At this time of year, salad might be my favorite food. I know, salad sounds boring. It sounds cold, tasteless and painfully healthy. The kind of healthy that no one really wants to be.
But in early summer health is the last thing on my mind when I choose to make salad. Truth is I just can’t wait to eat all the beautiful greens and fixings I find each week at the farmers market. Food like this is a treat, and probably not at all what you think of when you think of salad.
Any good salad starts with greens. The little gem lettuces, arugula, spinach, mizuna and even more untraditional greens like purslane.
Purslane is a succulent green that is supposedly high in omega-3 fatty acids. Personally I eat it for its lemony flavor and unique texture. It’s a great addition to any salad mix.
After greens I like to layer flavors and textures into my salads. Cucumbers from the farmers market are completely different from the flavorless, waxy beasts I remember from childhood salads.
I love the long, curly Armenian cucumbers, but you can also find Mediterranean cucumbers, lemon cucumbers and several other varieties I’ve never tried. Most don’t require peeling. If you don’t have cucumbers, raw sweet summer squash are delicious in salads too.
Turnips, radishes and carrots are particularly good salad additions in early summer, contributing a distinctive crunch and deeper flavor than the delicate lettuces and cucumber. If you choose good quality turnips and radishes, their greens can be added to your salad mix as well.
Summer tomatoes add both sweetness and brightness to salads, because of their relatively high sugar and acid content. For salads I prefer the deeply flavored heirloom varieties such as cherokee purple and brandywine varieties. Roasted peppers can serve a similar function.
To add substance I turn to foods that are higher in fat and protein, like avocados, nuts, eggs, grain or meats. Today I picked up some avocados and eggs from the farmers market. My favorite salad green of late is the chewy and rustic farro grain. If you haven’t tried it yet I highly recommend it.
I like to finish my salad with summer fruits and herbs. Any stone fruit is fantastic and pairs nicely with balsamic vinaigrettes. Figs are also delicious if you can find them.
Other things I loved this week include the Ruby grand nectarines from Frog Hollow and organic cauliflower.
- Yummy rosa pluots (Paradez Farms)
- Ruby grand nectarine (Frog Hollow Farm)
- Early girl tomatos (The Peach Farm)
- Purslane (Madison Growers)
- Zephyr squash (Lucero Organic Farm)
- Rooted basil (Dirty Girl Produce)
- Green shallots (Dirty Girl Produce)
- Cauliflower (Dirty Girl Produce)
- Armenian cucumbers (Payne Farm – I think)
- Tokyo turnips (Green Gulch Farm)
- Italian parsley (Green Gulch Farm)
- Salad greens (Green Gulch Farm)
- Mediterranean cucumber (Happy Quail Farms)
- Avocados (Brokaw Nursery)
- Eggs (Marin Sun Farms)