by Jordan Douglas, HHC

Summer is my absolute favorite season, in no small part due to the abundance of summer produce. From greens and radishes to berries and peaches, there is no better time than summer to eat the clean rainbow. Summer is also a season when many of us crave lighter, simpler foods to keep us cool, refreshed, and hydrated in the heat, humidity, and plentiful sunshine. Local summer produce is bursting with flavor, meaning we don’t need to spend too much time in the kitchen (or even think of turning the oven or stove on) to create delicious and nutritious meals. Summer salads are the perfect vessel for incorporating texture and flavor while getting yourself (and your friends and family) stoked on fresh fruits and vegetables. The best part of summer salads is that there are no rules – be creative and enjoy the bounty summer has to offer.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Go green

When most people think of salad, they think of iceberg or romaine, which are both great but certainly don’t define a salad. Experiment with different leaves – arugula, spinach, kale, swiss chard, green cabbage, etc. If you want to be adventurous with a different base (more below), incorporate green as your accent. This could be other veggies like cucumber and celery, avocado or fresh herbs like parsley, dill, chives or mint.

Rethink the base

We love a leafy green salad, but remember we’re not playing by any rules here and summer produce gives us an assortment of bases to play with. How about zucchini or summer squash? Why not cabbage, carrots or beets? Perhaps fennel and citrus? Maybe keep it fruity with berries, melon and peaches?

Slice it thin

I personally adore a shaved vegetable salad. The flavor and texture are delicious and the presentation is beautiful. It’s also an easy way to incorporate a wide variety of veggies with minimal prep. A mandolin is really your best friend here to shave veggies quickly and easily. Otherwise, you’ve got the chance to practice your knife skills. Shredding in the food processor is another great quick option.

Dress it up

I like to keep summer salad dressings on the simple side to really let the flavor of the produce shine through. A fat and an acid do the trick. For fats, I like a good quality olive oil, avocado, tahini or Laka Super Shroom Drip. For acid, mix it up with vinegar (ume, apple cider and balsamic are favorites) and citrus (lemon, lime, orange).

Dressing up a salad doesn’t end with the dressing. Experiment with throwing nuts (walnuts, almonds, pine nuts) or seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, hemp, sesame) in the mix. Fresh herbs also elevate the flavor and nutritional/medicinal component of the salad. Try parsley, thyme, mint, basil, rosemary, dill, chives, etc.

A few favorite combinations to spark your creative juices, and appetite:

  • Shaved fennel salad with orange and avocado slices, lightly dressed in olive oil and topped with fresh mint and fennel fronds
  • Shredded cabbage and carrot salad with scallions, parsley, sesame seeds and freshly grated ginger dressed in olive oil and apple cider vinegar
  • Shaved summer squash, onion and cannellini bean salad lightly marinated in olive oil and lemon juice, topped with parsley, dill and sunflower seeds and served over a bed of local greens
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