I have always been fairly lame when it comes to being a warm weather cook. When our side of the planet tilts away from the sun, I am at my best. Stews, soups, casseroles – if it sticks to your ribs, I can cook it! Summertime - I tend to stick to certain dishes – mostly grilled meats and corn on the cob. While I could eat corn on the cob every night of the week, the repetition gets boring for the rest of the family.
So in an effort to eat more veggies (i.e. use up the produce from the garden and the farmers' market before it goes bad), I decided to make a tuna salad. Not the mayo based, pickle relish containing, white bread filling of our child hood, but a composed salad, something fresh with a vinaigrette. I would say it was kind of like a salad nicoise but without potatoes and hard boiled eggs. Boiling potatoes and eggs would have meant turning on the stove in an already sweltering kitchen. This girl was just not into that!!
Twenty minutes of sweating and chopping later, voila! Rosie’s Salade Composée. I served this with bread and lemonade. After a few bites, I was a cool and composed as my salad. Sweet! Another summer triumph!
Rosie’s Salade Composée
6 cups of washed mixed greens (I used romaine and some spicy greens)
3 cucumbers, peeled, large dice
12 green onions, chopped
4 baby zucchini, sliced
1 banana pepper, cleaned and slivered
8-10 oil cured black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 medium tomatoes, large dice
1 large can of good quality tuna, drained
salt and pepper to taste
1 t Dijon mustard
3 T white wine vinegar (you can use tarragon infused vinegar if you like.)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove of garlic, finely minced or squished through a press
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash, clean and chop according to your preferences. Arrange the ingredients on chilled plates, lettuce first, then however strikes your fancy with the tuna on top.
To make the dressing: Squish garlic into a bowl, add the vinegar and mustard to the garlic. Whisk in oil slowly until emulsified. Drizzle over salad. You could top with some fresh chopped herbs if you like – tarragon and parsley are nice.
A side note: God as my witness, once we buy our own place, I am going to set up an outdoor kitchen where I can cook and not heat up the entire house. We have no AC in this apartment, so it kills us to do any advanced cooking indoors. Summer kitchens go back a long way, but when we invented AC, people didn’t need to worry about the heat generated, so we no longer saw any need for having a separate kitchen to do our cooking during the summer. Plus, the amount of food processing the average household does has been reduced to a minimum. I mean, how many people actually can 50+ quarts of tomatoes every summer?
I started thinking about an outdoor kitchen when my brother looked into buying a house built in 1865. It still had the original outbuilding that was used as the summer kitchen. So not only are we getting back in touch with an ancient tradition, we would be conserving energy at the same time. Maybe summer kitchens are an idea that deserves to be resurrected?