Make salad vegetables jump off the plate

It’s really quite overwhelming and amazing, strolling through our busy local markets at this time of year. There is just so much beautiful bounty to choose from that we want it all! So often I buy so much stuff at the market, because I just don’t want to miss out on anything seasonal, that I get home and really don’t know what to do with it all.

This week we held a hands-on cooking class on salads. It may sound simple, but sometimes there are some tricks and techniques to get the most flavour out of our seasonal salads. The following ‘composed’ salad (as opposed to a ‘tossed’ salad) integrates two different cooking techniques that really bring out the sweetness, colour and flavour of vegetables: roasting and blanching.

Slow roasting the beets not only helps their skins to easily peel off, but it also intensifies their flavour and makes them sweeter. Blanching is something that restaurants do all the time to pre-cook vegetables, and to ‘shock’ in their bright orange, green or yellow colours. The trick here is to use lots and lots of rapidly boiling water that is well seasoned with salt: it should taste like the ocean. Once the vegetables have reached desired tenderness (1-3 minutes, usually) they are to be lifted out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon or sieve and ‘shocked’ in ice water.

Finally, vinaigrettes. Splurge a little on good quality oils and vinegars. This is what most of our salads are dressed with, just two ingredients, so therefore it’s important to make them taste great! A general ratio for a vinaigrette is one part vinegar to three parts oil.

Place beets in a foil packet with salt and a little canola oil. Roast at 425 degrees until fork tender; let cool and then peel;

Place almonds on a baking sheet; add to oven to toast until fragrant, about 8 minutes; remove and cool and then chop;

Bring a large pot of water to the boil; add about 1/4 cup of salt;

Blanch beans, zucchini and carrots, separately, each for about one minute; drop each into iced water when just tender crisp; drain;

Whisk together vinegar, almonds and olive oil;

Divide vegetables onto 6 plates; drizzle with vinaigrette and top with crumbled feta.

Summer Salad with Feta Cheese and Almond Dressing
Serves 4-6

  • 8 small beets
  • 1/2- lb green and yellow beans
  • 1 yellow zucchini
  • 8 small carrots
  • 2 tomatoes
  • kosher salt, as needed
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 4 tbsp toasted almonds, chopped
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese

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