Soon summer gardens will be bountiful with fresh, ripe, luscious vegetables. To me, planting my garden and waiting for it to mature reminds me of a child wishing Christmas morning would come so the treasures wrapped under the tree can be opened. I strive to wait patiently even when I know that being patient is not exactly one of my strong suits. I say this because every spring as soon as my husband and I plant our garden, I watch impatiently for the first buds of life to appear and then for them to mature into juicy ripe deliciousness. The hot, humid days of summer beckon to us to eat lighter meals and with the fresh produce from gardens, farmers markets, roadside stands or your local grocery, this is the perfect time to bring in fresh ideas for your salad enjoyment.
The primary ingredient to any salad is of course what lettuce or greens to choose. Salad preparation can be far more interesting in textures and heartiness than a wedge of lettuce, a slice of tomato and cucumber, all topped with a fatty commercially prepared dressing. You don’t need to be an expert in lettuces to appreciate the leafy greens. There are more varieties of lettuce readily available to us today than ever before — all with different shapes, sizes and flavors. Merely standing in front of the leafy produce display in the grocery can bring one to a halt considering the varieties available. If you’re interested in exploring lettuce beyond “cardboard” iceberg, here are some options to consider: romaine, green leaf and red leaf, Boston, arugula, radicchio, oak leaf, frissee, endive, mache, and escarole. Other leafy greens such as spinach, dandelion, bok choy, watercress, chard, and kale also make excellent additions. For added pizzazz, toss in a handful of garden fresh herbs such as dill, basil, chives, cilantro, parsley or a combination.
Try adding nonconventional items to your salad it goes from a side salad to a main course. Here are a few of my favorite “go-to” additions: noodles, warm rice or quinoa, oven roasted potatoes: Roasted (or steamed) broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts. Roasted butternut squash, steamed or grilled corn; oven roasted beets, fresh grown sprouts, baked tofu, seitan, or tempeh. One could not write about summer fresh produce and salads without honoring the abundance of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, etc., that grace our plates this time of year. The possibilities for assembling a “salad meal” are endless. They are a tasty, nutritious and colorful means to embracing a plant-based diet to fuel your body and soul.
This particular salad is a bit more involved in preparation than usual — the added effort is well worth it. As a bonus, this recipe offers boost of protein from… tofu. Yes, you’ve read correctly, TOFU. Just the mention of this simple sweet delicious nutritious food can send the bravest man, woman or child running for cover and closing their mouths so tightly you would need a crowbar to pry it open. Tofu, this protein packed cube that is maligned, misunderstood and underutilized in our Standard American Diet (SAD), has gotten a bum rap (sigh). But I will save that discussion for another time. Tofu in the recipe for “cottage cheeze” is so well “masked” that you needn’t tell anyone it’s an ingredient; that is, unless you want to spring it on them while they’re raving about how amazing the salad they’ve just devoured was.
This BIG salad is a combination of crunchy sweet corn, crisp grilled asparagus and angel hair pasta and tangy green olives that’s light, filling and bursting with freshness.
Asparagus, Corn, Pasta Salad
1 tub firm tofu — separated
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp cider vinegar (preferably organic)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp minced onion
1 – 2 Tbsp minced chives
2 tsp minced dill
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
In a small bowl add 1/3 of the tofu and mash with a fork. Add the remaining tofu and ingredients to a food processor and blend into a cream. Add this mixture to the bowl of mashed tofu and mix well. Refrigerate until needed. You can half this recipe by adjusting accordingly.
6 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp cottage “cheeze”
½ medium tomato, chopped
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp red wine vinegar
4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
¾ tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
Place all dressing ingredients in a hand blender container and blend until creamy. Set aside. *If you like your salad extra dressed — double the recipe.*
8 cups chopped mixed greens — romaine, green leaf,
3 cups chopped mixed — spinach, arugula, watercress
any variation of greens you like
4-5 ears fresh corn — steamed 5 minutes and cut from the cob
½ lb asparagus — grilled
1 c sliced pimiento olives
½ lb organic angel hair pasta — broken into thirds and cooked till just tender, drain and rinsed lightly — (“Deboles Jeresulem Artichoke Flour” brand preferred)
In a large bowl add the 11 cups of greens. Add the corn, asparagus, olives and pasta. Drizzle the dressing and toss until blended. Serve with an additional dollop of cottage “cheeze” and dressing if desired.
This recipe is lovely served as individual salads. Simply layer the lettuce, corn, pasta, asparagus and olives. Add an extra dollop of the cottage “cheeze” to top and drizzle with dressing.