This is what I know about cooking in the summer: “Less is more.” “The Devil’s in the details.” And, “It’s too darn hot.” And since I share StyleBlueprint Lousiville gal Heidi’s salad obsession, I’m adding a few of my new summer favorites to the recipes she shared two weeks ago.  If you missed them, click here.

Recently, I met my college friends in Washington, DC, for our annual summer get together. Each year we rotate from city to city, moving from Nashville, to Memphis, to Minneapolis, to DC (and, once in a blue moon, Paris, but that’s another post) for a long weekend of catching up. Collectively, we are mothers to eight children. We are still married to our first husbands. And we stay crazy busy balancing countless responsibilities. Needless to say, these weekends away are highly anticipated and necessary. Time off for good behavior. Early parole. Hall pass. Call it what you will, but I always return home from these weekends feeling recharged, ready to plug back into my regular life.

Laurie, Catherine and Molly. Treasured friends, 26 years and counting. These women know how to help you step over your piles of dirty laundry, both the figurative and the literal, and laugh in spite of yourself.

 

Of the four of us, all self-proclaimed foodies, Catherine stands out as the most adventuresome. An adept cook from our early days when the rest of us were still eating Ramen noodles, she embraces whole food in a big way. When we’re together, regardless of whose kitchen it is, she insists on whipping up one of her special Sunday brunches, and I always push away from the table amazed by her uncanny ability to take the simplest of ingredients and make something spectacular. The key is fresh, in-season produce and the best staple ingredients you can buy. Duh. So, farmer’s market, yes. Soviet Safeway — what we called DC groceries back in the day– a resounding no.

Here are four quick salads she made for us during our stay. And the best part? They all use the same greens as the base and the same two-ingredient dressing. Translation? Time-strapped cooks (like moi) can make one trip to the market to purchase a handful of ingredients for a variety of salads, and with the addition of a piece of grilled fish or chicken, enjoy delicious, healthy dinners that are infinitely satisfying.

Ingredients

Note: These recipes are make-as-you go and as easy to prepare for one as for six people. Ingredients are to taste. (i.e. If you like a lot of cheese, use a lot.) It’s completely freeing to prepare all of these dishes with nary a measuring spoon or cup. 

Here’s the short list of ingredients you’ll need to prepare all of these salads. You won’t even need a buggy at the store – all this will fit nicely in a basket:

  • Large clamshell box of mixed baby greens
  • Large roll of goat cheese
  • Wedge of Manchego (Spanish sheep’s milk cheese)
  • Bag of sliced almonds
  • Heirloom cherry tomatoes (or your preference)
  • Haricots Verts
  • Peaches or nectarines
  • Fresh figs
  • Basil
  • Majule dates (dried)
  • Olive oil*
  • Aged balsamic vinegar*
  • Sea salt
  • Pepper

*Note: Catherine likes the Lucini brand, available here in Nashville at Whole Foods, Publix and Kroger. Aged balsamic is important, and though more expensive, a deal breaker for these simple salads. Buy it. You won’t be disappointed. 


Catherine’s Composed Salad

 

Composed salads are arranged on a plate or platter, not tossed. A visual delight, this easy summer salad uses peak-of-the-season tomatoes and crisp-tender French green beans.

Ingredients:

  • Mixed baby greens
  • Basil
  • Manchego
  • Heirloom cherry tomatoes (or your preference)
  • Haricots Verts (blanched crisp tender)
  • Olive oil
  • Aged balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt and fresh, cracked pepper
Directions:
  1. On a dinner-sized plate, place two large handfuls of salad greens.
  2. Toss in a few basil leaves (whole, or chopped, your preference) and toss with your hands.
  3. Arrange tomatoes (quartered, if large, or halved if smaller, cherry tomatoes), beans and cheese over greens.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  5. Season with sea salt and fresh, cracked pepper.

Baby Greens with Peaches, Toasted Almonds and Warm Goat Cheese

 

Ingredients:

  • Mixed baby greens
  • Sliced almonds
  • Goat cheese
  • Peaches or nectarines
  • Olive oil
  • Aged balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt and fresh, cracked pepper

 

Directions:

  1. On a dinner-sized plate, place two large handfuls of salad greens.
  2. Scoop several spoons of goat cheese onto an oven safe plate and warm in hot oven. (A toaster oven is quickest.)
  3. Pour a large handful of almonds into small skillet and toast on top of stove, shaking or stirring often to encourage even browning. (Alternatively, you can sprinkle the nuts around the cheese and toast both using the same pan.)
  4. While you’re waiting for the cheese and nuts to toast, chop peaches and sprinkle on top of greens.
  5. Top salad with warm goat cheese and sprinkle with toasted almonds.
  6. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  7. Season with sea salt and fresh, cracked pepper.

 

Baby Greens with Figs, Goat Cheese and Almonds

 

This salad is identical to the peach version above. Just substitute fresh, halved figs procured from your own fig tree (if you’re Catherine) or from the market (if you’re Amy).

 

Mesclun greens with Manchego, Majule Dates and Toasted Almonds

 


This is a particular favorite of Catherine’s. She first sampled this salad on a trip to Barcelona and recommends having it in Washington at Nora’s, which she calls “the organic mecca, the Alice Waters establishment of DC.” She prefers to make it with arugula, mâche and radicchio, but baby mesclun greens are fine, too.

Ingredients:

  • Mixed baby greens
  • Toasted, sliced almonds
  • Manchego, chopped in little cubes (or substitute goat cheese if you prefer)
  • Dates, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Aged balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt and fresh, cracked pepper

 

Directions:

  1. On a dinner-sized plate, place two large handfuls of salad greens.
  2. Top with chopped dates.
  3. Sprinkle with cheese and nuts.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  5. Season with sea salt and fresh, cracked pepper.

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m starving. Bon appétit! (And thanks, Cath, for sharing these recipes!)

 

P.S. If your travel itinerary takes you to DC, here are the incredible, off-the-beaten-path restaurants we visited over the course of our weekend that I highly recommend. None of these were over-the-top in terms of expense, but all exceeded our expectations in terms of quality and enjoyment.

 

Peche Seafood Bistro – DuPont Circle

Cork Wine Bar – Logan Circle

Blacksalt – in Northwest DC

 

StyleBlueprint Editor Amy Norton

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