I often hear others say they don’t like salad. My first reaction is, really? How can someone not like salad? And then I wonder if the person is suffering from the idea that salad involves a head of lettuce and a few tomatoes slathered in bottled white creamy dressing and understand. That would get old quickly. But salad doesn’t have to involve lettuce. I think the first time the idea of salad without lettuce was presented to me was when we lived in Spain. Thinly sliced onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes were arranged on a big plate and drizzled with a light dressing of water, vinegar, and olive oil and sprinkled with salt. It was delicious. Over the years, each time my mother made this salad, she added sliced red and green peppers to the mix and would allow it to sit so the vegetables could marinate a bit. We loved this salad in the summer, picking at it as we went in and out of the house on hot days. The crunchy, briny vegetables were always a treat and we never tired of them prepared that way.
We eat salad all year long unless I’m going through one of my lazy streaks when doing something a bit different with a salad takes more time than I am interested in giving it. That’s deplorable when you consider that it doesn’t take much to be creative if you’ve got the right ingredients on hand — and I usually do. We’re lucky to have an extremely long growing season here, and with Mexico just to the south, are able to benefit from what is grown there when it isn’t available here. Our farmer’s markets keep locally grown vegetables and fruit available every day of the week in communities around San Diego all year long so there’s no excuse not to be creative with a salad.
Some of our favorite flavor combinations are derived from classic combos: basil, tomato and mozzarella; tomato, avocado, jalapenos, and cilantro; bacon, lettuce, tomato, and blue cheese; cucumbers, onions, roasted peppers, kalamatas, and feta. When we want to add something more substantial to our salads, then prosciutto is added to the basil tomato combo. Grilled shrimp, chicken, or steak can be added to the second. White beans added to the third. It’s fun to mix and match everything sometimes to make sure there’s a nice balance of crunch to creamy, and tart to sweet.
In the extreme heat of summer, a good salad can be a one dish meal. All you need is fresh tender crisp ingredients, a good vinaigrette and a bit of creativity.
If you’re just home from work and not relishing the idea of prepping all the vegetables then get all the ingredient possibilities out of the fridge and put everyone to work. Pour a cool beverage to sip while you’re prepping and talk about the day. If you’ve got picky eaters in the house, the place the ingredients in separate bowls, salad bar style — but make the best possible combo on a plate first and allow the others to see it to give them the idea of what is possible. Make a big deal over the art of a perfectly loaded fork. If you don’t have converts after a few sessions, then at least you’ll have had fun in the process.
This simple green bean corn and tomato salad is a simple combination of summer vegetables that is perfect for a barbeque, picnic, or just to have ready for a hot day when even plugging in the slow cooker is more than you can deal with.
Simple Green Bean Corn and Tomato Salad with Vinaigrette
1 lb. green beans, blanched
2-3 cobs of corn
8 oz. cherry tomatoes
1/4 red onion, chopped
2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
sprigs of fresh thyme
salt & pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T shallot, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 c. sherry vinegar
1/8 c. red wine vinegar
3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
- Make the vinaigrette first by adding all ingredients to a jar with a lid. Shake vigorously.
- Taste to balance acidity to your own preferences and season with salt and pepper.
- Set aside at room temperature until salad is ready
- Store any remaining dressing in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- To prepare the salad, trim the green bean stem ends then drop them into a pot of salted boiling water for 3-5 minutes.
- Remove the green beans from the boiling water to an ice bath and allow them to cool completely.
- Cut the corn kernels from the cobs and place in a skillet that has been preheated on medium.
- Allow the corn to sit a few minutes without stirring to encourage browning. Stir lightly until the desired brown is achieved, about 8-10 minutes.
- Remove the corn from the heat and set aside.
- Drain the green beans well then toss with a good amount of the vinaigrette.
- Add the corn, onions, and tomatoes, then sprinkle on the blue cheese and fresh thyme.
- Pour more vinaigrette over the salad.
- Toss before serving, and pass around with additional vinaigrette if desired.
- Making sure the green beans are still crisp is important for this salad — they’ll still taste great, but limp green beans don’t go over as well at our house. To make sure they’re just right, fish one from the pot of boiling water, run some cold water over it to cool it down, then break it in half. If there’s a little snap, then it’s ready for the ice bath. You can also take a bite to make sure. Older beans can be tough and even though the cooking time is just right, they never seem to make it to the perfect stage.
- I love preparing corn this way — in my dry cast iron skillet. I’m hooked on it. If you’ve got the grill warmed up, then you can grill the corn cobs, cool them, then cut the kernels off. For a bit more flavor, squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice into the pan after the corn has browned. Then season with a bit of salt. I could eat it plain like this and forget the salad.
- If you’re not a blue cheese lover, then feta or goat cheese would be very nice in this. Crumble away!
- If you don’t have cherry, or grape tomatoes, then use what you have. Packaged sun-dried tomatoes would be a great substitute as well.
- You’re thinking bacon would be great in this, right? Me, too. I had to resist. At some point it seems like everything is better with bacon, but it doesn’t have to be. Still.
- On the vinaigrette: there are seemingly thousands of ways to make a simple French vinaigrette and I say just about any way you make it will be far better than something you purchase in a bottle pre-made at the grocery store. It’s really about ratios. More oil to acid is the key. Start with tablespoons and work toward a three-to-one ration of oil to acid. You can use a single vinegar, or a combination like I have above. I happen to really enjoy a good Spanish sherry vinegar but rarely use it by itself. A squeeze of fresh lemon is also good instead of, or in addition to the vinegar. Classic vinaigrette recipes almost always include a small amount of Dijon and shallots. If you don’t have the shallots, then use green onion or any kind of onion. The point is to experiment with the flavors and make it your own. I rarely make it the same way twice, so actually have a hard time breaking my ingredients down in to measured quantities. I just think about that ratio.
- This is one of those salads that does extremely well made ahead of time. In fact, I think it’s better. And I enjoy it more at room temperature than chilled. Chilling it seems to take quite a bit of the flavor out of it for me.