Every spring when the first warm, sunny days of June roll around, I trick myself into thinking that summer will last forever. The sweet Southern Vermont summer is unlike any other I’ve known. My New England wintertime fierceness melts away with each dip in the river, each juicy strawberry I pick and eat, with each chocolate soft serve cone from Dari Joy, and each lazy afternoon spent lounging in the sun. Gosh, I think to myself, how lovely it is that I get to leave behind my icy, muddy, sweaters-indoors-with-extra-socks life behind for this one!
But then, in the blink of an eye, I find myself here. September. The days are still warm and the nights a bit cooler. I start to panic that the end is nigh. But then I settle in. Sweaters in the evening aren’t so bad! As fall moves in steadily, I find myself grasping at every opportunity to enjoy the abundance of local produce available at our local farm stands and growing all around us.
This salad is my ode to Southern Vermont and to our local farmers. My love letter to vegetables!
Salad Viridis Montis is my riff on a classic Salad Niçoise, a traditional summer salad that originated in Nice, France. Dare we take a French classic and turn it upside down to embrace our local produce? Why yes, yes we do.
The beauty of Salad Niçoise is that it showcases fresh, bright produce in the simplest way possible. It’s served cold or at room-temperature and is not loaded with heavy dressings or flavors. The vegetables work together, along with some salt and acid, to create a beautiful flavor that tastes just summery as it should, with enough hearty ingredients to fill us up for chilly Autumn-like days.
I kept some of my ingredients raw (cucumbers, cherry tomato, peppers, etc.) and cooked others (boiled my fingerling potatoes and blanched my string beans). I made sure to cool down my cooked ingredients before tossing them with the others so as not to cause wilting.
The ingredients in this recipe are flexible. I did most of my shopping at Walker Farm in Dummerston, but please feel free to use what you have in your garden or on hand. If you have so much zucchini you can’t see straight, cut it up and roast it with olive oil, salt & pepper and allow it to cool fully before tossing it into the mix. If you’re a corn-lover, cut it off the cob and toss those kernels in! If you hate alliums, leave them out altogether. You do you. My only requirement is that you allow the produce to shine. If you’re cooking an ingredient, don’t overcook it and please make sure all it has cooled completely before you get it involved with raw ingredients.
This recipe is, in my mind, a salad for two. That being said, you know your audience better than I ever will — feel free to scale up or down on certain things based on your circumstance and preferences.
Is this going to be a side dish or a main course? If you’re serving it along with other dishes, this supposed salad for two might end up feeding four!
Are you going to add a protein like fish, boiled eggs, or chicken? If so, maybe scale back ingredients in other areas.
And now, without further ado, I would like to introduce you to Salad Viridis Montis, my Green Mountain riff on the classic French Salad Nicoise.
IngredientsFor the salad:½ lb. baby potatoes, halved. I got mine from Walker Farm in Dummerston and would highly recommend these.
½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
½ cucumber peeled (or not) and sliced
¼ lb. green beans, ends trimmed
¼ of a red onion, sliced very thin
1 head of leafy green lettuce of your choice, washed and chopped
Optional: hard boiled egg, grated hard cheese (I like the Grana Padano from the Brattleboro Food Co-op for this!)
For the dressing:Combine the following ingredients in a canning jar with a lid and shake well to combine.
4 tbl. olive oil
1 tbl. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. Vermont maple syrup
Instructions1: Make the dressingCombine all dressing ingredients in a Mason jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake well to combine. Alternative: combine ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine (shaking is more fun).
2: Cook the potatoesSlice ½ lb. potatoes in half, lengthwise.
Place potatoes and 2 tbsp salt in a pot and cover with 1.5 quarts water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium to maintain simmer. Cook until you can easily pierce potatoes with a fork. Timing will vary based on size of potato. Remove from heat and drain.
While the potatoes are warm, toss them with your thinly sliced red onion and some of your dressing. The heat wilts the onion a bit to make the spicy flavor more subtle. This will also give the potatoes a chance to absorb some of the flavors of your delicious dressing!
Let the potatoes cool.
3: Blanch the green beans:Bring 1 quart of water and 1 tbsp salt to a boil. Trim the ends of the green beans. Once the water boils, add the green beans and cook until they are bright green and just tender. Drain and add to ice water bath to stop cooking. Once they are cool, drain and pat dry. Drizzle with olive oil and a crack of black pepper.
4: Assemble!Take half of your dressing and toss it with your lettuce, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes. Place this in the center of your plate. Arrange your potato/onion mixture and green beans around the edges of the plate. Drizzle potatoes and green beans with additional dressing. Grate some of your grana Padano over the top (optional) and feel free to add additional optional ingredients that suit your fancy (as long as they are not hot!) such as hard-boiled eggs, grilled chicken breast, or a can of your favorite tinned tuna fish (drained).