Spectacular Salads: Infusing Menus with Color, Flavor
I love summertime days that stretch endlessly and slowly.
There’s leisure time to sip a second cup of coffee after breakfast, reflective hours digging and planting in the garden, quiet moments reading on the front veranda, and invigorating hikes through Swan’s Nest’s forest, following deer and elk pathways once we pass the spring-fed upper pond.
When it comes to summer meals, I like to keep things relaxed and easy, too.
The key is anything that can be grilled, served with side dishes that go together quickly, especially if they take advantage of just-harvested ingredients from local orchards, farms, and my garden.
I make bi-weekly visits to the Dillon, Colorado farmers market – a feast for the senses when I stop by booths overflowing with ripe, juicy tomatoes, peaches, plums, and melons so fragrant, my mouth waters in anticipation. On other tables, baskets are piled high with ears of corn, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, and squash, still moist from an early-morning harvest. Try as I might to stick to my shopping list, by the time I’ve walked through the market’s first section, my canvas bags are heavy from purchases too delicious to resist.
My recipe for Summer Fruit Salad with Creamy Honey-Orange Dressing was inspired by a visit years ago. My husband, Randy, and I were in the midst of a more than two-year restoration of our historic 1898 mountain home. As if 10-hour days onsite weren’t enough, I was simultaneously developing recipes for my second cookbook, Where’s My Spatula.
The kitchen in our temporary quarters was the size of a postage stamp, so dining room chairs often held ingredients, cookware, and serving dishes. With a setup like that, it’s no wonder the recipes are quick and easy, but each is nutritious and packed with flavor.
This colorful salad highlights summer fruit at its peak of freshness. On a bed of crisp leaf lettuce, I arrange plump, juicy strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries with bite-size cubes of cantaloupe or honeydew melon, sliced peaches or nectarines, and kiwi fruit. Of course, depending on one’s preference and what’s in season, apricots, grapes, plums, watermelon, pineapple, mango, and other tropical fruits make great additions or substitutions. A creamy citrus dressing, enhanced with orange zest and sweetened with honey and fresh-squeezed orange juice, elevates this dish to another level of enjoyment, making it a welcome seasonal dessert.
When your summer menu needs an infusion of color and flavor, or it’s simply too hot to cook, a fruit salad can be the answer. Add a refreshing citrus dressing that not only whips up in minutes but can be halved, doubled, or tripled, and it’s extra versatile for dinner-for-two, a family reunion, or a backyard summer holiday celebration with friends.
1 cup nonfat sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons orange zest
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 head green leaf lettuce, rinsed and spun dry
1 small ripe cantaloupe, rinsed, seeded, and cut into bite-size pieces
3-4 ripe nectarines or peaches, rinsed
2 6-ounce containers fresh blackberries, rinsed
2 6-ounce containers fresh raspberries, rinsed
1 16-ounce container fresh strawberries, rinsed
1 pint blueberries, rinsed
Fresh mint sprigs, rinsed and dried, for garnish
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, orange zest, orange juice, and honey until they are well blended. Cover and chill while preparing the fruit.
Line a large platter with leaf lettuce and arrange fruit as desired.
Just before serving, give the dressing a quick stir, then drizzle it over the salad. Spoon any remaining dressing into a container and serve it alongside the salad.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Cookbook author and PBS television chef Christy Rost is a longtime resident of the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. See her “Celebrating Home” four-minute cooking videos at youtube.com/ChristyRostCooks and christyrost.com.