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Summer Staple : Chopped Salad with Feta, Lime, Mint, and Sunflower Seeds
I love salad in some form all year round. In fall and winter we eat a lot of lettuce/onion/fruit/cheese/nut combos. In spring, I’m always tossing tender garden greens with various herby dressing concoctions. Now that the spring lettuce is bolting in the heat,
I turn to bulky lettuce-free mixtures of whatever is wonderful in the garden and at the produce stands. Not only do these summer salads take advantage of what is growing in the moment, they are sturdy enough to spend time in the heat on the picnic or buffet table without turning forlorn. They really have it all – great flavor, beauty, healthfulness, durability, and adaptability – and when I ran across this offering over at Smitten Kitchen, I knew it would be a winner. I served it last night at a simple family hot dog roast, and everybody enjoyed it. If you are looking for an easy, yummy something for a Glorious Fourth gathering, here it is, although I expect to be making it all summer.
Chopped Salad with Feta, Lime, Mint and Sunflower Seeds
Scarcely adapted from Deb at Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4-6 as a side
3 c. chopped vegetables, raw and/or lightly cooked
½ c. feta (or other crumbly cheese)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 c. roasted sunflower seeds, salted
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ t. salt, plus more to taste
¼ t. chile powder or ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 T. thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
For the veggies: Use whatever is fresh and lovely. I used some little yellow squashes from the garden, a few of those mini “hothouse” cucumbers, a few radishes (sliced thin), and a small handful of garden green beans (cooked in boiling water for two minutes, drained, and cooled), but corn, fennel, lightly-cooked carrots, or a bit of celery would all be good possibilities. Chop and/or slice everything and dump it into a large bowl. Add the broken cheese and scallions. You can do this ahead, cover, and chill until shortly before serving.
For the sunflower seeds: This is the key to the salad, so don’t skip this step! Even though they are already roasted, toast them again for a few minutes in a dry skillet over medium heat. Keep at least one eye (and your nose) on them and toss frequently until they smell wonderful and are a pretty dark brown. Remove them to a plate to cool. These can be made ahead, although it is very hard not to scarf them if they lay around very long.
For the dressing: In a measuring cup or jar, mix together the lime juice, salt, chile powder, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Good news! This can be made ahead, too!
Shortly before serving, chop the fresh mint. Add the mint and the dressing to the salad, toss gently, and top with the sunflower seeds. As Deb says, crunch, crunch, crunch away!
And of course, I say, now get up and go cook something good! What are you eating this summer?
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