white peach and purslane salad

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The only indication of summer in these parts is the bounty spilling out of the markets right now. It’s been a little foggy and cool the past few days here in the Bay. But we’ve got melons and tomatoes and corn and squash and all sorts of fantastic stonefruits to remind us that summer is in full swing. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been going a little overboard with my produce purchases.

As a result, there have been lots of salads happening here. A couple of weekends ago, I packed a picnic basket full of salads and a bottle of rosé and headed to the park to hang with friends and see the SF Symphony. Now that felt like summer.

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I tend to follow a simple formula when making salads for myself at home. Start with something green and leafy, add seasonal fruit (think figs, peaches, apricots, or cherries for summer), a little bit of cheese for protein and a savory element, toasted nuts or seeds for crunch, and a light vinaigrette to tie it all together.

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Purslane is a new-to-me green. I’d noticed it at the markets, but never thought much about it. So I recognized it instantly in a beet salad I ordered at dinner a few months ago and took quite a liking to it. It has a somewhat unusual texture – smooth, heavy-ish leaves with crisp stems. I picked some up at the market the next day and have been buying it weekly ever since. I did a little research on the interwebs and it turns out that purslane grows like weeds. Like it’s literally a weed. The forager in me loves this. As a matter of fact, I’m now convinced that I must grow my own. I’ll let you know how that goes.

So, a salad of purslane with perfect, juicy white peaches is kind of my obsession this season. I cannot get enough. Some toasted walnuts and crumbles of feta are excellent toppers.  So simple and so good.

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white peach and purslane salad

serves 2

2 heaping handfuls of purslane  (or your choice of greens – spinach, baby greens, etc.)

1 large ripe white peach, sliced

1/2 cup toasted walnuts 

1/4 cup crumbled feta (crumbled blue cheese is also nice)

2 -1/2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

In a large salad or mixing bowl, combine purslane and peach slices. Set aside.

Pour vinegar in a small bowl. Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. While whisking, slowly add olive oil to the vinegar and continue until all oil has been added and the mixture is emulsified. Add additional salt or pepper to taste.

Pour vinaigrette over the purslane and peaches. Toss gently until leaves and fruit are lightly coated. Add walnuts and feta and give one more toss before dividing between salad plates. Serve immediately.

israeli couscous with grilled summer squash

There has been a bit of a quiet countdown happening over here. On an almost daily basis, I’ve been reminding myself to make the most of these days, the end of summer, the end of my twenties. Stop. Take a few deep breaths. Be grateful. They’re going fast, these days.

Maybe you and I are alike in our efforts to savor these last weeks of summer. If so, I have something for you.

First, get yourself some summer squash, pick a few lemons from the neighbors tree (or the market), start up the grill and pour yourself a glass of wine, grab a beer, make your favorite cocktail – you get the picture. After a quick marinate in lemon, olive oil and minced garlic, grill up that gorgeous summer bounty and then throw it into a salad of Israeli couscous (not to be confused with traditional small grain couscous), feta and dill. Season with more lemon juice and zest, flaky salt and ground black pepper.

This little salad was born on a hot August evening in the mountains. I liked it so much that I had to make it again just a few weeks later. It’s bright. It’s savory. It’s summery. It’s one of my new favorites. It will be the perfect side dish for the end of summer shindig you’ll be attending this Labor Day weekend. It also makes a great mid-afternoon snack. Hold on to summer, grill everything in sight, dine outdoors, leave the windows open, pretend like it’s just beginning.

israeli couscous with grilled summer squash

serves 6-8

2 cups dry Israeli couscous

8-10 small zucchini

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided 

2 lemons, zest and juice 

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup dill, roughly chopped

4 ounces feta, crumbled 

flaky salt

fresh ground pepper

Prepare your grill outdoors. Alternately, you can use a stove-top grill pan or roast zucchini in the oven for about 8 minutes at 425F.

Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise from stem to base. Place in a shallow casserole dish or baking pan.  Sprinkle the zest of one lemon and minced garlic over the zucchini. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of one lemon over the sliced zucchini. Season with salt and pepper. Toss until all zucchini is well coated. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season generously with salt. Add the Israeli couscous and cook for 8 minutes, or until al dente. Drain the couscous and then spread on a baking sheet in a even layer to cool.

After the zucchini have been marinating for 15-20 minutes, place them on the grill cut-side down. Leave them on the grill until they have nice charred markings and are tender but not limp, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from grill and set aside to cool. When the zucchini is cool enough to handle, slice into 1-inch pieces.

Transfer the cooled couscous to a large mixing bowl. Toss with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, juice of half a lemon, remaining zest, salt and pepper. Add the feta, dill and sliced zucchini. Toss until all ingredients are well incorporated. Add more lemon juice or salt to taste. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

tomato panzanella

A few weeks ago, a friend asked for recommendations for summer side dishes and salads. The first thing that came to mind was panzanella. Why panzanella? Because it is an excellent way to show off gorgeous, summer tomatoes. And it’s hearty but still very fresh and light – just the sort of thing I like to eat on a hot day. I had panzanella on the brain for the entire week that followed. Something had to be done.

If you ask me, the key to a good panzanella is great bread. And if you ask me where to get great bread in these parts, I would have to say Tartine.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – I love me some Tartine. One of my favorite things to do after work is hit the bakery and pick up a loaf of bread right as it comes out of the oven.  And since I wanted panzanella, I popped in on my way home one evening and picked up one of their famous country loaves (and a slice of coconut passion fruit Bavarian).

There is nothing like fresh Tartine bread, still warm from the oven. The aroma will fill your car and you will be forced to savagely break into the crusty loaf with your bare hands as you make your way down I-80 because the 25 minute drive home is just too long. It happens every time.

Luckily, for all of us, the Tartine Bread book was released into the universe last year. Along with recipes and techniques for making their bread at home,  it features a chapter devoted to dishes that give day old bread a second life, including this tomato panzanella.

If you like bread and you like salad, this is a perfect union of the two. Imagine really fantastic homemade croutons after they’ve absorbed the vinaigrette and tomato drippings at the bottom of a salad dish. It’s the best part of the salad, right? Now imagine a big bowl of those croutons, tossed with heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced cucumber, and basil. It cannot be beat. No joke.

tomato panzanella

adapted from Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson and Eric Wolfinger

serves 4 to 6

red wine vinegar

2 pounds baby artichokes 

1 cup + 6 tablespoons olive oil

salt

4 thick slices day old rustic, country style bread, torn into large pieces

4 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese

4 ripe heirloom tomatoes

1/2 red onion, finely diced 

1 English cucumber

1 bunch basil, stems removed

Preheat oven to 400°F. Fill a large bowl with water and add a generous splash of vinegar. Remove the tough outer leaves from each artichoke until you reach the tender leaves surrounding the heart. Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise and place the halves in the water.

Drain the artichokes, place in a bowl, and toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Arrange the artichoke halves cut-side down in a large ovenproof skillet. In the same bowl, toss the bread pieces with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. spread the bread over the artichokes, grate Parmesan all over, and put the pan in the oven. Roast until the artichokes are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside and the bread is a deep golden brown, 15-25 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut each tomato in half crosswise. Holding each half over a small bowl, gently squeeze it (as if juicing an orange) to release the seeds. Reserve the tomatoes. Add the onion, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, and salt to the seeds, and stir to combine. Stir in the olive oil.

Cut the reserved tomato halves into 1-inch chunks. Peel the cucmber. using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, shave the cucumber into thin strips.

In a serving bowl, combine the artichokes, bread, tomatoes, cucumber, and basil. Add the vinaigrette and toss. Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes before serving.

chickpea, cilantro and feta salad

With the long holiday weekend ahead, you’re probably asking yourself, ‘What am I going to bring to that barbecue?’ I have an answer for you.

This chickpea salad has been one of my favorites for a while now. I find myself making it at least once a month, if not more. Here’s what I like about it:

It’s full of chickpeas, which I love. They remind me of the salad bars of my youth. The chickpeas were always at the end of the salad bar next to the croutons and bacon bits. It turns out that they are an excellent source of fiber – definitely a plus in my book. You can use canned chickpeas for this salad, but I really like soaking and cooking dried beans.

It’s herbaceous, which makes it really fresh. A generous amount of chopped cilantro, scallion and flat leaf parsley provide a lot of flavor and great texture.

It’s terrific served alongside grilled meat and/or veggies. But it also stands well on its own.

It’s the perfect dish for non-meat eaters. It has a good amount of feta, which gives it a nice salty finish and makes it a bit more substantial than just a plain bean salad. Your vegetarian friends will love you.

It’s incredibly easy to throw together, especially considering that there are so many layers of flavor. Because we’re expecting gorgeous weather, the last thing I want to do is spend hours in my kitchen cooking or baking; this salad will allow me to get out and enjoy this glorious July 4th weekend.  I hope you do the same.

chickpea, feta and cilantro salad

adapted from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros

serves 4-6

1-1/4 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water or 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans

1 cup olive oil

1 large red onion, chopped 

5 cloves garlic,  finely minced 

1-2  red chiles, seeded and finely chopped

1-2/3 cups crumbled feta

1 cup chopped Italian parsley

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

4 scallions, green part only, chopped

juice of 1 lemon

If you’re using canned chickpeas, rinse and set aside. Otherwise, rinse the soaked chickpeas, put them in a saucepan, cover generously with water, and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat slightly and cook for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, until they are soft but not falling apart, adding salt toward the end of cooking time. When cooled, drain and put the chickpeas in a large bowl, removing any loose skins.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil and gently saute the red onion until it is cooked through and lightly golden. Add the garlic and chile and cook for a few more seconds, until you can smell the garlic (take care not to brown the garlic). Let cool completely.

Add the feta, scallion, cilantro, parsley, and lemon juice to the chickpeas and season with pepper and salt to taste. Add the cooled onion mixture and remaining olive oil and mix until well combined.


chayote, corn and tomato salad

Oh, Mother Nature! I’m so tired of all of these wishy-washy, partly-cloudy/chance of showers forecasts. It’s almost June! I’m ready for warm nights and open windows! I’m ready for cold drinks out on the stoop and brown bags in the park! I am ready for summer! (p.s. it is pouring rain as I write this.)

We celebrated AD’s birthday a few weeks ago with a little surprise picnic in the park. It was a typical overcast San Francisco Saturday, rolling fog and all. But the sun made a few appearances that afternoon and somehow a few of us even managed to get sunburned (I was spared because I wore my SPF 55 that day). Lesson learned: great people, layered clothing and plenty of libations make even cloudy day picnics a hit.

This chayote, corn and tomato salad was supposed to make an appearance that day, but in the midst of loading the car with beer and wine and flowers and cupcakes, the salad bowl got left behind, and we had to make due without. Which was totally fine because there were taco fixings to go around for days. So all the salad components went back home with me and were thrown together the next day. Hooray for my forgetfulness! This is everything a summer salad should be – colorful, refreshing and easy to prepare. I especially enjoyed it alongside grilled fish.  It would be the perfect addition to any bbq or picnic. Next time I just need to remember the bowl.

chayote, corn and tomato salad with red wine vinaigrette

from Doña Tomás by Thomas Schnetz and Dona Savitsky

serves 4 to 6

for the vinaigrette

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

2 shallots, minced

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

kosher salt

1 pinch granulated sugar

2 chayotes (if you cant find chayote, jicama is a great substitute)

1/2 red onion

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved, preferably sweet 100s

kernels from 2 ears fresh corn

1 bunch cilantro, stemmed and chopped

about 1 tablespoon kosher salt

about 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To prepare the vinaigrette:

Combine the vinegar, garlic and shallots in a small bowl and mix well. Whisk in the oil, the adjust the seasoning with salt and sugar. The vinaigrette can be covered and refrigerated for 1 week.

Slice the chayotes lengthwise and cut into cubes about the same size as the corn kernels. Cut the onion in the same manner. Place the chayotes, onion tomatoes, corn and cilantro in a bowl and toss gently. Place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, until chilled.

Add about half of the vinaigrette and the salt and pepper. Toss gently until the vegetables are well coated. Taste and adjust the amount of seasoning and vinaigrette accordingly, without causing the dressing to pool. Serve immediately. If the salad is tossed too far in advance (a few hours), the vegetables will become soggy.