Toss Up

What makes the best summer salad? 

Photo by Kip Dawkins

Never underestimate the power of a good salad. With such an abundance of local ingredients all around us, especially this time of year, sometimes there’s just nothing better than a plate piled with a bright, colorful medley of veggies and fruits. Goodbye, limp iceberg lettuce and store-bought dressing—hello fresh, crisp greens, vibrant veggies and simple, elegant homemade dressings. Try throwing one of these three salads together for your next late-summer dinner party.

Asian Mix Salad 

Greens (about ½ cup of each):
bok choy
mustard greens
komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach)
tatsoi (Asian Brassica rapa)
shungiku (chrysanthemum greens)
pea shoots

roasted peanuts
rice wine vinaigrette:
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup vegetable oil

Mix first four ingredients until sugar is dissolved, then whisk in the vegetable oil.

Gently toss the greens together and arrange on individual plates. Garnish with peanuts, and drizzle lightly with the vinaigrette just before serving. Another option: Mist with rice wine vinegar only.

Fresh Corn Salad 

4 corncobs
2 seedless cucumbers
½ cup grated unsweetened coconut
1 cup frozen shelled edamame soybeans
1 cup alfalfa sprouts
1 bunch fresh cilantro (use leaves with a little stem)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 jalapeño or other hot green pepper, sliced


1 tablespoon ponzu dressing (available at most good grocery stores)
juice of half a lime
1/4 cup sesame oil
salt and cracked pepper to taste

Mix dressing ingredients well, and set aside. Boil the corncobs in plenty of salted water. When cool, shave off the kernels with a sharp knife beginning at one end and slicing through to the bottom. Save the kernels. Skin the cucumbers, and cut into small dice. Mix corn and cucumbers with the frozen edamame, alfalfa sprouts, coconut and cilantro (the edamame will thaw in the preparation process). Pour the dressing over all, very sparingly.

In a heated skillet, pour in the oil, and drop in the poppy seeds. When they begin to pop in the heated oil, add the hot pepper slices and the cumin seeds and sauté for about a minute. When the pepper mixture has cooled, toss together with salad thoroughly.

Watermelon and Tomato Salad 

1½ cups watermelon (red and yellow)
1 cup tomatoes (mixture of grape, cherry, Roma, etc.)
½ cup pitted black olives
1 tablespoon fresh mint
1 tablespoon fresh basil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
freshly cracked pepper

Cut watermelon and tomatoes into small chunks. Drain olives. Slice mint and basil. Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Combine all in a bowl and toss with vinegar and oil mixture.

Order Up

Gone are the days when ordering a salad out meant you’d be served a handful of greens, tomatoes, a few croutons and some ranch. Here are just a few of our favorite restaurant salads:

Beet Salad
Voila!, Norfolk  

Roasted heirloom beets are the star of the show, enhanced by Granny Smith apples, candied walnuts, fresh greens and buttermilk dressing, garnished with Gorgonzola cheese and fresh dill.

Cavoletti di Bruxelles 
Lampo Neopolitan Pizzeria, Charlottesville

This is not just any pre-pizza salad. Chives, fennel and hazelnuts are tossed with a base of shaved Brussels sprouts, and the whole thing is topped off with a maple garum vinaigrette and pecorino cheese.

Herbed White Bean Salad
Firefly Fare, Roanoke

Where has this salad bean all our lives? It’s a burst of color with baby greens, seasoned white beans, tomato, cucumber, red onion and roasted red peppers, and we recommend dressing it with the basil vinaigrette.
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