CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Summer might be winding down, but gardens and farmers' markets are in full production. It's a great time to experiment with salad combinations with the abundant fresh vegetables and fruits.
After hearing many people rave about watermelon and tomato salad, I recently gave it a try. I'd heard people say the seemingly incongruous ingredients merged well together. Not so much at my house. The fault was mine, or at least my recipe selection. I thought perhaps the dressing would pull the flavor combination together recipe together.
Hmmm ... no. The balsamic honey dressing was way too sweet. It just didn't work. Tomatoes and watermelon will probably be served in separate bowls at my house.
Contrasts abound in Watermelon Salad with Feta, Mint and Cumin Lime Dressing: sweet watermelon, salty feta, zippy jalapeno, tangy lime juice and soothing mint. This one works.
Peaches, peppers and bacon mix with whole grains for a healthy flavor burst in Summery Grain Salad with Peaches. Although it's hard to beat the classic cucumber and onion salad in cool, creamy sour cream dressing, Pickled Cucumber Salad with Red Onions and Feta offers and interesting, and probably lighter alternative.
My herb plants are healthy and full, so I snipped them to use in Herbed Potato Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette. That's two salad recipes with bacon this week, I know, but the amounts used aren't huge and I've never found a good substitute for that crispy texture and smoky flavor. I used red wine vinegar because I didn't have the champagne vinegar listed in the recipe. This salad with its tangy sauce is an herbed-up version of classic German potato salad.
Try any of the recipes below for Labor Day cookouts and celebrations and take advantage of the season's ripest flavors. They won't be around too much longer.
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.
Watermelon Salad with Feta, Mint and Cumin Lime Dressing
Yield: 6 servings
2 pounds watermelon cubes
1 pound feta, cut in cubes
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
COMBINE watermelon, feta and jalapeno in serving bowl.
COMBINE cumin, lime juice, salt and oil and whisk in a medium bowl or use a blender until smooth.
ADD half of the dressing to the watermelon mixture just before serving. Toss gently to keep everything whole and taste the salad. If desired, add more dressing. Add the chopped mint and toss gently.
Nutritional information per serving: Calories 281, Protein, 12 g, Carbohydrates 16 g, Fiber 1 g, Fat 20 g, Cholesterol 67 mg, Sugar 13 g, and Sodium, 847 mg.
Source: MCTSummery Grain Salad with Peaches
Yield: 6 servings
3 cups precooked brown rice, or 1 1/2 cups uncooked pearled farro or quinoa
4-6 slices bacon
1 red onion, cut in 1/2 inch slices
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 medium peaches, chopped in 1/2-inch dice
6 ounces feta, crumbled
2 banana or melrose peppers, sliced very thinly crosswise, removing seeds and pith
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 bunch arugula, torn into pieces
COOK or heat the brown rice, farro or quinoa according to package directions. Spread on a cookie sheet to cool to room temperature.
COOK bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove bacon from skillet, leaving some fat behind. Drain on paper towels; crumble bacon. Cook the onions in the bacon fat, turning as needed, until slightly charred in spots and beginning to soften, 8 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt as they cook. Remove from skillet; coarsely chop.
STIR the peaches, feta and peppers together with the grain in a large bowl. Add the bacon and onions.
WHISK together the oil, vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Pour over the salad; stir gently to combine. Taste for salt; add more olive oil if it seems a bit dry. Can be chilled several hours and served later; bring to room temperature before serving. Stir in arugula right before serving.
Nutrition information per serving: Calories 307, Fat 16g, Saturated fat 6g, Cholesterol 20mg, Carbohydrates 33g, Protein 9g, Sodium 615mg, Fiber 4g.
Pickled Cucumber Salad with Red Onions and Feta
Yield: 6 servings
2 large cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 red onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup loosely packed chopped fresh dill, plus a few fronds for garnish
PLACE cucumbers and onions in a large serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper. In a small glass measuring cup, whisk together the rice vinegar and sugar.
POUR over the cucumbers and onions and toss to combine.
COVER tightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop.