I’ve been with our CSA for the past 4 years now, but this is the first year where I’ve felt that I’ve really got a handle on things. Previously, cucumbers would get mushy at the back of the crisper or a bunch of lettuce would start to melt into brown liquid when I wasn’t watching. But this year, I decided to get a grip on the weekly bounty that invaded my refrigerator.
So every Tuesday night from the end of June to the end of October, instead of wedging the produce into any available space in the fridge, I lay out the week’s contents onto my kitchen table and organize it. By organizing, all I mean is that I give it a good once over, just to visually take stock of what’s available. Then, I wash everything since it’s usually covered in dirt. I re-use those plastic produce bags from the market and sort things into bags before putting it into the crisper. Zucchini, summer squash, cucumber, broccoli, beets, turnips, carrots, onions, etc. all go into their own bag. Tomatoes go into a bowl for the counter and garlic gets popped into the cupboard.
Lettuce is the thing that really gets a good prep. I take all the lettuce, separate it into leaves and wash before giving it a quick dry in my salad spinner. My salad spinner is actually pretty invaluable tool because each week, I put the salad spinner, lettuce leaves inside, right into the fridge. Crisp, ready-to-eat salad whenever I want. It’s kinda awesome.
This year, it was extra important for me not to have my lettuce melt into a brown mess because not only do I receive a few heads a week with our CSA, but I started growing romaine lettuce right on our balcony. I was pretty successful too, until the harsh sun of summer made my container crop bolt. And bolting, from what this amateur gardener can figure out, isn’t a good thing as it turns lettuce bitter and inedible. If anyone wants to tell me how to prevent bolting from happening for next year, let me know.
So, I have the crisp salad tucked away in my fridge and a bag of the best tasting cucumbers ever, whatever will I do? Luckily, I had some feta and olives handy, along with a red pepper and celery from the local market, so that sealed the deal. Chives & oregano from my balcony garden? Hello! This is one tasty mediterranean salad. If you have sun-warmed tomatoes, throw some in because that would be a good thing too. I’m still a bit squeamish over raw tomatoes, but that’s my problem – don’t let it be yours! Go for it!
What I really like about this salad is that everything is nicely chopped – there are no gigantic bits of anything so every mouthful is amazingly flavourful.
For the vinaigrette, I used some good grassy olive oil and some dried herbs to punch up the flavour. Fresh lemon juice plus some good red wine vinegar adds the needed tartness and some local honey gets squeezed in for sweetness. It’s a great dressing for a fresh salad. Simple.
If you’d like to eat this salad for several days, make the salad and dress the vegetables, but leave out the lettuce. All the vegetables can stand a good marinating, but the lettuce is best served immediately. Just add the lettuce to the bottom of each bowl before serving and top with the rest of the salad.
1 red pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 large cucumber, diced
handful of chives, snipped
1 T fresh oregano, leaves torn & stems removed
romaine lettuce, torn
1 lemon, juiced
2 T red wine vinegar
4-6 T olive oil
1 t dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 – 1 t honey
1/2 t herbs de provence
1/2 t dried oregano
pinch of dried dill
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
1/3 c chopped kalamata olives (pits removed)
1/3 c crumbled feta
In a large bowl, combine all the vegetables & fresh herbs and toss lightly. In a small lidded jar, mix together the vinaigrette ingredients and give it all a good shake. Taste and adjust seasoning to your own preference. Pour dressing over top of vegetables and add in the olives and feta, giving everything a good toss. Serve immediately. Serves 4-6.