25 July 2008

Chop Chop Salad

It's been a strange summer in the garden. It seems like our sporadic heat, limited to a couple-day stretches here and there, has been playing havoc with my hot-loving plants.

By this time in July, we are usually plucking some cherry tomatoes from the vine and grilling summer squash. The plants are healthy and bearing fruit. It just won't ripen. You may soon see a recipe for fried green tomatoes here. Check back.

For now, I'll talk about the bounty at farmer's markets where experts display the fruits of their labor (ripe and all) each week. I've been trying to spend my shopping dollars more wisely. After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle with the book club gals, I've been allowing myself to spend a little more for gorgeous fruit and vegetables by shopping at the markets instead of the florescent-lighted grocery stores. What I'm finding, though, is that I'm spending about the same amount of money. I'm just buying a bit less, and, in return, I seem to be wasting less. It's always a shame to throw out a rotten cucumber.

So when mid-week rolls around and I've got several random veggies, perhaps not enough of any to make a meal on their own, I've been turning to a chop salad.

There are lots of variations of chop salads all over the place. I have to say, though, that my favorite was always Christiane's with its big chunks of chopped veggies. It was not a traditional greens-based dish. It's a salad minus the greens. The beauty of it is that the combinations are endless. And add some leftover meat to the dish and it's transformed into a hearty dinner (and one that requires no ovens, stovetops or grills).

And for those of you still on the no-carb fad, this is a great recipe. I personally won't be giving up my baguette or pasta any time soon, but this seems to be a meal where I don't miss the starch.

Remember, this is a recipe I recently made, but he whole point of this isn't to go out and get these specific veggies. Use this as a guide and substitute whatever you've got around. What makes a chop salad is the bite-size chunks married into a tasty combination. That's it; it's simple.

Chop Chop Salad

1 Tomato, chopped
Handfull of fresh green beans, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
Green onions, sliced
1/2 Cucumber, sliced
1 small summer squash, sliced into bite-size chunks
Cheese of any kind in bite-size chunks or slices
Grilled meats or cold cuts such as salami
Basic vinaigrette
Salt and pepper to taste

Prep all of the veggies. Steam or blanch green beans and squash, careful not to overcook. Slice leftover grilled meat into bit-size portions or quarter sliced salami. Toss everything together with vinaigrette and season as needed. Serve room temperature.

- For a side dish or lighter meal, add no meat.
- Other ingredients could include carrots, onions, beans, artichoke hearts, chunks of cabbage, peas, grapes, melon, apples, fresh herbs.
- Try grilling several veggies such as onions, carrots, eggplant and squash, chilling and then giving the same treatment of chopped chunks dressed in olive oil and salt and pepper.