Celebrating Summer Salsa & Salads

I have an ambivalence to August that is difficult to quantify. On one hand, I love summer for warm days, blue skies, boat rides, swimming, and gardening. The other half of me becomes tired this time of year. Tired of the humidity, the squalls, mosquitos in the garden, and, yes, by late August I’ve had my fill of swimming. However, there are two things that keep me going in August: boat rides and summer produce.

By August everything is ripe, and it can be overwhelming as to what to do with all you have picked or bought at a local farm stand. So, I try to celebrate the summer salad as much as I can, because no one can deny that the tomatoes sold in January are sad. They may look good, but after one bite in they disappoint: once you’ve tasted homegrown all others are blah in comparison. The same goes with summer fruit, fresh summer peaches are way better than those in a can or frozen in a bag. I’m also unabashedly eating as much Eastern Shore cantaloupe and sweet corn with everything. So, while days are still hot and the produce is ripe, celebrate the salad – after all you’ll long for it in January.

Fresh Summer Salsa

4 medium garden tomatoes, medium dice

1 yellow or orange pepper, small dice

1 ear of cooked sweet corn, off the cob

4 scallion tops cut very thinly

1/2 sweet onion, small dice

Small bunch of cilantro, small chop

2 TBS chopped garlic

1 TBS olive oil

1 1/2 TBS lime juice

1/2 tsp cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

1 jalapeño or Hungarian wax pepper, optional

Combine ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate a few hours before eating. Will keep a few days. Great with lime tortilla chips. Serves 4-6 as an appetizer or snack.

Fresh summer salsa with homegrown mole pepper as garnish

Sweet Mango Salsa

4 ripe mangos, medium dice

1/2 red bell pepper, small dice

1 medium garden tomato, small dice

1/4 red onion, small dice

1 TBS each fresh lemon balm & cilantro, julienned

1/2 tsp crushed coriander

1 1/2 TBS olive oil

1 1/2 TBS lime juice

Salt & pepper to taste

Tiny dice hot pepper, optional

Combine ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate a few hours before eating. Will keep a few days. Great with lime tortilla chips. Serves 4-6 as an appetizer or snack.

Sweet mango salsa with lemon balm

Melons & Mint

Equal portions of seedless watermelon, cantaloupe and honey dew, medium/large chop. Julienne orange or apple mint to taste. Refrigerate a few hours before serving. Simple and very delicious.

Panzanella Salad with White Beans, Romaine & Arugula

2 French baguettes cut into bite size cubes

4 TBS & 2 TBS olive oil, separated

3 TBS red wine vinegar

2 large garden tomatoes (about 2 pounds), medium dice

1 handful yellow cherry tomatoes

1 can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1/3 red onion, small slivers

3 TBS chopped fresh basil

2 TBS chopped fresh oregano

1 handful arugula

1/2 head of romaine lettuce washed and chopped, blot dry with paper towel

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350. Toss the cut-up bread with the 2 TBS of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Cook in one layer on a cookie sheet until lightly browned (like croutons) for about 10 – 15 minutes. Remove and cool. Whisk vinegar, 4 tbs of oil, salt and pepper. Add tomatoes, beans, onion, and herbs. Toss to coat and let stand for about 20 to 30 minutes. Add arugula, romaine and croutons and stir to coat. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Optional: add some fresh grated parmesan, fresh mozzarella balls or burrata cheese. The lettuce is optional too as Panzanella is traditionally a bread salad. Serves 4 as a light dinner or six as a side item. Gluten free baguettes work well in this recipe too.

Panzanella salad with white beans, romaine and arugula

Cathy Schmidt writes from Trappe where she and her husband Chef Brian Schmidt own Garden and Garnish Catering. A food explorer, Cathy loves to garden and cook from scratch. She is also a University of Maryland Master Gardener with the Talbot County Extension Office.

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