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Friday, August 14, 2009

Beautifully Sparse Summer Salad

One of our favorite things to do during the weekend is to walk down to the farmers market and pick up an array of fruits and vegetables for the week. Since we’re only able to cook dinner for each other four or five days, we try to plan accordingly so that we don’t end up wasting anything. With the warm summer reaching its height and so many different fruits and vegetables filling the stands at the Farmer’s Market , Saturday I thought the best way to start to put our collection of fruits and vegetables to use would be to make an elaborate summer salad during the weekend. Unfortunately, as usually happens, by Thursday when we've cycled through recipes we didn't get to try last week, I was shocked to find most of my fruit and vegetable supply had been mysteriously depleted.

So, I get home, open the fridge and find a few leaves of romaine and wedge of ice berg lettuce, a single cucumber, and half a pint of blueberries. I dig a little more and find a few green onions hiding, but am left with no more, bell peppers, red onions, spinach, nothing else. I look to the basket on the table with high hopes, and all that’s left from the excessive array of summer peppers, apples, and greens, is one, single, small yellow tomato from my mother’s garden. Seeing as how the cool salad sounds so enticing because of the warm August weather, I’m unwilling to forgo the salad, and am further unwilling to ride five minutes in the hot car to wander around the produce section and get back into the hot car. I know, I’m lazy during the week, what can I say. So instead of doing either, I decide to stick with my original plan and try to assemble a salad from the sparse remains of summer.

One of my favorite ingredients to work with is blueberries, and although I typically limit my blueberry use to the sweet category, I opted to try something different to try and entice my husband who is less than enthused by the thought of a weeknight salad with something different from the usual splattering of vegetables, grilled chicken, possibly a toasted nut of some kind, and your random choice of dressing. After a few minutes of staring gazing blankly between the table, fridge and freezer, I decide to make the blueberries the center of my salad and make them into a dressing.

From there, it was pretty much a matter of coordinating different flavors, that I like to combine with blueberries, so I quickly decided to do a grilled lemon chicken breast atop my supply of greens and cucumber. After cutting the vegetables, I decided that the salad was missing something. Seeing as how the bright blue dressing was quietly resting on the counter, I quickly realized that something was a color other than green, so I open the freezer in hopes that some frozen vegetable will magically appear to relieve my quandary. A quick glance reminds me that its summer, and no, I don’t have a stock of frozen vegetables. What for? All that’s in there vegetable wise is a bag of frozen green peas. Yep, like the frozen ones that sit on salad bars to thaw.

Yes! More green!

After thinking for a minute however, I decided that all was not lost. I was planning on adding some goat cheese crumbles and toasted walnuts to the salad, but decided that the peas could maybe make up for the texture of the walnuts, and add a sweet buttery goodness. So a quick sauté with some green onion, salt, and pepper and that was it!

For some reason, it was more difficult to think of what to do with salad then it was to actually make it, but I did learn two things.
1. A blueberry vinaigrette adds beautiful color and vibrancy as well as a distinct flavor. I'm commencing a slow fade of store bough dressings from the fridge, and this will be a welcomed replacement.
2. Peas sautéed in butter and onions work amazingly well in salads, much better than I imagined, and something I'll have to keep in mind when December comes and my salad options really declines.

Either way, I recommend trying both!

For the dressing:
Blend together the following:

1¼ cup fresh blueberries, rinsed

3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

salt & black pepper, freshly ground to taste

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

And serve immediately.

I added a pinch of sugar to mine as well to bring out a sweeter tangy flavor. Also, as I learned, the dressing maintains a nice consistency when kept at room temperature, but once refrigerated somewhat gels, as I learned the next afternoon. To use it again, I added a teeny bit of water and blended it for a second or two, and it was as good as the day before.

For the peas:
1 Tbsp Butter
½ Cup Peas
2 Tbsp Chopped Onions
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Melt butter in saucepan. Add onions and peas and cook until onions brown and/or peas begin to slightly burst. Salt & pepper to taste.


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