Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Andrea Chesman: The Green, Green Month of June

The green month of June is all about salad in my book. I have been harvesting a little from my own garden, and a lot from my CSA. It’s salad for dinner almost every night—sometimes with a grilled steak on top, sometimes stuffed in a pita with falafel or hummus, sometimes served on the side.

Last night salad greens made a bed for a simple, hot-weather tuna–white bean salad (1 can of tuna, two cans of cannellini beans, 1 can of artichoke hearts—all well-drained—plus finely chopped garlic scapes—could have been scallions or onions—steamed asparagus—could have been green beans—and sliced Harukei turnips—could have been radishes or carrots). I dressed the salad mixture with a good olive oil plus red wine vinegar, sea salt, and pepper. A fine, easy meal for a hot night. Bread and wine and a porch for catching the slight breeze made it a great dinner.

Tonight I’m bringing a salad to dinner at a friend’s house. Because the greens are so lovely, so fresh, and so flavorful, I don’t want a lot of other ingredients to detract from them. So all I will add are some sugar snap peas (the season will end quickly, so they are added to almost everything while they last), a handful of chive blossoms, and a couple of leaves of fresh oregano and mint.

Sugar snap peas have a short growing season.

Sugar snap peas and chive blossoms make for great salad add-ons.

If I were dressing this at home, I might just drizzle in some extra virgin olive oil, splash in some sherry vinegar, and sprinkle with Maldon sea salt – that’s what I usually do. But for tonight, I’ll shake up some dressing in a canning jar because it is easier to transport that way. Then, I’ll dress it at the last minute before we eat.

Salad greens this fresh should be dressed with a light, light hand.

Ripton House Dressing

Makes about 1/3 cup
Balsamic vinegar with maple syrup has an almost smoky aftertaste. The maple syrup acts as an emulsifier and holds the dressing together.
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons pure maple syrup
3/4 teaspoons soy sauce
4 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Combine all the ingredients in a half-pint canning jar and shake until well-blended.
Or, you could go with a classic vinaigrette.

Classic Vinaigrette

Makes about 1/4 cup
A classic vinaigrette is made of oil and vinegar, bound together with a touch of mustard and flavored with a little garlic, shallot, or herbs. The best-quality extra virgin olive oil and the best-quality vinegar will make all the difference. Which vinegar to use – red wine, white wine, sherry, herbal, raspberry, balsamic – depends on the salad you are dressing. All work equally well with a salad of mixed greens. This recipe is easily multiplied when a large quantity is desired, but for best flavor, make it up fresh each time you need it.
1 tablespoon balsamic, herbal, raspberry red wine, sherry, or white wine vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced, or 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs or shallot
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine the vinegar, garlic, and mustard in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth. Slowly pour in the oil. Whisk constantly until the oil is fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.

Use immediately.
Adapted from Serving Up the Harvest by Andrea Chesman © 2008.
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