Being a cook who likes a comfortable kitchen, Cousin Michelle’s advice has stuck with me for decades. She spent the summer months in her cottage in the south of France. She was a French housewife who cooked from scratch and lived by the warm weather rule. Her culinary credo? Prepare everything in the cool of the morning for lunch and dinner.
Her dishes contain the delicious abundance of summer, often with salads. Here are three that highlight seasonal fruits and vegetables. They can be prepared in the cool part of the day and served later.
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Fresh Corn-Tomato Salad With Tapenade
A balance of flavors makes this summer salad irresistible, with super sweet fresh corn contrasting beautifully with the salty brine of black olive tapenade. You can use your favorite store-bought tapenade if you have any or you’ll be making the concoction from scratch. If you have a food processor, the tapenade will come together without any problems.
The recipe comes from cookbook author Melissa Clark (“Dinner in French”). She suggests cooking the fresh corn in the husks in the microwave for about 5 minutes. Once cooled, she says to remove the husks and silks and cut the kernels off the cob. It is so delicious, but I also used raw fresh seeds to make this salad. Raw or in the microwave, it’s delicious.
Serves 4 generously.
For the corn:
4 ears fresh corn
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
For the tapenade:
1 1/2 cups pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Grated zest of a lemon
Juice of a lemon, plus more if needed
2 anchovy fillets with oil, diced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
Coarse salt, if needed
For the corn: Microwave corn with intact husks. Four ears takes about 5 minutes. Cool completely, then remove the husks and silk. Cut the kernels off the cobs. Put aside.
Taste the sliced red onion; if it burns strongly, soak in ice water for 20 minutes; drain and pat dry with kitchen paper.
For the tapenade: Place olives, basil, parsley, capers, oil, zest, juice, anchovies, garlic and pepper in food processor. Pulse to a coarse paste. Taste: If it tastes flat, add a little more juice. Put aside.
For the salad: In a large bowl, toss corn kernels, red onion, tomatoes, and basil. Fold in enough tapenade to coat vegetables. Taste and add salt if necessary. You’re left with tapenade. If I serve the salad with grilled or roasted chicken or fish, I spread some tapenade on it. Otherwise, spread it on sliced baguettes and serve next to the salad. The salad can be made several hours in advance and kept refrigerated tightly closed.
– Adapted from “Dinner in French”, by Melissa Clark (Clarkson Potter, $37.50)
Spiced Salad With Strawberries, Pistachios And Feta
This strawberry garnished salad can be put together a few hours in advance via the second step, leaving the strawberries separate; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The dressing should be stored separately from the salad, either in the refrigerator or at room temperature — stir it before tossing with the salad mixture and strawberries.
Serves 6 as a starter, 4 as a main for lunch
For the salad:
2 clean hearts of romaine lettuce, about 7 ounces each, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn into pieces
8 to 10 strawberries, preferably organic, peeled, quartered
For the dressing:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons finely chopped shallots
Salt to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the garnish:
1/2 cup roasted salted pistachios
6 ounces mild creamy feta, such as French feta, cut into rectangles or triangles.
For the salad: In a large bowl, combine lettuce, tarragon, mint and strawberries.
For the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, honey, shallots, and salt; while beating, add oil in a thin steam. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
Add dressing to the lettuce mixture; toss.
Divide the salad among the plates. Top with pistachios and cheese.
Green salad with prosciutto, peaches and warm balsamic dressing
This summer entree salad is so bountiful that I use my large stainless steel bowl to toss together the undressed ingredients. The recipe is adapted from “The Splendid Table,” by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (William Morrow), a classic 1992 cookbook that captures dishes from northern Italy.
The salad can be made a few hours in advance (without dressing or peaches), covered with plastic wrap and kept refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. The dressing can be prepared several hours in advance and reheated before serving. Before adding the heated dressing, add peaches.
For 6 people as a light main course, or 8 as an appetizer antipasto
For the salad:
1/2 medium red onion, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch crosswise slices
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 large head of romaine lettuce, washed, drained
1 large head (or two small heads) red leaf lettuce, washed, drained
1/2 small radicchio, cut crosswise into 3/8-inch slices, slices cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or coarsely chopped Marcona almonds, divided use
4 ounces shaved Parmesan cheese, divided use, see Chef’s Notes
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into bite-sized squares or rectangles, divided use
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup lightly packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 to 3 yellow-fleshed peaches or nectarines, pitted, cut into wedges
For the dressing:
6 large garlic cloves (cut into 1/4-inch dice)
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chef’s Notes: Sometimes I switch the cheese used in this salad. I omit the shaved Parmesan and add 6 to 8 ounces of burrata cheese which is pulled into bite-sized pieces on the top of the salad when I add the nectarines or peaches.
For the salad: Soak onions in 1/2 cup red wine vinegar for about 30 minutes. Tear the lettuce into bite-sized pieces. In a very large bowl, combine the lettuce with radicchio, half the nuts, half the cheese, half the prosciutto, basil and parsley. Stack on a large scale.
For the dressing: In medium skillet, cook garlic slowly in olive oil over very low heat for 8 minutes, or until just colored. Remove with slotted spoon. Turn the heat to medium and stir the vinegar into the oil. Cook for 30 seconds and stir in the brown sugar. Let it bubble gently for 2 minutes and reduce the heat if necessary. Stir in reserved garlic, plus salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until warm but not hot. Don’t worry if the oil separates. Don’t forget to stir it before pouring the dressing over the salad.
To serve: Top salad with drained red onions (you can just pull them out of the vinegar – no need to dab) and sprinkle over the rest of the nuts. cheese and prosciutto. Add sliced peaches or nectarines to the salad. Stir in warm (not hot) dressing to mix (as much as possible – don’t worry if some of the oil is still separated); spoon dressing over salad. Serve immediately.