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What salad fixings has your garden grown?

Food writer Holly Ebel says experiment with new textures and flavors to find a fun salad that you love.

Farmers Market Salad Ingredients
Salad ingredients from the farmers market.
Contributed / Holly Ebel
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These next weeks we should all take advantage of the late summer crops coming in to the farmers market, roadside stands and farm trucks. It doesn't get any better than this – tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers, freshly-picked ears of corn. Most of us wait all year for the deliciousness these bring to our tables. It's a short season, so keep that in mind – here today, gone tomorrow.

Early one recent steamy Saturday, I made my rounds of the farmers market and was surprised by what had appeared in just a week's time – home-grown tomatoes, most vine-ripened – not the "faux-matos" we get most of the year – zucchinis, squashes, radishes, cucumbers, onions, corn, green and yellow beans, lettuces of all kinds.

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It all looked like an Impressionist painting but one you could touch, feel and eat. A lot of those ingredients ended up in my bag, and I decided that they were going to turn into a big salad.

I'm a pretty ordinary salad maker, so I went to someone who knows a thing or two about them: Chris Rohe, owner/chef of Prescott's Grill and also a prolific gardener (he has already harvested 100 pounds of broccoli). Most of what he grows ends up in entreés and salads at the restaurant.

Rohe showcases a variety of fresh ingredients in his salads, some more familiar than others.

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"This is going to be a big year again for zucchini and they are great in a salad. You can spiralize them or chop into small pieces," Rohe said. "The same is true of broccoli. Corn adds both flavor and crunch as well – just blanch an ear for a minute or two and then cut off the kernels."

Kohlrabi is another vegetable he suggested. Cut into thin matchsticks it also adds flavor and crunch. He also likes to use sunflower seeds for crunch as well as mozzarella pearls for a little creaminess. What about a dressing?

Farmers Market Salad Ingredients
Ingredients from the farmers market are ready and waiting to be diced into a great salad.
Contributed / Holly Ebel

"I prefer using a light vinaigrette that enhances the flavor of the ingredients, even lemon juice," he said. "One of the heavier ones can overpower the salad's flavors."

An ingredient that makes a statement in a salad is one that Tim McCarty, executive chef at Rochester Golf and County Club, uses: pickled red onions. He pairs them with a cucumber salad which he says is a great combination. "You'd be surprised at how those flavors complement each other," McCarty said.

Another favorite combination is with watermelon and cucumbers. "I pair the watermelon, cucumber, pickled onions, feta and a light vinaigrette," he said.

Farmers Market Salad Ingredients
Leaf lettuce is fresh from the ground this time of year, and is easily available at farmers markets throughout the region.
Contributed / Holly Ebel

McCarty has also combined watermelon with halved small cherry tomatoes. He also emphasized that these are the weeks to use all the fresh ingredients available now. Something both chefs mentioned as additions to a salad are fruits, particularly peaches and berries, both of which add sweetness, flavor and texture.

And of course tuna, salmon, chicken and a variety of cheeses can turn a simple salad into a satisfying summer supper.

Another thing: Be adventuresome and try some ingredients you're not familiar with, like some on display at the Asian vendors. You'll likely be introduced to some exciting new textures and flavors.

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What's especially appealing about salads right now is that you don't need a recipe You can turn your ingredients into whatever you want. There are no rules. The one rule I hope you do follow is to take full advantage of all that is available now. It won't last too much longer.

Simple vinaigrette

2 tablespoons wine vinegar (or use 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of pepper
Optional: 2 tablespoons minced herbs (parsley, chives, basil)

Put all ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake hard for 30 seconds to blend well.

Kohlrabi salad

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 large yellow tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 mini cucumbers, cut in to 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons minced cilantro

In a small skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and stir 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and stir 2 minutes more. In a large bowl combine the kohlrabi, tomatoes and cucumber. Pour in the onion mixture and gently toss to combine. Chill for an hour. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Summer corn salad

5 ears of corn, shucked
1/2 cup small-diced red onion
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves

In a large pot of boiling salted water cook corn for 3 minutes. Drain and immerse in cold water to stop cooking and to set the color. When corn is cool, cut kernels off, cutting close to the cob. Toss kernels in a large bowl with the red onions, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil. Taste for seasonings and serve either cold or at room temperature. Other ingredients like chopped red or green bell peppers and cucumbers can be easily added. Make it yours.

Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to life@postbulletin.com .

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Food for Thought - Holly Ebel column sig

Related Topics: FOODRECIPESHOLLY EBEL
Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to life@postbulletin.com.
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