Hot Summer Day Salad

Whenever you land at the airport in New Orleans, you walk outside and are immediately hit by the thick air. You wade your way through the tangible, wet heat from the terminal to the waiting area, letting the moisture soak into your skin while you take it all in.   Although I left New Orleans over ten years ago, I regularly visit my family and steep in air while I wait to be picked up.

So, last week when I stepped out of my well air-conditioned office building into this summer’s mid-western heat wave, I was hit by a familiar humidity.  Like New Orleans, Chicago’s air was wet and tangible, soaking into my skin.  It was the kind of heat that had my fellow office workers in uproar.  The people that complain about weather year-round had something to say about this.  But for me, it was rather comforting and comfortable, reminding me that I live in a city with four distinct seasons.

This evening, standing at the stove is the last thing that I want to do.  Instead, I pull all of the vegetables out of the fridge to assess the situation.  I decide to make an entree salad–filled with as many vegetables as I can fit or that make sense together.  I have discovered that Andy doesn’t mind eating salad for dinner, as long as I make it substantial enough to be filling.  Through trial and error, I realized that we need to have at least two proteins, such as avocado and black beans,  in the salad to make it an entree fit for a dude.

Tonight I made two hard-boiled eggs and added a tin of oil-packed albacore tuna to the greens–making a really substantial meal.  I also included chopped cucumber, heirloom tomato from Henry’s Farm at the Evanston Farmer’s Market, roasted red pepper, and red onion.  At the last minute, I threw in some goat cheese.  I think that there is some rule that says that you aren’t supposed to eat cheese with fish (except perhaps for lox and cream cheese), but I disregarded that rule tonight.  I had picked up some herbed focaccia at the French Market at lunch and thought the cheese would pair nicely.  I was right.  But they key to making my salad “fantastic” (to quote Andy) is the homemade salad dressed.  I read an article in today’s Slate about the importance of  homemade salad dressing versus store bought–there is just no discussion on which is better.  The homemade dressing wins by a long shot–I always make my own if I have time.

Easy vinaigrette makes the salad

Simple Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons vinegar (can use White Wine, Red Wine, or Balsamic)

1 clove garlic, chopped finely

fresh herbs, such as oregano, thyme, or rosemary

Really really good extra virgin olive oil (quality makes a BIG difference)

1. Combine the mustard and vinegar.  Whisk together.

2. Season with garlic and herbs.

3. Add enough olive oil to cut through the vinegar, about 1/4 cup.

Plated salad + Focaccia bread

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