Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Ultimate Salad

After too many late nights and reckless eating at multiple events over the last two weeks, it's time to buckle down and focus on eating as clean as I possibly can if I'm ever going to get out in a swim suit. One way that I really try to keep things interesting and full of flavor (no deprivation) is to load up on herbs and ingredients with varying textures when eating at home. One of my summer go-to meals (that I could eat every day) is a hearty salad. This one, inspired by trips to Shutters on the Beach and a lovely creation by Dana Slatkin (Shutter's The Summertime, Anytime Cookbook). My ingredients vary a bit from her standard, but the objective of serving something lovely, delicious and filling is definitely achieved.

2.5 cups of green and red romaine leaves, chopped
1 can Goya brand Cannellini Beans
3/4 cup thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes*
Black olive dressing (repipe below)
One medium, ripe avocado, roughly sliced.
1/3 cup basil pesto (recipe below)
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
Kosher Salt and Fresh ground pepper

*First, make sure you have light but flavorful sun dried tomatoes. I'm obsessed with Giada's version sold at Target. Packed in sunflower oil and wine vinegar, they are light and perfect in any recipe. I eat them straight out of the jar, too!
Arrange the lettuce in the center of large bowls. In a separate bowl, mix together the beans and tomatoes. Put this mixture on top of lettuce. Place in avocados around sides. Drizzle lightly with dressing and balsamic. Top lightly with salt and pepper to taste. (This recipe makes 3 servings).

Just a few of the dozen herbs I'm growing, including sweet and boxwood basil and thyme.
It's crazy to create pesto just for a salad.That's why I make quite a bit and keep it in the fridge to add a punch of summer flavor to almost everything. Over fresh tomatoes it's divine, and I love it on sliced cucumbers or zucchini for a super light snack. This recipe is a bit different from traditional versions, and is from my dear friend Susan who grows basil by the bunches outside of her gorgeous Nashville home. Feel free to use different varieties. I'm growing three different kinds, and love to mix it up.

1 cup roasted walnuts
1 cup toasted pistachios
10 cloves of garlic
5 cups of fresh basil leaves packed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 cup olive oil 
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a food processor, mix the garlic and nuts (with steel blade) for about 15 seconds.  Add basil, salt and pepper and blend another 15 seconds then start slowly adding olive oil.  When it’s mixed well, add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Store the pesto in a jar and put a layer of olive oil on the top to preserve it.  As you use it, always put a layer of olive oil on the top to keep it fresh as air is the enemy. Tip: just set out a bowl with some crackers the next time friends come over and see how fast it goes!

1/4 cup Lucini extra virgin olive oil
3 TBSP seeded and diced tomato
2-3 TBSP chopped black olives
2 tsp grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk together oil, zest salt and pepper and stir in olives and tomato. Marinate for a couple of hours. Keep refrigerated for 3-4 days. Also fantastic as a topper for grilled fish, so make extra!

This black olive dressing can also be a bruschetta topper if you add a bit more tomato.

What's your favorite summer salad? I would love the recipe... and for you to let me know how you like this one!