23 July 2009

The Cool of Summer

When it's hot outside and the garden is ripe, there is nothing more refreshing and easy than a summer salad. It's the season where stone fruits and tomatoes, melons and onions and peppers and peaches marry to create flavors that make it clear the only way to improve on a perfectly ripe fruit or vegetable is to add another.

Yesterday I threw together a dish of cubed watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, walla walla onions, radishes, oregano and feta. I tossed it all with a little olive oil and seasoning. It was refreshing, simple and substantial enough to be a side dish worthy of seconds.

The seasons for these salads may be short, but the spontaneity of them gives you the freedom to use whatever you have on hand. Leftover watermelon slices, a couple of ripe tomatoes, one lonely peach, a quickly wilting bunch of herbs or half of a bell pepper need not go to waste. It's a cooking method I first caught on to while reporting a story on Turkish immigrants. I visited a family for a few meals and was amazed at the beautiful salads they served with every meal. They were quick, simple and required relatively few ingredients. In a culture where we think salads start with a bag of pre-rinsed greens, we've got a ways to go in the creativity department.

If you need more ideas, check out this New York Times piece by the talented Mark Bittman. If you don't have enough food in your house to make at least one of these tasty salads, it's time to hit up the farmers market. Summer doesn't last forever!

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