It's summer and it's hot so I thought I would send you my summer go-to, salad! Do you get in that rut, tossing a bag of lettuce, some "baby carrots" and a bottle of dressing in a bowl and calling it a day? Delicious salad "from scratch" is easy but there is a skill to making salad and summer is the perfect time to practice! Below are a few tips and a PDF recipe that you can print. Here’s how I do it:

Pick what looks yummy from your farmers market or grocery store. Use what's in season and local. Choose three or four items to combine (and keep in mind that lettuce doesn't have to be one of them!). Be creative. To learn more, see my list, buy a cookbook like Salad as a Meal: Healthy Main-Dish Salads for Every Season by Patricia Wells or join me for an in-depth, hands-on class! 

Wash the lettuce using a large salad spinner (a must have in the kitchen) to soak organic lettuce. Lightly "toss" the lettuce under water to break apart the leaves. Soak in cold water. The dirt will sink to the bottom. Lift out the lettuce-filled basket, pour out the dirt and water, rinse and repeat two or three times. If you don't have a salad spinner, use a bowl, lift out the lettuce, rinse and repeat. Dry by rolling the lettuce gently in a clean kitchen towel.

Tear the lettuce instead of chopping it with a knife. Lettuce is delicate; tearing it will run along the natural veins of the leaves. This will keep the lettuce from bruising, oxidizing and turning brown. It will last longer.

Store the lettuce in an airtight container with 1 or 2 paper towels to keep out moisture. Lettuce stored this way will last 2 or 3 days. You can prepare several days of lettuce at once. 

Bagged lettuce should always be washed even though the bag says “pre-washed”. Did you know that the most common call received by the California Department of Public Health is food-born illness issues due to bagged lettuce?! 

Slice raw veggies.

Blanch veggies that need a bit of tenderizing and brightening. Drop veggies in boiling, lightly salted water until tender but still crisp. Immediately drain and drop in ice water to stop cooking and keep the bright green color. These can be kept in the fridge for all sorts of last-minute preperations. 

Dressing is the key to delicious salads! There is NOTHING  like the taste of fresh dressing! It's light on the salt and doesn't have a "bottled flavor", not to mention no additives and preservatives. Making your own dressing is inexpensive and allows you to use quality ingredients unlike those you find in bottled dressing. Here's my recipe and some tips. 

Remember: start with quality = end with quality! 

In summer, I like to marinade meat in a garlicky vinaigrette in the morning. At night while the meat is grilling, baste it with the garlic vinaigrette-marinade. Once the vinaigrette has touched raw meat however, don't use it for salad! You don't want to cross contaminate raw meats with other foods so toss what's left.

While the meat is grilling, I make a salad, this one with cabbage, fresh and dried cherries and fennel pictured sliced above. 

Here's the recipe!

Or, make the salad the star of dinner, not the obligatory side dish. This is a classic salad with plenty of Dijon, sautéd bacon or pancetta (just enough to be unctuous) and a poached egg. A solft-boiled egg works too with the creamy yolk adding to the unctuousness! Some delicious, slow-soured bread would be the perfect addition. I love the Green olive-Orange-Tarragon bread from my friends at 2nd Story Bakeshop. Dinner's ready!


Click here for my  Vinaigrette Recipe & Salad Ideas

Summer, as ussual, is speeding by. You will be hearing from me soon with Community Cuisine news and new class info. Until then, enjoy the sun and all of the fruits and veggies that come with!

See you in the kitchen,

Barbie Aknin