Making Fresh Healthy Summer Salads: From Couscous to Figs
With the heat wave finally here no-one wants to spend hours in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove the best of summer eating is in simple summer salads that act a sides or entrees in conjunction with a variety of great Canadian BBQ. One of the simplest but most refreshing salads ever is Watermelon and Feta Cheese. Literally as simple as dicing up a couple of cups of seedless watermelon, and about one cup of Feta cheese, mix together with some very finely diced red onion and you won’t believe the burst of flavour. This salad goes equally well laid atop some spring mix with some diced BBQ chicken for an entrée.
What could be simpler than a couscous salad, starring in the all the deli cases these days, couscous summer salads are a really easy and inexpensive side if you make them yourself. Simply measure equal parts couscous and water bring the water to a boil and pour one cup into a non metallic bowl, add around a tablespoon or to taste of chicken or vegetable stock to flavour the base couscous. Add an equal amount of couscous, cover and let stand for ten minutes. Try adding to the couscous, chopped dried apricots, dried cranberries, a cup of chickpeas and some chives or finely diced green onion and your salad is ready.
For a light sweet curried version simply add a teaspoon of honey, two teaspoons of curry powder to the chicken stock and let the couscous cook covered for ten minutes. When this is ready you can add finely shredded carrots, zucchini, diced chicken, green onions and red peppers. If you like a spicier mix simply add some red chilies. Couscous acts as a wonderful base for grilled veggies, just like rice it absorbs flavours beautifully and tastes wonderful cold or hot. Zinda couscous is a brand that is available in Canada at most major grocery chains look for it in the international section. Check out the history and more information on couscous here.
Other simple salads include a marinated mushroom and beefsteak tomatoes. Simply slice up the mushrooms and tomatoes and layer them in a dish with shredded basil and a pinch of salt in each layer, you could also layer in sliced buffalo mozzarella or bonconcini to add another flavour this is also known as Insalata Caprese (without the mushrooms). Pour some good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the mix and let marinate for a few hours in the fridge. No Balsamic, no problem simply substitute an Italian Salad dressing or vinaigrette for the olive oil and balsamic and you won’t believe the flavour.
Burratta is now widely available in Ontario and is a real treat in this dish, when cut into the burratta releases a fresh cream and is literally out of this world. Layer slices of tomato with a leaf of basil and place the Burratta in the middle of the plate, sprinkle with salt and pour some very good Olive Oil over the salad then serve.
A fantastic entrée is perfectly simple, mixed greens layered with Spanish Serrano ham very thinly sliced, fresh or dried figs some shaved Manchego cheese and sprinkled with any kind of wine vinegar and olive oil (you could use Balsamic or Italian dressing ). Can’t get Manchego – try a little asiago or finely shaved good quality Pecorino Romano. No figs – try some diced fresh or dried dates, keeping in mind dried dates are much sweeter than fresh. If you want a different version use the Romano cheese with parma ham or prosciutto and some cantaloupe or honeydew melon, wonderfully refreshing on a hot summer’s day.
For more summer recipes check out the salad site on line and for some interesting Canadian fig growing information go to Adriano’s Fig Trees or check out this article on figs on the Edible Toronto this is an invaluable guide to Farmer’s Markets and seasonal produce in the Golden Horseshoe region. If you are looking for information on locally available fruits and vegetables in Ontario you can go here and find a local market in your area.
Originally published on the Toronto Food Examiner website
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