Hands-On Superlative Summer Salad Starter

By • August 17, 2013 • 0 Comments

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Author Notes: I realized I was starting all my summer salads with this combination of ingredients. Something about the whole being much better than the sum of its parts is applicable here. It's a fresh and definitely-summer flavor that's sweet and tangy; this mixture should be added to whatever is fresh near you. Don't use store-bought produce for this unless it's really from nearby...you need the very fresh flavors that directly buying from farmers gets you. Use your hands to mix, massage and toss, I really think this is a big part of getting the quantities and mixing right. You'll be able to feel when you need more liquid, and fingers are the best at combining ingredients without letting them fall out of a bowl. The quantities are pretty loose on purpose, but I think the proportions are accurate. Scale up or down as you need. However, the size of the cuts are actually critical to making this into the best possible start of a salad--you need the peppers and cucumbers to exude juice, and all these ingredients need to be spread throughout the rest of the salad. The juice that comes from the vegetables makes a fantastic dressing, but you may want to reinforce the final salad, depending on how big you're trying to make this, with more oil, salt, pepper, and vinegar. A little strong-flavored sesame or squash seed oil is a fine idea, especially if you've found shiso leaves. And yes, raw corn. If you must, or if you have leftover, you can use cooked corn.Raquelita

Makes enough to start a few great main-dish salads

  • 1/2 bell pepper
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 scallion or small sweet onion
  • 1 or 2 ears fresh sweet corn
  • few sprigs genovese basil (also try a few shiso leaves if you like them)
  • sprig dill (if you have it and like it)
  • 5 leaves kale
  • generous splashes vinegar (anything but white distilled) or lemon juice
  • few tablespoons good flavorful olive oil (or try part olive part squash seed)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dijon or brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey (approx)
  • your choice in the contents of your refrigerator, market basket, garden, CSA box, etc. Good bets are carrots, cabbage, lettuce, more cucumber, tomatoes, snap peas, green beans. It's a rare time of year when you can get all of these at once, but almost al
  1. Scrape the kernels off the corn, into a bowl.
  2. Roll the kale and basil (and shiso) leaves and cut thinly. In other words, chiffonade. Add them to the corn.
  3. Mince the pepper, add to the bowl.
  4. Thinly slice the scallion, white and green parts. As thinly as you can, perpendicular to the length (some would say this is "crosswise" or "horizontal") so you're making circles. Then roughly chop again. Add to the bowl.
  5. Dice the cucumber (peel if you must, but I never bother) into 1/4-inch bits, add to the rest.
  6. Drizzle your oil, acid (vinegar or lemon juice), generous pinches of salt and fresh ground black pepper over the vegetables. Add a dollop of good mustard and a little honey. Then massage this into them a bit. Let there be enough oil and acid to puddle up below the veggies, this becomes the divine dressing when the pepper and cucumber juices start to seep in.
  7. Let this sit for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare lettuce and other leafy greens by washing and drying, then pre-dressing them with a touch of oil, salt and pepper (toss around with your hands). Dig around your fridge for other vegetables. Shred carrots, beets, zucchini, kohlrabi, cabbage, radishes, etc. Add cooked beans, chickpeas, or grains, too!
  8. Add some or all of the starter (what you created first, in the bowl) and a proportionate amount of the juice that's collected at the bottom, use your hands (salad tongs are just not as effective). Enjoy the direct connection with summer's bounty.
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