Hate radishes? Leave 'em out. Love red onion? Add some in. I like using as many different kinds of vegetables as possible, but definitely change up the ingredients as the season changes.
(Serves 4 to 6 people)
4 ears corn, shucked, and kernels removed from the cob
1 bunch radishes, sliced thin
1 avocado, sliced into cubes
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (try to get tomatoes in different colors)
3 green onions, greens and whites sliced thin
1 large handful of basil, sliced thin
1 cup feta, crumbled
1 1/2 lemons, juiced
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
Place the vegetables, basil, and feta in a large bowl. Pour the lemon juice and olive oil over the ingredients. Stir with a spoon, gently tossing to coat the ingredients evenly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Summer melon with feta, basil, and cucumber
Adapted from Andrew Carmellini's Urban Italian. He suggests using Bulgarian feta cheese, or ricotta salata, or a sharp goat cheese. I used a French feta, which is a little more creamy and less salty and that was pretty good too.
(Serves 6 to 8 people)
1 1b. melon, any kind (I used canteloupe), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
8 basil leaves, cut into strips, plus a few extra, for garnish
1/2 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup feta
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
Combine the melon and basil in a bowl and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes. Combine the cucumber slices and salt and refrigerate until they are very cold. Arrange the melon on a platter, and lay the cucumber over the top. Sprinkle on the feta, pour on the olive oil, and crack the black pepper (and red pepper flakes, if using) on top. Add extra basil on top. Serve immediately.