Friday, April 11, 2014

Simple Italian-Inspired Summer Salad

Are you grilling this weekend? Have your side dishes planned?  Here's an amazingly fresh and delicious salad for you to try that won't take you 15 minutes to throw together but will leave you and your fellow diners exclaiming over it for at least 4 times that long.

I discovered the basic elements of this salad last Friday night when the family had an impromptu dinner out at our local Italian restaurant/sports bar and grill (it has a bit of a confused identity, but we love it, quite possibly because we can relate to its confusion). Al and I ordered the day's featured salad to share and both of us fell in love with its beauty, freshness and simplicity that spotlights flavor over flashiness. By Sunday we both craved it again, so I grabbed the base ingredients and added a few of my own (the olives and capers) and prepared it for some good friends we hosted for dinner that night.

This one will be a staple, go-to side salad for us with grilled meats this summer, and could also provide the hearty beginning for an entree salad that also includes a protein, like grilled chicken, shrimp, or even just some fresh mozzarella or shave Parmesano Reggiano and walnuts. I guess all salads are versatile like that, but this one seems especially promising as the start of something quite substantial while also being super cool and refreshing and different.

Okay now I'm drooling.

Simple Italian-Inspired Summer Salad
(Serves 4)

1 ripe but firmish avocado, cut in 1 inch chunks
2 ripe Roma tomatoes, cut in 1 inch chunks
About 1/3 of an English cucumber, unpeeled and cut in 1 inch chunks
4 or 5 whole hearts of palm, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
16-20 pitted calamata olives, whole
1 Tbsp. jarred capers, whole
Juice of 1/2 a lemon (more if you love lemon)
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly-ground pepper

Once everything is cut, just arrange your vegetables randomly on a pretty platter.  Sprinkle the lemon juice over the veggies first, and then drizzle on the olive oil.  Salt generously and grind on some lovely fresh pepper.  I've garnished my salad here with some fresh dill, just to make it extra pretty, but you could leave that off or pop on some fresh basil or cilantro or whatever you like.

Since this salad includes tomatoes and avocados, you need to serve it pretty quickly or you'll have a juicy, mushy, mess on your hands.  I actually prepped mine at the kitchen island while our guests drank wine and chatted with me, which was absolutely lovely, and then we were all so hungry and intrigued by the finished platter of yumminess that we grabbed a bunch of hors d'oeuvre plates and polished it off immediately (with some herb cheese spread and garlic toast rounds), before the rest of dinner was ready.

Happy weekend!

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