Summer officially begins this week, and even though that doesn't mean fireworks will go off, to me it signifies the availability of more locally grown fresh vegetables; farmers markets and roadside vegetable stands open, fresh fruits arein our local orchards, and let's not forget the backyard gardens that will produce at the minimum, fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers. I love it!
One thing I especially serve a lot — year-round — is the "dinner salad." Most common of dinner salads is the Chicken Caesar which is an all-time favorite of mine and my family. But in these summer months I will introduce a few alternative dinner salads to you, devoting a column each month to this, as well as homemade salad dressings.
"Dinner salads" can be very substantial and healthy as well. I find I often do not want a heavy meal in the heat of summer. Having meals that do not require cooking is an added benefit; and on those hot, humid days that is what we want.
The recipe below is diabetic-friendly and all-around healthy.
White Bean, Tuna, and Avocado Salad
1 can (12-ounce) solid white albacore tuna, drained well
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon each of chopped fresh basil, chopped fresh chives, extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup diced tomato
4 cups salad greens
2 medium avocados
In a medium bowl, flake tuna with a fork. Stir in onion, basil, chives, oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper. Fold in beans and tomato. Divide greens over 4 individual salad plates. Cut avocados in half, remove pits and remove a little of the avocado flesh from skin using a large spoon.
Place one avocado half over greens on each plate. Fold removed avocado into tuna mixture and spoon into avocado shells, spilling over onto greens.
Optional: For a Tuscan addition to this sala,d toast a thinly sliced French baguette, brush with olive oil, and serve with salad.
Homemade salad dressings give you such a fresher taste and have much less sodium and sugar. Keep them in a tightly covered glass jar and they keep for two to three weeks in your refrigerator.
When making salad dressings in a large batch, seasonings may have to be adjusted. Start with the above amounts and add more to your taste.
Often, I leave the salt out, and pass the salt shaker when serving. Supposedly, less salt is used this way, but you will have to try for yourself.
Here is a recipe for your summer use:
Vinaigrette with cumin and fresh mint
Makes 2 cups
1 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 teaspoons ground cumin
salt to taste
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or 4 teaspoons dried.
4 tablespoons fresh finely chopped mint or 4 teaspoons dried.
Whisk vinegar, mustard, garlic, cumin and pepper till blended. Slowly add olive oil while whisking; mix well. Add parsley and mint.
Note: In July, watch for a Curry Salmon Salad recipe that you will love if you enjoy the flavor of cumin.
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Patricia Altomare invites feedback. Email her at email@example.com, or write care of Gloucester Daily Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930.