On a Saturday morning back in July, my Recipe Redux post was supposed to go up along with other dietitians’ and healthy cooking bloggers’ recipes. Instead, I spent my weekend in New York City celebrating with my sister. We spent our afternoons noshing on sushi and Italian food (not at the same time), exploring her new neighborhood, and sipping red wine while watching Say Yes to the Dress and scoping out dresses online. And that was all just icing on the cake; the exciting news is that David and I got engaged! The past few weeks have been a fabulous whirlwind of excitement, so I’m confident the Reduxers will forgive my absence.
If I hadn’t been wrapped up in the all the excitement, and if I’d posted what I was supposed to be posting, it would have been this simple summer salad. The theme this time around was no-cook summer meals. I find it amusing that all through July I posted recipes that required cranking the oven in the middle of a summer heat wave, and when the Recipe Redux challenge rolled around I didn’t put together a no-cook meal for all of you. But this is actually a recipe that’s been popping up frequently in my summer rotation, especially for lunches and dinners when we get a late start or have nothing else immediately on hand. The last two weeks have been a constant string of meeting friends for after-work drinks and dining out, so I’ve been grateful for this dish as a healthy fall-back recipe to eat at work or later in the evening.
This recipe, which isn’t so much a recipe as it is a combination of my favorite simple ingredients at the moment, is very much in keeping with my Southwestern-flavored summer. I’ve been on a huge avocado kick lately, and topping this salad off with chunks of ripe avocado is what makes it one of my favorites. A blend of cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper, and avocado is mixed with chopped romaine hearts and arugula. I finished it all finished off with a drizzle of a tangy, punchy, mustard vinaigrette. I sometimes think salads are hard to eat if all the individual ingredients are clumped in isolated piles rather than mixed in, so I think it’s a must that all the ingredients get chopped and thoroughly tossed together. It makes it so much more accessible. It is simple and satisfying. But I hesitated a bit before posting a salad as a no-cook meal. After all, the combination of ingredients isn’t exactly a new idea. But in the course of my day working at at diabetes clinic and speaking with a wide variety of people, I’ve found that it isn’t always an easy thing to just combine a bunch of ingredients in a bowl and have it turn out well. A lot of people need direction in taking salads from being mere “rabbit food” to a meal that’s worth making and worth eating. So I put this dish forward as a recipe I love and make over and over again. To keep it simple, I buy a bag of three romaine hearts and some arugula, a pint of cherry tomatoes, two red bell peppers, and two avocados, I use it all to make two salads, and it gets me through a whole week’s worth of lunches (with a tuna sandwich on the side). I make a big batch in our huge yellow bowl, toss everything together so all the ingredients are evenly incorporated throughout, and then parse the whole salad into four different plastic containers.
Simple Chopped Summer Salad
2 romaine lettuce hearts
3 oz. arugula
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
1) Wash and dry both the romaine hearts and the arugula. Chop off the end of the romaine heart and cut the leaves into thin slices. Roughly chop the arugula, then combine the lettuce in a large bowl.
2) Wash the cherry tomatoes and the bell pepper. Halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes and toss into the large bowl along with the lettuce. Cut the red pepper open, remove the ribs and seeds, then chop into thin, short strips. Add to the salad and toss to combine.
3) Using a sharp knife, slice the avocado in half, working around the pit. Twist the two halves apart and remove the pit by firmly lodging the knife in the center and lifting out. Peel the rough outer skin off the avocado, then slice the flesh into chunks. Add to the salad bowl.
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 Tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a small high-walled bowl. Whisk quickly to thoroughly combine. Drizzle over the salad and serve.