Hot weather calls for cool garden salads

Summer potato salad with yogurt. BY JACK CLEMONS
July 22, 2013

I’ve been invited by the Historic Lewes Farmers Market to present a cooking demo this Saturday. My biggest challenge is deciding what to cook. Since the weather has been so steamy, a hot dish wouldn’t work for the person at the stove (that would be me) or the audience sitting in the sun (that would be you). What about dishes that need only one cooked ingredient that is combined with raw or chilled ingredients? Of course - salads are the easy answer.

Since the market will be hosting the demo, it seems appropriate for me to source as many ingredients as possible from the vendors. Recipe focal points like fruits and vegetables and heat-hardy herbs are always available in abundant supply, so we can consider dishes like peach and tomato salad or fingerling potato salad. The next tier of ingredients (primarily dressings) might require some external sourcing, unless we reconsider the traditional ingredients.

Let’s begin with potato salad, typically made of sliced white potatoes swimming in mayonnaise. Instead of boring potatoes, we’ll select the tiniest, most colorful fingerlings we can find. Young enough to leave their tender skins intact and small enough to not require slicing into bite-size pieces. And, why not improvise: replace the Hellman’s or Miracle Whip with dollops of plain yogurt from the market.

The rest of the ingredients for the potato salad will include shallots or scallions (or both), chives and a splash of vinegar. When using raw shallots or green onion, soak them for a few minutes in the vinegar or dressing mixture to tame their sharp bite. To round out the dressing, I may bring some mustard or horseradish from my pantry; of course, salt and pepper are essential to brighten the flavor profile.

For the next dish we’ll create a combination of sweet and savory: perfectly ripe peaches tossed with sliced heirloom tomatoes and shallots. If you don’t have shallots, substitute green onion or red onion, all of which work equally well. Once again, the Balsamic vinegar and olive oil will come from the Clemons pantry, but we should be able to find fresh basil and a crumbly goat cheese at the market.

As an unusual alternative to this simple salad, we could treat the juicy peach and tomato mixture as a cold dressing for hot pasta. In this incarnation, the cheese will melt onto the strands of al dente pasta creating a creamy sauce. This is a dish you’ll find endlessly adaptable: for example, replace the peaches with roasted peppers and the goat cheese with mozzarella to create a different set of textures.

For those of you looking for a slightly heartier salad (and if you’re willing to crank up the heat), consider adding hot slices of sautéed sausage to a mixture of corn, zucchini, cherry tomatoes and cheddar cheese. The corn and zucchini can be steamed in the microwave or roasted on the grill, depending upon the flavor signature you prefer. Either way you choose to go, slice the kernels from the cob and toss everything together in a serving bowl with a simple splash of olive oil, vinegar and fresh oregano or basil.

If you have the chance to stop by the kitchen at the Historic Lewes Farmers Market around 10 on Saturday morning, you can sample one or two of these salads and become inspired to build a shopping list of your favorite ingredients.

Yogurt Potato Salad

2 lbs small fingerling potatoes
1 t salt
1 diced hard-boiled egg
2 minced shallots
2 sliced green onions
2 diced celery stalks
3 T rice wine vinegar
2 t Dijon mustard
1/2 t creamy horseradish (optional)
3/4 C plain yogurt
salt & pepper, to taste
snipped chives for garnish

Scrub the potatoes of any loose dirt and place in a saucepan with water to cover. Add salt and bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer and cook until barely tender. Drain in a colander until completely dry. While potatoes are cooking, combine remaining ingredients in a serving bowl, whisking thoroughly to combine. When potatoes are dry and slightly cooled, cut into half-inch-thick slices (if necessary) and gently stir into dressing. Refrigerate for at least one hour; adjust seasonings and garnish with snipped chives. Yield: 6 servings.

Peach & Tomato Salad

2 minced shallots
1 T Balsamic vinegar
1 lb ripe peaches
1 lb ripe tomatoes
1/4 C olive oil
1/4 lb goat cheese
salt & pepper, to taste
6 basil leaves

Combine the shallots and vinegar in a small bowl; set aside. Peel and pit the peaches; slice into one-inch chunks and place in a serving bowl. Cut the tomatoes into bite-size chunksand add to bowl with peaches. Add olive oil, shallots and Balsamic vinegar; toss to combine. Crumble goat cheese into the mixture and gently fold in with a spatula.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cut basil into a chiffonade and sprinkle over salad. Yield: 6 servings.

Sausage & Corn Salad

1 lb smoked sausage
3 ears of corn
1 zucchini
1 pt cherry tomatoes
6 oz grated cheddar cheese
3 T olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
salt & pepper, to taste
6 basil leaves

Cut the sausage into half-inch-thick slices. Cook until browned in a grill basket over medium high or in a nonstick skillet. Roast the corn on the grill until browned or steam in the microwave until tender, about 5 minutes.

Strip the kernels from the cobs; discard cobs and reserve kernels. Slice zucchini into spears lengthwise; roast on the grill until browned or steam in the microwave until tender, about 2 minutes. Cut spears crosswise into half-inch slices; set aside. Halve the cherry tomatoes; set aside. In a serving bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar and lemon juice. Add sausage, vegetables and cheese; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper; garnish with basil chiffonade. Yield: 6 servings.


There is no better way to have someone make contact with you than to omit an important bit of information they might need. Many thanks to all of you sharp-eyed readers who noticed the recent recipe for sour cream pound cake neglected to include an oven temperature.

It’s 325F, a slower-than-usual oven for cake because the batter is dense and needs to cook at least an hour. The lower temperature should prevent the top from getting too brown before the cake is cooked all the way through. Thank you again for your helpful feedback.