Summer is drawing to a close but you don't want to give up the light and fresh summer foods and replace then with the comforting flavours of autumn just yet. I get it. I could eat salad all year round. Salads don't have to be dull and boring, they can be so full of life and flavour and can suit whichever season is upon us. You just have to be clever using the seasonal produce available and change your dressings up. They can be light and zingy in summer, salty/sweet and spicy in autumn. Rich and caramelised in winter or floral and zippy in spring. I've given you 3 recipes for salads that I just loved making this summer and the great thing is you can substitute the various ingredients to make them tailored to the weather and the season.
Grilled Peach Salad
1 to 2 bag watercress or rocket, washed
4 flat peaches, stoned and quartered or cut into eighths
2 large balls burrata or buffalo mozzarella
12 slices smoked pancetta
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
Extra virgin olive oil
Aged balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Maldon sea salt
Preheat a griddle pan over a medium heat until extremely hot. Lay your pancetta on the griddle and cook until crispy but not hard, remove from the pan. Add peach quarters to the griddle and cook on both sides until the char marks are nice and dark and the peaches are juicy and soft. Leave to cool.
Lay the watercress on a platter, top with the grilled peaches and pancetta. Gently tear the burrata into pieces and place over the salad. Just before serving drizzle with olive oil, aged balsamic and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkled the toasted seeds for an added crunch.
You can use pears and a Stilton or Roquefort in the autumn.
My Green Goddess Salad
1 gem lettuce, washed and shredded
1 bag baby spinach, washed
30 gr fresh mint, finely chopped
30 gr flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cucumber, roughly chopped
4 spring onions, washed and sliced
1 avocado sliced
1 handful pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 cloves garlic, crushed or grated
30 gr flat leaf parsley
30 gr basil
2 Tbsp Greek or natural yoghurt
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss all the salad ingredients together in a large serving bowl. Blend the salad dressing ingredients together using a hand blender or in a standard blender/nutri-bullet. Adjust seasoning and levels of acid or oil to your taste. Either toss the salad in the dressing just before you serve or pour the dressing into a jug and serve on the side.
This dressing goes really well with chicken and fish and a sauce.
Grilled Asparagus and Green Bean Salad with Lemon Creme Fraiche
1 bunch each green and purple asparagus, washed and trimmed
1 pack fine French beans, topped and tailed
1 small sour dough baguette, thickly sliced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
salt and pepper to taste
2 balls of mozzarella di Campania
80 gr toasted, flaked almonds
1 Tbsp Za'atar spice blend or Dukkah
2 Tbsp creme fraiche
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Toss the slices of baguette in a drizzle of olive oil, add the smashed garlic cloves, salt and pepper to taste and pop in the oven for 10 - 15 minutes or until golden and crisp. Do not let these burn.
Either on a preheated griddle pan or BBQ lightly char the asparagus and beans, keeping an eye on them till they are softened but still firm. Spread the asparagus and beans on a serving platter. Tear the giant garlic "croutons" and scatter over the salad. Gently tear the mozzarella into medium size chunks and place around the salad. Sprinkle the nuts liberally over the salad.
Mix all the salad dressing ingredients together except the lemon zest. Adjust the seasoning and acidity to your taste. I like it quite zingy and sometimes add the juice of another 1/2 a lemon. Using a spoon drizzle the dressing over the salad, a few dollops and sploshes never hurt. It doesn't have to look uniform, be artistic. Sprinkle the lemon zest and your Za'atar over the salad and serve with a crisp glass of Gavi di Gavi or a buttery Chardonnay.
In winter this works just as well with charred cavolo nero, broccoli rabe, broccoli, cauliflower etc. I would just up the amount of black pepper in the dressing for an extra bit of warmth.
All of these salads serve 6 - 8 people as a generous side at a braai or bbq.
Have fun and enjoy eating all the fresh food as the nights start to draw in. Let me know which is your favourite.
Good food is very often, even most often, simple food. - Anthony Bourdain