Great Food Fast: What to Eat When It’s too Hot to Cook

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More amazingly hot Indian summer weather in the Bay Area!  Having eaten out a lot recently, I woke up today feeling like I was suffering from a vegetable deficit.  Yet, in this heat, who really feels like cooking? Knowing that I needed to eat something fresh and healthy, my mind turned to a composed salad.  A “salade composée,” is something I used to make eons ago when I worked in a French restaurant. This kind of salad is a collection of little salads, each separate, rather than tossed together. The French love to eat them for lunch during the hot months.  It’s a useful concept, because it’s endlessly adaptable to whatever ingredients you have on hand or to whatever you feel like eating. Since I had very little on hand, I made up a challenge for myself: I’d go to Trader Joe’s and in only 15-20 minutes compose a menu and buy everything I needed. Actually, my ground rules were a bit more complicated than that. I knew I wanted a dark, leafy green, also a cruciferous vegetable, a vegetable protein, and a whole grain or a whole grain bread. I tell how I put together my “salade composée” after the jump…

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GARY’S INDIAN SUMMER COMPOSED SALAD  (serves one)

1 cup  of arugula, washed and drained

5-6 stalks (2-3 ounces) broccolini, trimmed and blanched in boiling water for 20 seconds

1 medium carrot, coarsely grated

1 15-ounce can organic garbanzos (or bean or choice), drained

2 green onions, sliced thinly

1/2 of a large, ripe tomato cut into wedges

1 piece of dense European or German-style whole grain bread, toasted and topped with spread of choice and cut into triangles

assorted olives

homemade vinaigrette dressing (recipe below) or very high quality purchased dressing

wedge cut from one lemon

The only thing remotely complicated about this recipe is the homemade dressing, but I urge you not to skip that step because the goodness of this salad really depends on a quality dressing.

1. Bring 4 cups of lightly salted water to a boil.  Drop in the broccolini, count to 20, snatch the broccolini out and run briefly under cold water to cool.  Drain.

2. Make the dressing.

3. Grate the carrot, using the coarsest side of a box grater.  Immediately toss with a few squeezes of lemon juice. Just before serving, sprinkle on a little salt and olive oil.

4. In a small bowl, mix together the beans, the green onions and a tablespoon of dressing.  Taste and adjust seasoning. You will have more than one serving of bean salad, so store and use another day.

5. Toast the bread and top it with vegenaise or your spread of choice, cut into triangles.

6. Cut the tomato into wedges.

7. Scatter the arugula on a dinner plate. Arrange the bean salad, carrots, tomato wedges, broccolini and toast points attractively on top of the arugula. Strew the olives at random. Lightly dress the salad by spooning a little of the dressing wherever it seems to need it. Garnish with a lemon wedge for seasoning at the table.

If you eat fish, as I do, anchovies, tuna or smoked salmon would go well with this salad.

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VINAIGRETTE DRESSING FOR COMPOSED SALAD

I find that the easiest way to make this is to use a blender–it’s quick and there’s only one thing to wash up.

Into the blender jar put: 2-3 cloves peeled garlic, 1/2 cup water, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons rice syrup, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon dried French or Italian herb blend (or herb of choice), a pinch of salt and a few cracks of freshly-ground black pepper.  Blend everything well. With the center part of the top open, gradually pour in 3/4 cup of canola oil and 1/2 cup olive oil.  Blend all together well. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt, pepper, lemon juice or whatever you like to get the taste to where you want it. This recipe makes 2 1/4 cups, far more than needed for this salad. Stored in the fridge in a screw-topped jar, this dressing should keep for two weeks.

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