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.