Inspiration for good hot weather food can always be found from Ina Garten’s recipes. Her panzanella and fattoush were just the recipes I needed with the drawer of fresh ingredients in my refrigerator. I decided to make something similar to Ina’s classics, but without actually following a recipe. I wanted to see if my flavor preferences would shine through successfully in a salad that requires a rather potent lemon vinaigrette. I also chose to use the
ingredients in my
refrigerator measured by my favorite flavors rather than adhering to a set
recipe. It was worth a try, I ventured to say. Lastly, I didn’t like the idea
of soggy fried pita bread in my salad. The first serving would be delicious, of
course, but all thereafter might just seem like mushy bread.
|© Doug Kapustin Photography, 2015|
Armed with a list of hopes and expectations, I washed my ingredients and prepped my chopping block to get down to business. I was happy with the results. My salad was fresh and tangy, and absolutely irresistible. It was perfect served with grilled pork tenderloin steaks that I had rubbed with salt, pepper, turmeric, and garlic before grilling. I also made some quartered fingerling potatoes tossed in olive oil and herbs and oven roasted at 450 degrees for about 25 minutes. As a potato dipping sauce, I pulsed a chopped shallot, one bunch of cilantro with half stems, two cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of horseradish, a 17.6 oz. tub of FAGE Total plain yogurt, salt, and pepper in a food processor. I make this all the time, and sometimes I add more of one ingredient or less of another, depending on my mood or what’s available; it’s hard to make this dip taste anything other than delicious. As an aside, this dip is wonderful for so many things; it’s good on sandwiches, nice in salads if you add some lemon juice and olive oil, and a nice dip for any of your favorite raw vegetables or chips. Yay--a bonus recipe today! You’ll want to try this one too. Don’t be alarmed that it’s a lovely shade of green when you serve it. Also don’t be alarmed if your guests steal it to take home (or just lick the bowl if it’s almost gone after dinner). It’s that good.
So back to the Mediterranean Summer Salad… Try it soon—definitely before summer’s end—and you’ll probably have to turn the bowl to your mouth to drink the remaining juices, when no one is looking. Not that I’d ever do that. But you might.
Mediterranean Summer Salad*
2-3 large, perfectly ripe tomatoes, diced (about 2 lbs.—Or, large= a center cut could cover a slice of white bread)
5 small green onions, sliced white and green parts
2 medium cucumbers, peeled and diced (optional: one peeled and the other w/ peel on)
1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
½ red onion, chopped
½ small green pepper, chopped
½ small red pepper, chopped
8 oz. Feta cheese with herbs, crumbled (buy block and crumble yourself for better flavor)
4 cloves minced garlic
½ cup lemon juice (fresh)
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil (I recommend investing in Olea)
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add other ingredients and blend thoroughly. Taste to determine if more salt and pepper are needed. Refrigerate at least one hour for flavors to blend. Serve in a bowl with toasted pita bread as a lunch salad or alone as a dinner side.
*Most recently inspired by Ina Garten’s panzanella recipe and her fattoush at this link: