Monday, July 16, 2012

Green Salad with Champagne Vinegar Dressing -- a recipe to start your week

Container tomatoes
It's been a hot, hot summer. Turning on the oven isn't an option, and on some days, it's been way too hot to cook on the grill. So salads have been more appealing than ever... especially when you can go out and pick fresh lettuce right from your own garden.

We were late in planting our garden this year, but we have still been able to harvest some goodies... like snow peas, lettuce and, just yesterday, our first bowl of green beans. Yum.

Our garden is a bit nontraditional in that it's on our second floor 16'x20' balcony. This is our 4th or 5th year cultivating a balcony garden (free from deer and bunnies), but this is the best year ever! Why? Because this is our first year using our own composting soil. What a difference!! I tried to grow zucchini every year, yet this is the first year I'm having any success. We don't have any actual zucchini yet, but we have lots of flowers and I can't wait to watch the transformation.

Green beans (the kids' playhouse in the background)

My first eggplant!

I think the eggplant plant is so pretty


Cucumbers in the making

Sally, the scaredoll, keeping birds away since 2009

On Thursday, my husband planted more beans. Look at them already! How does that happen?! Wonder soil!!
Our baby beans. Look how fast they're growing!

Anyway, as you can see, our container garden includes pallets filled with composting soil. This was an experiment and we made some mistakes. Next year, we'll plan better by giving the cucumber and zucchini enough room of their own. We're finding it amusing to see plants that we didn't put there, emerging from the soil in various places. Obviously tomato and zucchini seeds sprouted in the compost, as did a kernel of corn! It will be interesting to see what comes of these random plants!

Random plant (zucchini?) growing between 2 pallets
 Aside from our own garden, we've been enjoying local produce from farmers' markets, roadside stands and local farm shops, such as Shenot's in Wexford, PA. We stopped there yesterday afternoon and bought some grass fed beef to go along with the wonderful vegetables we picked up.

As we were checking out, I asked the cashier about their corn and other produce.

"Do you use any Monsanto products?"

She looked at me quizzically. My husband clarified it for her by adding, "GMOs."

"Oh, no," she responded without hesitation. "We don't use anything like that. Let me give you a paper that explains how we grow our food."

She put it in my bag and we left. I was thrilled to read their explanations under the subtitles: Conventional, Organic, Biotechnology, What We Do, Fertility, Pathology, and Entomology. Sweet. Here's what they have to say about biotechnology:

Genetically modified foods, commonly referred to as "GMOs" are growing in popularity and also raising some eyebrows with concerned consumers. Science now gives growers the ability to grow vegetables, grains and even livestock with built-in "pest guards" that make them immune to disease, can produce their own insecticides and be unaffected by synthetic herbicides. Rather than engage in a debate about whether or not this is a good idea, I will just say that the crops grown on Shenot's soil are in no way genetically modified.

Yes! Even though it is a bit costlier than other places we've shopped this summer, we will return to Shenot's often, secure in the knowledge that Monsanto has not yet invaded this territory. And... the corn was phenomenal!!

With all this fresh goodness, I thought it would be a good day to share a salad recipe with you. We had this the other night, and it was amazing!

Green Salad with Champagne Vinegar Dressing

Leaf lettuce (can be substituted)
1 large carrot
1 stalk of celery with leaves
1 kohlrabi
1/2 candy onion, sliced thin
Cherry tomatoes
Parmesan cheese, shredded
Homemade croutons**

Wash vegetables in a bowl or basin with 1:8 ratio of distilled white vinegar and water. Tear the lettuce into bite sized pieces. Using a food processor, chop the carrot, celery and kohlrabi in to fine pieces. Toss with lettuce and top with sliced onion, cherry tomatoes,parmesan cheese and croutons. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve dressing on the side.

Champagne Vinegar Dressing

This is a very “pure” dressing in that I don’t add any spices or herbs so the flavor of the vinegar can shine through.

¼ cup champagne vinegar (bought mine at Whole Foods)
3 TBSP water
½ cup oil (I used a light vegetable blend as I thought olive would be too overpowering)

Put ingredients in bottle and shake well before pouring.

**Homemade croutons

Cut bread (your choice) to one-inch cubes. Heat 1 TBSP coconut oil and 1 TBSP butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic to taste (I use 1 tsp of jarred garlic) and some fresh snipped herbs. I cut some marjoram out of my herb garden. Add bread cubes to heated pan and toss. Cook until crispy.

That's it. This is a crisp, light salad that is simply delicious.

What is your favorite type of summer produce?


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