Move from Summer to Fall With Fresh, Seasonal Salad

Composed tomato avocado basil salad | Photo by Keri White

As I move through the late summer, salads seem to call my name.
Part of it, certainly, is that they are sustaining yet refreshing on a scorching day. Part of it is also the availability of fresh, seasonal produce, much of which is at peak now.

Now is that perfect moment as we pivot from summer into fall harvests; we are still enjoying tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuces, but are starting to see early beets, apples, carrots and other autumn crops coming into markets.

Dijon Dill Potato Salad

Serves 8

Using Yukon Gold or other thin-skinned potatoes eliminates the need to peel, a task which I abhor. I have made this salad numerous times through the summer with various grilled main courses — chicken, fish, kebabs, burgers, hot dogs, and it is always a hit. Because it must be done ahead of time and improves after a day in the fridge, make a large batch.
You will serve it with lunch and dinner until it’s gone, and I guarantee you will receive no complaints.

10 Yukon Gold potatoes of similar size for even cooking
1 onion, chopped finely
4 stalks celery, sliced
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
¾ cup mayonnaise
⅓ cup grainy Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
Lots of fresh cracked pepper

In a large pot of salted water, boil the whole potatoes until done and softened through, about 25 minutes.

Drain and cool the potatoes to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces and place them in a large bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir well, taking care not to break up the potatoes.

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Taste for seasoning before serving and add salt and pepper, if needed.

Composed Tomato Avocado Basil Salad
Serves 4

I made this the other day when I discovered, to my dismay, that my lettuce had gone bad. As often happens in my kitchen, it was a “necessity is the mother of invention” recipe, but it came out rather well, made for an attractive presentation and showcased seasonal ingredients.

We served it with grilled turkey kofteh patties featured in the July 30 edition of the Exponent and there were no leftovers. Always a compliment to the cook!

I have a bottle of specialty olive oil that is used strictly for drizzling — not to be mixed in salad dressing or for cooking. It is fruity and flavorful and should be the “star of the show” — this dish was the perfect time to break it out.

2 large, ripe tomatoes, sliced into rings
1 ripe avocado, sliced into thin wedges
15 basil leaves coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons best-quality drizzling extra-virgin olive oil
Generous sprinkling of salt and pepper

Arrange the tomatoes and avocados on a plate and top with basil.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil.

Sweet Beet Salad
Serves 2 generously

This is a wonderfully sophisticated collection of flavors. Unlike many salads, it requires a bit of advance work; the beets have to be cooked, the onions caramelized and walnuts toasted. But you can do all of that ahead of time and then just toss the ingredients together.

Trust me, it’s worth it.

4 medium-large beets
1 small onion, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil (for caramelizing onion)
½ cup chopped walnuts
2 bunches watercress, rinsed and trimmed
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
Balsamic vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Trim the greens from the beets and save them or another use. Boil the beets in a medium saucepan until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Rinse under cold water, peel and cut them into bite-sized pieces.

While the beets cook, caramelize the onions: Sauté the onion in oil over low heat in a medium skillet. Stir occasionally until the onions caramelize, about 30 minutes.

Toast walnuts: Heat the walnuts over medium heat in a small skillet and stir, 3-5 minutes until they are lightly toasted.

Toss the watercress with the beets and onions. Top it with the walnuts and cheese and toss with the balsamic vinaigrette.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil

Mix all the ingredients well.


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