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Easy, Peasy, Clean Summer Salads

For years we have been serving the same two summer salads from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The first is a watermelon, tomato & feta salad. Variations can be made by using either tomatoes on the vine or heirloom varieties. As far as the cheeses are concerned, ricotta salata can be used as an alternative to feta cheese. Both of these cheeses crumble easily, so we suggest either slicing or grating them. Pictured below is a crumbled feta. When purchasing either cheese in block form, we like to 'slice' them. We typically select a 'sugar baby' watermelon. These are the smaller, sweeter, and rounder watermelons. When possible, finding a seedless one is also preferable.

The second salad that we tend to prepare frequently, and on repeat all summer long, is a cucumber and avocado salad. Hands down, whenever we serve these two salads, the children will indulge in them. My older daughter has been known to even make the cucumber and avocado salad for breakfast, all by herself. They are crowd pleasers with our adult guests, as well. The key is making sure your avocados are ripened before preparation. Nothing is worse than getting your 'mise en place' together and finding out the avocados are not ripe! An easy tip for determining whether or not your avocado is ripe is to roll it from side to side. The avocado should feel lightly soft, but not mushy to the touch.

Speaking of ripened avocados, I have an interesting story. We were recently hosting a summer barbecue, and the above salad was on the menu. After beginning preparation, we realized that our avocados were not yet ripe. We needed to quickly improvise. Since we had fresh peas from our last visit to the market, we decided to use them. Hence, our pea and cucumber salad was born. (Scroll to the bottom of the page for this and all summer salad recipes).

With our vegetarian guests in mind, we made a tabouleh salad. Because we have some gluten intolerant members in our family, we prepared ours with quinoa instead of the usual cracked wheat. Traditionally, this middle eastern dish is served as part of a 'mezze' or as an appetizer spread. We served ours on the buffet right along with the other salads, meats and fishes. We serve this version cold, versus warm, keeping it refreshing on a hot, summer day.

My husband, "The Grillmaster", has been guilty of overcooking, at times. When we entertain guests, we make sure that we are prepared with containers to pack food up 'to-go', and send them home. Our friends will reap the benefits of not having to prepare lunch or dinner the next day. We, ourselves, noshed on both the leftover pea and cucumber salad, as well as the tabouleh for lunch and when craving a healthy snack for the early part of that week. The pea and cucumber salad kept fresh for two good days after preparation, and the tabouleh for a good five.

Tomato, Watermelon & Feta Salad

Serves: 8-10 people


6-8 Organic Tomatoes on the Vine

(Alternatively you could use organic heirloom tomatoes of varying shapes and color).

One Sugar Baby Watermelon (or small seedless)

One block of Feta or Ricotta Salata

Several Bunches of Fresh Basil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

(This should be a fragrant, high quality olive oil. We use the Jean Reno Olive Oil produced in Provençe, and distributed by D'Artagnan).

Salt and Pepper

Fresh Jalapeños (optional)

You will need one large flat tray.

This salad is built in layers and should be prepared 1-2 hours before serving as it allows for the tomato and watermelon to be marinated with the olive oil, salt and pepper.

  1. Slice the tomatoes. You will yield about five slices per medium-sized tomato. It is important that they lay flat at the bottom of the tray.

  2. Season the tomatoes with salt, pepper and olive oil.

  3. Spread leaves of basil all over the top of the tomato layer.

  4. Slice the watermelon into pieces of equal size and width to the tomatoes.

  5. Season the watermelon with salt, pepper and olive oil.

  6. Spread the leaves of basil all over the top of the watermelon layer.

  7. Cover your salad with plastic film and place it in the fridge for an hour. This is an important step, as it will allow the tomatoes and watermelon to absorb the salt and the fragrances of the olive oil and basil. During this process, the salt helps reduce the water content of both the tomatoes and watermelon. It also intensifies their natural taste and sweetness.

  8. Take the salad out of the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to serving it.

  9. Place the Feta or the Ricotta Salata on top of the salad, and add a few leaves of fresh basil for a final garnish.

  10. The salad should be kept at room temperature (72 degrees) for 30 minutes before serving.

  11. If you and your guests enjoy a little 'kick', slice some fresh jalapeños to add to the top.

Cucumber & Avocado Salad

Serves: 6-8 people

Gluten-Free & Vegan

4 Avocados

2 Large English Cucumbers

1/2 Shallot

1/2 Lime


Sea Salt

Black Pepper

For the Vinaigrette:

1 Teaspoon of Dijon Mustard

3 Tablespoons of Sherry Vinegar

9 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Maldon Salt

Black Pepper

For the Cucumber:

1. Wash and peel the outer layer of the cucumber to remove the green rind.

2. Continue to peel layers of the cucumber into 'ribbons' until you get to the seeds, which we discard.

For the Avocado:

  1. Roll the avocado from side to side to check for ripeness. The avocado should feel lightly soft, but not mushy to the touch.

  2. Slice the avocado down the middle, carefully around the pit.

  3. Twist the two halves, disconnecting them.

  4. Carefully scoop out the pit with a spoon. (We do not recommend removing it with a knife).

  5. Mark the avocados vertically down the inside, flesh up, but not all the way through.

  6. Scoop the entire halves of the avocados, carefully, with a large spoon.

Prepare the Vinaigrette:

1. Combine the ingredients in the following order: Mustard, salt, sherry vinegar (or white wine vinegar).

2. Mix slowly, until combined.

3. Slowly add the olive oil.

Compose the Salad:

  1. Place the avocado halves, face down, on a platter.

  2. Season the avocados with salt and pepper. Add a squeeze of fresh lime.

  3. Season the cucumbers with the vinaigrette and the half shallot, chopped.

  4. Layer the cucumber salad on top of the sliced avocado.

  5. Top the salad with the chopped chives

Pea & Cucumber Salad

Serves: 8-10 people

Gluten-Free & Vegan

2 lbs. of Fresh Peas

Two large English Cucumbers

Fresh Mint

1/2 Shallot

For the Vinaigrette:

1 Teaspoon of Dijon Mustard

3 Tablespoons of Sherry Vinegar

9 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Maldon Salt

Black Pepper

Cooking the Peas:

1. Blanch the peas in boiling water with salt for 3-5 minutes.

2. The peas should be cooked 'al dente'.

3. Drain immediately and place into an ice bath. This will help keep the peas bright green in color.

4. Once the pas are cooled, drain them and keep them dry.

For the Cucumber:

  1. Peel the cucumbers cut them vertically down the middle.

  2. Remove the seeds.

  3. Cut the cucumbers into 'bâtonnets'. (Cut vertically again, and then into one inch pieces).

Prepare the Vinaigrette:

1. Combine the ingredients in the following order: Mustard, salt, sherry vinegar (or white wine vinegar).

2. Mix slowly, until combined.

3. Slowly add the olive oil.

Compose the Salad:

  1. Place both the peas and cucumbers into a serving bowl.

  2. Add 1/2 of a chopped shallot and minced mint. (It depends upon how much mint flavor you prefer; we use a lot of it for freshness).

  3. Add the vinaigrette and combine.

This salad can be seasoned one hour ahead of time and kept in the fridge before serving.

Quinoa Tabouleh Salad

Serves: 8-10 people

Gluten-Free & Vegan

2 C White Quinoa


1 Garlic Cloce

6 C Vegetable Stock

1/2 C Pine Nuts

3 Limes

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Fresh Mint

For the Quinoa:

1. Cook the quinoa and place it in a baking dish.

2. Add salt, pepper, chopped garlic and turmeric.

3. Add the vegetable stock.

4. Cover with tin foil, and cook in the oven at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

5. Check that the quinoa is cooked prior to removing it from the oven. That is determined when the water is fully absorbed.

6. Toast the almonds and the nuts.

Making the Tabouleh:

1. Place the quinoa into a salad bowl.

2. Add the chopped mint.

3. Add the squeeze of two limes.

4. Add three tablespoons of olive oil.

5. Add the nuts and the dried fruit.

6. Combine it all together.

7. Season to taste.

We like to squeeze another lime on top of the salad right before serving the salad. We additionally garnish the top with some fresh mint.

The melamine used for our outdoor barbecue is by Tar Hong and can be found on Joss & Main as well as Amazon, to name two sources.

The paper placemats used for both tables are by Hester & Cook.

The cutlery is by Laguiole, made in France.

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