Growing up in a semi-rural area, my family always had a garden – a BIG garden – so fresh vegetables and fruits were always plentiful.
I still have vivid recollections of picking a sun-ripened tomato off the vine and biting into it like an apple. There was nothing quite like it.
Besides tomatoes, there were at least a dozen other veggies and fruits that we took for granted come summer. This was back in the day (not that long ago though!) when gardening was a must if you wanted to have the freshest produce to last the summer (not to mention a part of the yield was canned, or cold-packed to last through the winter). Let’s see, we had corn, cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli, asparagus, beets, celery, potatoes, green peppers, lima beans, peas, green beans, carrots, cabbage, radishes, onions (green and white) and of course, my favorite, tomatoes. This is in addition to our great fortune of having rhubarb and strawberry patches along with apple, peach, plum and pear trees.
Mom was an expert at making salads from all of this fresh produce. In fact, in my tiny community, it was not uncommon to have church suppers and parties (e.g., baby/bridal showers) that offered the guests an array of salads only. If nothing else, salads were easy to make and one could avoid cranking up a hot stove in our mostly non-air conditioned homes.
And needless to say, all of the salad dressings were homemade (with the exception of mayonnaise).
A Salad Summer!
So I challenge you to make this summer a “salad summer.” To get you started, I have included below several savory salad dressing recipes and two summer salad recipes that will delight your taste buds, all of which have a touch of umami (our fifth taste) flavor. You can pick and choose your favorite salad ingredients to use with these dressings – let your imagination run wild by using an array of flavorful, fresh and healthy garden goodies, or just plain romaine or iceberg lettuce. They all work for me!
Let’s start off with “My Favorite Beet Salad” which is a winner in my book. Now this is not the type of salad my mother would have tried years ago because the combo of flavors and some of the ingredients (avocado, feta cheese and balsamic vinegar) would have not been available. However, I can guarantee she and the entire family would have loved it for the rich umami flavor of the cheese and tomatoes that complement the other ingredients to perfection. I feel fortunate to have stumbled on the recipe by chance myself.
My Favorite Beet Salad
- 6 large beets trimmed
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 1 8 oz. package baby spinach leaves
- 2 tomatoes cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 avocados - peeled pitted, and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 red onion chopped, or to taste
- 1 4 oz. container crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard or more to taste
Preheat oven to 375o F.
Place the beets into a large bowl, and drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Lay out 2 large squares of aluminum foil on a work surface, and place 3 beets onto the center of each sheet. Fold the aluminum foil into 2 envelopes, sealing the beets into the packets; place the packets into a baking dish.
Bake in the preheated oven until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Check for tenderness after 1 hour by piercing a beet with a fork. Open the foil, and allow the beets to cool until they can be handled; peel and slice.
Lay out the spinach leaves on an attractive oblong-shaped serving platter. Sprinkle pieces of tomato and avocado over the spinach leaves, and top with chopped red onion. Lay the sliced warm beets over the salad, and top with crumbled feta cheese.
Whisk together balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup of olive oil, and Dijon mustard until smooth; pour over the salad to serve.
Savory Broccoli Salad
- 1-2 bunches fresh broccoli not frozen
- 1/2 cup red onion chopped
- 1/2 lb. bacon
- 2-1/2 tablespoons vinegar
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese grated
Cook bacon (or you can buy the pre-cooked bacon in the refrigerator section) and crumble into pieces.
Chop up top of broccoli into bite size pieces.
Mix broccoli, onions, bacon and mozzarella in large bowl.
In separate bowl, combine vinegar, sugar and mayonnaise.
Pour over broccoli mixture and toss to coat.
For best flavor, make this a day before serving and refrigerate.
1000 Island Dressing
"Copycat” recipe from Big Boy restaurants. If you have ever eaten at one of these restaurants, you know how wonderful this dressing can be!
- 1 cup mayonnaise the mayo-like salad dressing
- 2 tablespoons chili sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon MSG (umami seasoning)
- 2 drops freshly squeezed garlic juice
- 3 tablespoons catsup
- pickle relish to taste
Mix all ingredients and chill. Enjoy as a salad dressing as well as a topping for sandwiches and burgers.
Mayfair Salad Dressing
- 1 ⁄3 stalk celery chopped
- 1 ⁄4 medium onion chopped
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- 4 whole anchovies
- 1 1 ⁄2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper freshly ground
- 1/2 teaspoon MSG (umami seasoning)
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2/3 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 whole egg
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Blanche onion and celery very briefly (5-10 seconds) in boiling water and drain. Using a food processor, combine all of the ingredients (except eggs and oil) in a processor and blend for 2 or 3 seconds.
Add egg and blend again. With processor on, slowly drizzle in the oil to make creamy mayonnaise type dressing.
Continue to run food processor until dressing is creamy and smooth. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator.
Note: If Parmesan cheese is used in the salad, do not add the cheese until the salad greens are tossed with dressing.
Green Jacket Salad Dressing
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil I use canola
- 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 2 teaspoons “Lawry” seasoning salt
- 1/2 large tomato chopped
- 1 teaspoon MSG
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or a blender and puree until blended.
Toss with greens and chopped vegetables of choice.
Salt and pepper to taste.
photo credit: By Liz Mc from Tampa, Florida (Wedge salad) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Can’t get enough?… more savory salad recipes to the rescue, here!
Happy summer salading!