Monday, September 24, 2012

Summer’s Over but Salad Season Is Still Going Strong
What’s cooking? Poppy Seed Dressing

It’s been a salad-y week for me. I’m in Texas getting ready to spend 10 days in Italy, so you may not hear from me for a while. And in an effort to shed a few of the pounds that will no doubt reappear over these coming 10 days, I’ve been experimenting with just about every combination of salad ingredients available. But I haven’t lost any weight in the process. It must have been the ice cream I had for dessert.

As the weather gets a bit cooler, there’s a resurgence of lovely types of greens that don’t really like the heat of August. And you can still find wonderful, fresh salad items like tomatoes and figs and blackberries. I read somewhere that a new type of sprout – from sunflower seeds – is the latest rage among professional chefs, so I pounced on that, too, when it showed up at my local Whole Foods.

So I have to finish packing, but here are three of the salads I liked the most this week.

For the first, I tried those sunflower sprouts with some beautiful green figs. I found raspberries – which are big and gorgeously plump right now – and thought they were a nice balance in tartness to the sugary sweetness of the figs. The sprouts have a lovely crunch and a mild peppery aftertaste. In keeping with the sweet-tart theme, I dressed the salad with a honey-lemon vinaigrette that you can find in a previous post. (Click here.)

Summer may be over, but you can still get good watermelon, and the corn season isn’t done yet either. So I diced some watermelon, piled it on top of some lovely organic watercress – another of those greens with a bit of peppery bite – and crumbled some goat cheese on top. Then because I had one last ear of corn that I’d carried down from New Jersey, I cut the kernels off and sprinkled them – uncooked, which is a wonderful way to eat them – around the plate. With the goat cheese, I thought the salad deserved a bit of herb-y dressing, so I used the parsley-shallot vinaigrette I posted on August 31.

Finally, I made use of the last of my peaches (peaches I lovingly carried on the plane from New Jersey and have been parceling out to myself every morning for breakfast ), pairing it with the big fat blackberries now appearing in grocery stores. I put them on a bed of baby arugula – yet a third peppery green, but they go so well with fruit – and went with a poppy seed dressing (so good with fruit) that’s been a favorite of mine for years. Here it is:

Poppy Seed Dressing

⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup cider vinegar
1 cup salad oil (vegetable or canola)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon freshly grated onion
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Mix all ingredients together in a jar. Serve over fruit salad or salad of arugula or fresh spinach with bacon bits and mandarin orange slices. Shake well before pouring.

* * *
So be brave – take a trip to the grocery store and see what’s around. Salads are so wonderfully flexible; you can change the proportions to focus on whatever ingredients are your favorites. And don’t forget to add a little kosher salt (or sea salt) and freshly ground pepper after you dress your salad.

I’ll be back October 5th.

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