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Hot Days Call for Cold Salads

A few ideas

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A Nantucket Blue Salad

A Nantucket Blue Salad (Photo: Andria Frankfort Dilling)

Summer is salad season. Put another way, it’s the time of year we want to forget about our ovens. 

While shaking up the salad scene can be a challenge for some of us, a few Buzz neighbors have this thing figured out. Here are some of their top cold salads for hot days.

“My favorite salads are from the produce Haran grows in the backyard garden,” says Cheryl Levy, a volunteer, of her husband, a forensic CPA. “There’s nothing like very local farm to table!

“When it’s really hot outside I always like a cold fruit salad, like watermelon and feta. Remember the Redwood Grill [on Montrose], that later became Mockingbird? They had a Nantucket Blue salad with blueberries and blue cheese. Nothing fancy. We make it with whatever greens I harvest from the backyard, and I often add nuts to it, toasted or sugared, whatever is in the pantry. The original Nantucket Blue was with spinach. Many summers Haran will grow spinach, but it gets a little out of control, like his okra does. One summer it grew and grew and grew, and we harvested it all, like half a trash bag. Then we cooked it, and it cooked down to two servings. The entire summer! It was not worth all of that for two servings. So the years he grows spinach, I do use it, but otherwise we’ll use whatever lettuces are growing. Once it gets really hot the lettuce is over, and we’ll have to go to the grocery store and buy it.”

The Levys’ 12-year-old Maltipoo, Bailey (2012 Buzz Pet of the Year) enjoys the okra as much as his parents. “He walks around with it in his mouth like it is his cigar,” Cheryl says. 

“We’ll also just have cucumbers and tomatoes from the backyard, the less said the better. Just a little bit of sea salt. Or a caprese with the tomatoes and mozzarella and basil. These are two-minute recipes. Anyway, it’s too hot to turn on the oven. Last year our house was hit by lightning, and there were supply chain problems so we didn’t have an oven for two months. I was thinking Maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing.

Nantucket Blue Salad from the Redwood Grill

Cheryl likes to use the miso dressing from Samurai Japanese Steak and Sushi in place of the Blueberry Vinaigrette.

5 ounces fresh baby spinach
1 pint blueberries
2/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
½ cup chopped, toasted pecans
Blueberry Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Place the spinach, blueberries, blue cheese, and pecans in a large bowl. Toss with the Blueberry Vinaigrette.

Blueberry Vinaigrette:

1 shallot, minced
½ pint blueberries
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup raspberry vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until the dressing is smooth. 

Summer Peach Caprese Salad

Summer Peach Caprese Salad (Photo: Andria Frankfort Dilling)

Debbie Greenberg, who, as a recent empty-nester, splits time between Houston and Newport Beach, Calif., makes a caprese salad that substitutes peaches for the traditional tomatoes. “We love having fresh salads for dinner,” she says. “They’re light and filling. And the farmer’s market here is amazing.”

Summer Peach Caprese Salad

4 medium peaches, sliced thin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 ounces mixed greens
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
4 ounces prosciutto, torn into bite-sized pieces
8 basil leaves, sliced thin
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze*

Place the peaches in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

On a large platter, layer the mixed greens, mozzarella, peaches, prosciutto, and basil. Drizzle with the balsamic glaze.

*Editor’s Note: You can buy balsamic glaze bottled, or make your own by reducing 1 cup balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring, for 8 to 10 minutes. You will have more than 2 tablespoons and can store the remaining glaze in the refrigerator and use it another time.

A Simple Green Salad with Dill and Feta (top) is deceptively delicious

A Simple Green Salad with Dill and Feta (top) is deceptively delicious. (Photo: Andria Frankfort Dilling)

Then there’s a classic Greek salad found on Instagram that Mary Clark Granberry is loving. “Barbara Catechis and I were talking about it on a walk, and she said she also makes it,” Mary Clark says. “I’ve been making it on repeat. It’s simple and light, and delish. Friends kept requesting the recipe. Barbara and I think fresh dill is the key ingredient.”

Simple Green Salad with Dill and Feta

Mary Clark says, “You can add a protein if you want to make it a meal. Chicken, shrimp, salmon, or chickpeas would be yummy!”

2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped
4 or 5 thinly sliced green onions
Fresh chopped dill to taste (3 or 4 sprigs)
Block of feta cheese
Optional: 3 or 4 mini cucumbers, diced, or ½ English cucumber, diced

Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Place the lettuce in a large bowl. Layer the green onions and dill on top. Crumble the feta over, then the cucumbers, if using, and toss with the Lemon Vinaigrette.

Lemon Vinaigrette:

Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, or add the ingredients to a jar with a tight lid and shake. 

Samin Nosrat's Tomato, Basil, and Cucumber Panzanella with Grated Tomato Balsamic Vinaigrette

Samin Nosrat's Tomato, Basil, and Cucumber Panzanella with Grated Tomato Balsamic Vinaigrette takes a bit of time but produces a stand-out salad. (Photo: Andria Frankfort Dilling)

Pediatrician Lindy McGee says the “best summer salad” is Samin Nosrat’s panzanella from her award-winning book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

“I read that cookbook cover to cover when it came out in 2018,” Lindy says. “It’s the only cookbook I have ever done that for, and it has made me a much better cook. We make this salad several times every summer, when there is an abundance of fresh tomatoes. It is perfect for company, and you can vary the ingredients by what looks good at the store – but always stick with the tomato vinaigrette and the homemade croutons. This weekend we had it with grilled copper river salmon – summer in a meal!” 

Samin Nosrat’s Tomato, Basil, and Cucumber Panzanella with Grated Tomato Balsamic Vinaigrette


1 (1-pound) loaf of day-old rustic or sourdough bread
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Tomato Vinaigrette:
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
4 very ripe small tomatoes (about 1 pound)
8 fresh basil leaves, torn into large pieces
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed
½ teaspoon plus a pinch of kosher salt


¾ cup thinly sliced red onion
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 ½ pounds Early Girl or other flavorful ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into bite-sized pieces (about 3 ½ cups)
1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste, divided
4 Persian cucumbers, peeled and cut into ½-inch thick slices (about 2 ¼ cups)
16 fresh basil leaves, torn into large pieces
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

For the croutons:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the crust from the bread, and discard or reserve it for another use. Cut the loaf into 1-inch-thick slices; cut the slices into 1-inch-wide strips. Tear the strips into 1-inch pieces, and toss with the olive oil until evenly coated. Spread in an even layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until the croutons are golden brown and crisp, about 18 to 22 minutes, flipping the croutons and rotating the pans. Sprinkle with kosher salt and let them cool in a single layer.

For the tomato vinaigrette:

Stir together the shallots, red wine vinegar, and balsamic vinegar in a medium bowl; let that stand for 15 minutes. Cut the tomatoes in half, and grate the cut sides on large holes of a box grater until only the skin remains. Discard the skins. Set aside 1 cup of tomato pulp. (Reserve the remaining tomato pulp for another use.) Stir the tomato pulp, oil, basil leaves, garlic, and kosher salt into the vinegar mixture; let that stand at least 10 minutes or up to 30 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic. (Taste the vinaigrette with a crouton or tomato slice, and adjust salt and acid as needed.) Set aside 1 ¼ cups of the vinaigrette; reserve remaining vinaigrette for another use.

For the salad:

Toss together the onion and vinegar in a small bowl; let stand 20 minutes. Set aside. Place half of the croutons in a large salad bowl, and toss with ½ cup of the reserved vinaigrette. Place the tomatoes on top of the croutons, and season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt (to encourage them to release some of their juices); let stand 10 minutes.

Remove the onions from the vinegar, reserving the vinegar. Add the onions, cucumbers, basil, and remaining croutons to the bowl with the tomatoes. Toss with the reserved onion vinegar, remaining ¾ cup reserved vinaigrette, and remaining ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, adjusting the amounts as desired. Divide the salad evenly among 4 to 6 plates. Sprinkle with sea salt.

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