I get giddy with the bounty of fresh produce that early summer brings to food markets. Everything seems crisper, brighter, more flavorful, and our daily dining becomes more focused on fruits and vegetables.
One of my favorite ways to highlight the colors of summer is to create a layered salad in a clear glass bowl or a glass oblong baking dish. It’s a pretty presentation for guests and a great way to assemble salads in advance (this is a traditional potluck offering!) Toss all ingredients together just before serving.
Another easy favorite is a tray of roasted or grilled vegetables. I sometimes prepare it the day before, arrange it on a platter, cover and refrigerate. Before serving, let the dish come to room temperature, then drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Layered Salad (serves 2 to 3 as a meal, 4 to 6 as a side)
1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
3 hard-boiled eggs, cut in half
1 container grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 pound cooked, peeled shrimp
1 box frozen peas, thawed under warm water
1 cup salad dressing (I used Thousand Island)
5 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1. Layer ingredients in order listed above, starting with lettuce. Place eggs against glass to show yolks. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
2. Use this recipe as a starting point. Although tradition calls for seven layers, you can add other favorites such as onions sliced into rings, shredded cheese, diced peppers, corn kernels, cucumber, sliced celery, rinsed canned beans and more. You can also substitute cubed cooked chicken or ham for the shrimp.
Roasted or Grilled Vegetables
Ingredients (choose your favorite vegetables)
Red or yellow peppers, sliced in half, seeds removed
Asparagus, tough ends removed, soaked briefly in water
Eggplant, sliced ¼ to ½ inch thick
Zucchini, halved or sliced lengthwise
Mushrooms (marinate ahead in Italian dressing if desired)
Carrots (peel only if skins are thick)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
1. Wash and prepare vegetables as directed above. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet and drizzle very lightly with olive oil, turning to coat all sides.
2. If roasting, preheat oven to 400°F. Bake until tender and lightly charred, if desired. Grape tomatoes should be baked separately because they cook quickly (about 3 to 5 minutes) and will burst if overcooked.
3. If grilling outside, most vegetables can be placed directly on grill racks. Cooking times vary; remove from grill when tender and slightly charred. Grape tomatoes and mushrooms should be placed in a nonstick grill skillet so they don’t fall into the flames.
4. Before serving, drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and pepper to taste.