It’s Monday morning and the polite chit-chat about what everyone did over the weekend begins. I had just finished telling a co-worker of my weekend highlights to which he responded “how domestic.” Hmm, I’ve never gotten that response before and I wasn’t sure if it was meant as a compliment. I decided that it would be best to take it as such. I had told my co-worker that on this last Sunday I had played a little tennis in the morning, gone to the farmers market in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day cooking and making meals for the week. So yes, I was being quite domestic, especially for a twenty-something single lady.
It is true, I get as much enjoyment shopping for food in a local market as I do shopping for clothes. I bought so many vibrant vegetables and fruit at the market, eek, so excited!! I decided to make a lovely summer salad, really showcasing the flavors of all the veggies, very little fuss, I didn’t want to mask the natural flavors of the vegetables. This salad is super easy and absolutely beautiful; it is so effortless to create colorful and fresh summer dishes with fresh ingredients. All you’ve got do is chop up some veggies. I used bell pepper (either red or yellow), cucumber, red onion, any fresh tomatoes (I used orange tomatoes that were at the market). Sprinkle all the chopped veggies with a little salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh lemon juice. To finish it all off, toss in some fresh crumbled feta cheese and drizzle with a balsamic reduction.
The combination of colors is truly irresistible. Also, here’s a big trick if you are not a big red onion person. You and I both know that red onion can have quite a strong bite when it is fresh. If you first marinate the chopped onion in balsamic, cider or red wine vinegar for 10-15 minutes before incorporating it into the salad, it will cut the bite down a lot. I do this for sandwiches a lot. Just drain the onions after allowing them to sit in the vinegar and add them to whichever dish you are making.
Now the balsamic reduction is really easy. You can either pick some up from the cheese and olive or specialty products section of the grocery store. I found a balsamic reduction in the Safeway by me so you will definitely find it at a Whole Foods or even a Harris Teeter. If you want to be like me and make it yourself, you will be very happy you did. It only takes 2 sometimes three ingredients if you want to be fancy to make it. There is no prep time, just throw some balsamic vinegar and sugar in a sauce pan, babysit the liquid until it reduces to half the original liquid–boom! super impressive yet simple accompaniment to a festive summer salad. Below is the recipe for the salad and balsamic reduction. Just look at that luscious caramel color. I didn’t even reduce the sauce quite as much as I needed to but it still came out so yummy.
I guess it would have been more in character for someone my age to have been plopped on the couch watching movies and ordering in pizza on a Sunday evening. Oh well, maybe next weekend…
Summer Veggie Salad
1/2 red bell pepper chopped
1/2 cucumber chopped
1/4 – 1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 tomato chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Combine all ingredients and toss together except for the feta cheese and balsamic reduction. Chill for as little time as 30 minutes or as long as a day. Sprinkle feta and drizzle balsamic reduction just before serving. Enjoy.
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar
place vinegar and sugar in a heavy bottomed pot. Let the liquid come to a boil then take the heat down to a simmer. Babysit the liquid, making sure it doesn’t burn. Keep the liquid on the burner until it has reduced by half or is thick or syrupy enough for your liking. Caution: do not for any reason stick your head over the pot, it will be very acidic and go right up your nose. Trust me, I had the unfortunate chance of experiencing that one first hand.