Wednesday, July 4, 2007

It's Summer: Bring on the Salads!

I go through food phases. During my first few years of graduate school, I went through a long soup phase and learned to make many tasty soups. I even perfected a simple tomato soup recipe (coming soon!) that I now regularly crave. When I was really young, I went through cookie phases and macaroni-and-cheese phases, during which I made ample amounts of Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies and Velveeta Shells and Cheese, respectively. Thank goodness my eating habits and cooking skills have improved considerably since those days!

Now it's finally summer in the American Midwest. We Midwesterners have a deeply meaningful relationship with summer because it is so short and for some reason, we have no spring in the Chicago area. We seem to go straight from winter to summer: 30 degrees to 70 degrees overnight. It's crazy. But we love summer and in the spirit of the season, I'm starting a new food phase: prepared salads.

In her lovely book Soup and Bread, Crescent Dragonwagon has written a beautiful and inspirational essay about summer eating. She waxes poetically about the pleasures of building your summer diet around cold soups, tasty bread, and prepared salads. It's that last item on which I am working. My first cold salad of the season is the Green Lentil Salad with Lemon Dressing from Ladle, Leaf, and Loaf by Lisa Cowden. This salad is a tangy and filling combination of cooked green lentils, bell peppers, avocado, onion, and fresh herbs marinated in a light, garlicky lemony dressing. I loved it at first bite. This salad is a good keeper: I made it on Saturday and it was just as tasty for dinner on Tuesday night. One of my favorite things about this salad is that it allows me to enjoy avocado, which doesn't always keep well, for several days after preparing it. I highly recommend good bread with either a savory or sweet topping to accompany this salad. Desperate for something simple yet filling for dinner last night, I whipped up a single scrambled egg and piled it and a big scoop of lentil salad on some toasted hearty rye bread. Fabulous! It totally hit the spot. Since I had already overdosed on desserts earlier in the day, I ended the meal with a cup of decaf green tea and curled up with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Wonderful!

Next up: homemade potato salad?

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