Heat waves on the weekend always push me to hunker down in the house with the air conditioning cranked up (or is that down? ) to 73 chilly degrees. Pure bliss! But hiding out from the heat has its potential drawbacks too. For instance, Sunday evening rolled around and I started thinking about what to make for dinner. Poking my nose into the fridge, I saw that I had a lot of stuff, but nothing in large quantities, save for a bag of lemon cucumbers picked out of the garden on Friday.
As much as I love cucumbers, they’re not really a meal. I started piling the mishmash of produce on the counter in an attempt to figure out a plan of action, one that would avoid stepping out the front door to go to the store. When you sweat on the way down the deck stairs to get into the car, you know it’s too hot for a grocery run.
I pulled out a couple of plums left from a trip to Headhouse two weeks ago. Next to them, I put down an onion that I literally picked up (off the ground) from a farm I visited in New Jersey last week. Then came the bag of nasturtiums, starting to wilt just a bit. The cucumbers, well, I’ve mentioned those already. I rediscovered a little ziplock of grape tomatoes our neighbor so generously bestowed – so sweet and juicy. And finally, there were a few leaves of Swiss chard I’d brought in from the container on the deck.
Moving over to the pantry, I rummaged around and found a bag of mixed grains and decided that tossing everything together in a chilled salad would surely satisfy the “dinner” criteria. Whew – saved once more from having to open the door to go out. But wait! What about a dressing? All I had on hand was some strawberry (good stuff, but didn’t seem to fit this salad) and half a bottle of French, which I don’t like.
Sweet salvation, there was a huge bag of fresh basil I’d forgotten in the crisper drawer! I’d been wanting to make basil oil for awhile. A dressing using basil oil was just what I needed to change desire into reality. A little honey, some orange champagne vinegar and a bit of seasoning were all it took to finish off this super simple and fast dish. Of course, if you find yourself faced with a similar situation, you could throw in any combination of produce odds and ends you might have on hand.
Problem solved. Crisis averted. Dinner served!
Mid-Summer Salad with Basil Dressing
A Straight from the Farm original
1 C. cooked grains (couscous, quinoa, orzo, or a combination)
1 C. cooked lentils
Salt & Pepper
¼ C. orange champagne vinegar
1 T. honey
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
½ C. basil oil*
To make the salad, chop up all vegetables and the plums into small pieces. Blanch the Swiss chard for one minute in boiling water and then dunk is ice water. Squeeze out the water. Combine all salad ingredients in a large dish and toss. Season with salt and pepper.
To make the dressing, combine vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a jar. Shake to combine. Add the oil and shake again until emulsified.
Drizzle 3-4 tablespoons of dressing over the salad. Toss and taste. Add more dressing, salt and pepper if desired.
*To make basil dressing, combine 4 cups of packed fresh basil leaves with 2 cups extra virgin olive in the blender. Process until relatively smooth. Microwave on high for one minute. Pour through a fine mesh strainer, using a spoon to push more oil through. Makes quite a bit so store the leftovers in a sealed bottle in the fridge and use on pasta dishes and more dressings.