THAI-INSPIRED CANTALOUPE CHORIZO SUPPER SALAD
Salad serves 4 to 6; dressing makes 1-1/2 cups and keeps 4 weeks in refrigerator
1 clove garlic, minced very fine
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or chile paste (adjust to your taste)
4 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup rice or cider vinegar
3 to 5 tablespoons sugar
3 large handfuls tart greens (not all arugula), washed and thoroughly dried
1/3 tight-packed cup fresh Thai or regular basil leaves, torn
10 ounces chorizo, or other spicy ready-to-eat sausage, thin sliced on the diagonal
1 small to medium ripe cantaloupe, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 medium sweet onion, sliced very thin
2/3 cup salted peanuts (almonds can be substituted)
1/2 tight-packed cup fresh spearmint leaves.
2 limes, quartered
1. Blend dressing ingredients and taste for sweet-tart, hot balance. Adjust seasonings to taste.
2. In a big salad bowl, toss together the greens, basil, sausage, cantaloupe, and onion. Drizzle in dressing to taste. You could spread the salad on a platter or pile on individual dinner plates. Then scatter with nuts and mint. Serve salad immediately, passing lime wedges to squeeze over each portion.
Tart greens include curly endive, frisée, Belgian endive, dandelion greens, escarole, arugula, young mizuna, baby mustard leaves, chicory, and radicchio. Go for balance by mixing several varieties. Make sure you get spearmint leaves, not peppermint. They aren't interchangeable. Spearming leaves taste minty and sweet, peppermint tastes minty and medicinal and aggressive.
Thai basil is more assertive than the sweet basils, like Genovese or Globe, commonly used in Mediterranean cuisines. Its leaves are smaller, slender, and more pointed, and Thai basil's stems have a purplish hue. For this recipe you want mild sweet onions such as Vidalia, Walla Walla, and Texas 1015 that are in markets now. Pick them up on sale and keep them handy for instant salads since you don't have to tame the usual sharp onion character with soaking. Just don't use sweet onions in cooking as their character turns dull and lifeless.
Make a double batch of the dressing. It keeps several weeks in the refrigerator and makes a fine marinade or dipping sauce.
THOUGHTS FROM LYNNE
From now until fall arrives with cooler temperatures and lower humidity, you'll find on our supper table mostly "assembled" dishes, like the one above. While I'd hate to live without my hulking commercial style range (known to the family as "Babe"), I can do without those high-powered BTU's blasting heat into my kitchen when it's 98 degrees outside and the humidity is up there as well.
No-cook suppers start at the farmers' market or wherever the produce and prices are great. Put nothing in your cart needing cooking. So much great stuff is coming in right now – local tomatoes, peppers, sweet onions and scallions, greens, avocados, herbs, cucumbers, melons, soft fruits and berries. Couscous and rice noodles need only soaking in hot water, so keep them in mind.
For proteins, think cheeses, yogurt, dry-cured and already cooked meats, tofu, seitan, canned tuna, and the occasional take-out chicken.
With this cast and a clutch of different dressings, you can pull together supper salads and no-cook, cold soups. Don't forget sandwiches, wraps and spring rolls made with soaked rice paper discs maybe stuffed with a salad. Our recipe's dressing is the ideal dipping sauce for spring rolls.
Try rustic whole grain bread slathered with mustard, spicy chutney, hard salami, shaved sweet onion and tart greens (when bread goes stale, do bread salad with tomatoes, cukes and sweet onion). Think pocket bread stuffed with tarragon and almond spiked cheese or chicken salad. A side of sliced tomatoes works with either one.
In short, cash in on now; it's the most glorious time of year for us food lovers.