Food is the language of love any time, but summertime is not the time to stand over a hot stove. With temperatures rising, eating light feels right. And salads fit that concept.
Salads come in all different shapes and forms. There’s the tossed green salad, made simply with a basic vinegar and oil dressing or elaborately with crumbles of cheese, toasted or caramelized nuts, etc. You get the idea, the type of salad often served in restaurants.
There are composed salads, which is a little more complex, giving the cook freedom of improvisation. When properly executed, the result often contains greens, but also fish or shellfish and meat, as well as vegetables. This type of salad can be served lukewarm or at room temperature.
In summer I like to serve a main course salad using a selection of farm-stand vegetables such as fennel, beets, string beans, etc. I might select a composed salad of shrimp and fennel with warm vinaigrette or a garden beet salad with fresh herbs and arugula.
Roasting beets is my favorite way to cook them, and, for the garden beet salad yes, you do have to turn on the oven. Roast them wrapped in foil, in the cool of the early morning, as they can be prepared up to a week before serving.
This incredible, pretty-as-a-picture salad is assembled with cooked green beans, sliced tomato and arugula. Complete your meal with a chunk of crusty bread, a glass of wine and your choice of cheese to finish.
BEET & VEGETABLE SALAD
To simplify the recipe, the beets can be roasted within a week of use and the green beans cooked up to one day ahead, then refrigerate separately in suitable containers.
1 bunch fresh golden (chioga) or red beets
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flat-leaf Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the salad
3/4 pound string beans, trimmed and rinsed
2 cups mesclun, washed and spin-dried
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
Additional capers and sprigs of herbs for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 450°F
1. Cut green tops from beets leaving about 1 inch of stem. (If greens are fresh and crisp you may use them for the salad.) Scrub beets under running water, pat dry and place them on a large square of heavy-duty foil. Enclose beets in foil, place on a cookie sheet and put in oven to roast for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until tender when pierced with the point of a knife. Remove from oven and let cool. (If doing ahead, refrigerate beets unpeeled). When ready to use, peel and slice beets, stack them and then cut into 1/2-inch dice. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
2. Prepare the dressing; place remaining ingredients (except oil) in a bowl then whisk in the oil until the mixture is homogenous. Taste to adjust seasoning as necessary. Dress the beets with 1/4 cup dressing and toss to mix. Set aside.
3. Cook green beans in boiling salted water to cover for 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under a spray of cool water. Pat dry and set aside. Can be done ahead to this point.
4. To assemble the salad, divide the cooked green beans, tomato slices and mesclun equally on 6 plates. Drizzle over the remaining dressing. Place a mound of beets over the greens and garnish each salad with additional capers and herbs if desired.
COMPOSED SHRIMP AND FENNEL SALAD
WITH WARM VINAIGRETTE
Fennel, often referred to as anise, has no relation to the herb anise. It is much lighter in taste and has a more delicate flavor, with a bit of sweetness when cooked.
Serves 4 to 6
1 pound large shrimp, 22 to 25 count
2 bulbs fennel
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 to 8 cups assorted greens, Boston, Bibb, red leaf
or watercress, washed and spin-dried
Dill sprigs for garnish, optional
1. Shell shrimp and with a paring knife cut along the curve of the back to remove intestinal vein. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Can be prepared ahead and refrigerated in suitable container.
2. Cut off and discard feathery stems of fennel. Remove and discard any bruised, outer layer. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Thinly slice bulb vertically, removing heavy core. Cut slices into matchsticks and set aside.
3. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat, put in the shrimp and stir-sauté for 3 minutes until opaque, turning once. Be careful not to overcook. Put the fennel in the same skillet the shrimp cooked in (add a bit more oil is necessary) and stir, tossing the fennel about 3 minutes or until still a bit crisp. Season both shrimp and fennel with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Arrange greens on 6 to 8 plates and divide shrimp and fennel equally over the greens.
5. In same skillet the shrimp and fennel cooked in, add remaining oil. When warm, put in garlic and sauté quickly; don’t allow garlic to brown. Add mustard and stir. Stir in the vinegar and bring to the edge of a boil. Taste for seasoning then drizzle the warm vinaigrette over shrimp and fennel. Garnish with dill sprigs, if desired, and serve at once.