Easy Breezy Simple Summer Salads

Today, the Lazy Cook is offering a new favorite and an end of summer favorite that her mother often made.

The Mister is not a fan of pickled beets. Even though I have one of the best beet recipes in existence, he will pass on them every time. So I have learned to can them in the ½ pint size. I can have them when I like and they don’t end up going soft after sitting open and uneaten in the fridge. The smaller size still allows enough for me and Them Boyz, being Southern raised boys and liking the beets, to share with a meal.

Even with canning you still end up with a few garden stragglers or leftovers that won’t fit in the jars available. So I had to figure out what to do with the rest. A little research turned up a raw beet salad, which naturally I modified to suit my own taste. I made it one evening and utilizing the same logic your mom used to get you to eat your broccoli, I convinced the Mister to “just have a taste”.

Angels didn’t sing, but it was a miracle. He likes raw beet salad. A lot.

Medium sized beets will be your friend here. Although the smaller ones are more tender, they have to be skinned for the recipe. (or not, I guess, if you scrub them well enough?)

A couple of ways to take the skin off of a beet: vegetable peeler and cold vegetable in boiling water dunk. The second works if you are going to cook them anyway, but in this case, you are stuck with magenta fingers. Don’t worry, what doesn’t wash off gives your fingertips a healthy pink glow.

1 or 2 medium sized beet per person. I’d start with one in case you hate it. Peel it and shred it. If you have any kind of food processor, use it. Between the beet juice and the inevitable scraped fingers, a stand up grater could end up giving your kitchen a post shoot-out Quentin Tarentino look.

½ medium carrot per beet. Garden grown is best, as they have a better flavor, but store bought will do. Also grated.

After you have grated the veggies, add about 1 tablespoon per serving of a flavorful olive oil. Some people like extra virgin, some virgin. If you haven’t guessed by now, the Lazy Cook is not a stickler for super exactitude. If taste preferences were a given across the board the Mister would eat my damned pickled beets.

Love Julia Childs, but French cooking, this ain’t.

Now, take the juice of ½ freshly squeezed lemon per serving and pour it over the mixture. Toss it well, coating all the shredded vegetables.

Now I’m supposing you could use lime in this and quite possibly a sharp red or yellow onion sliced super thin. But as I am in no mood to do work I don’t have to, I’ll stick with the basic outline.

The amazing thing about this recipe is how sweet it is. The lemon does a nice job of playing off the sweetness of the beets and carrots and the olive oil gives the musty bottom of the beet flavor a deep note to hang onto. On top of that, the texture is really outstanding.

I don’t think I would care to eat it in the middle of winter as I do with pickled beets. It’s definitely summer fare. As is the next recipe: Tomato, Onion, Cucumber salad.

Gosh, I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like this. It’s tasty, simple, cool and it takes everything that is good and right about summer and puts it in one big juicy bowl.

For two people: Take two medium garden ripe tomatoes. They should be ripe enough to have a tomato smell, but not so ripe as to be super soft. Core and cube them.

You can use regular “cucumbers”, but pickling cukes have a better flavor. Yes, they are smaller, bumpier and often hairy but hey, if women can find Donald Trump attractive, understanding my preference for pickling cukes should offer no mystery.

You’ll want about 1 to 1 ½ cups of peeled, cubed (or sliced depending on the diameter) cucumbers.

One medium onion, chopped. I like mine a bit chunkier as I use Vidalias and the flavor balance isn’t thrown off by large chunks of onion. If you are using a stronger onion, you might consider how much you want the onion to weigh in the discussion with your tomatoes; and always in balance with considerations of texture and mouth-feel.

Toss the prepared vegetables together in a bowl. Now add 2 (possibly more) tablespoons of a vinaigrette and mix together. I use French vinaigrette. I have used a light Balsamic in the past and did not find it pleasing to the taste buds.

Whatever you use, please, please, I beg you, avoid anything with sugar. Sugar masks all the flavors that make this salad light and fresh and summery; the tangy tomatoes, the crisp bite of onion and the mellow crunch of the cucumber. It really is one of those dishes that you can just eat as a light meal. Or a snack. Or just because you want a bite. It’s that good.

We had both salads last night along with a tomatillo salsa baked chicken breast, some white rice and steamed green beans tossed with a pat of butter and tamari.

And it was good. Summer good.


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