The summer holidays may now be over for some of us, but hot weather sure isn’t. In fact, there’s much more hunger-suppressing heat in store as we pull into the thick of high summer.
After a morning swim and dip at the beach, a fresh summer salad might be all you need to feel replete. So what makes the perfect summer salad? Is it the cool, crisp cucumber, ripe tomato or fresh butter lettuce? Or is it an emphasis on local, seasonal fruit and veg?
According to Janine Keeffe, head of grocers Thomas Dux, the secret to any fresh salad is simple – use only the freshest, premium seasonal produce. At this time of year, that means ingredients like asparagus, cucumber, lettuce, capsicum, tomatoes and beetroot. Throwing in some fruit also makes for some interesting combinations, so try a grapefruit or pear to add a bit of freshness to the dish.
Robert Marchetti, owner of North Bondi Italian Food, uses simple ingredients too and is a bit of a traditionalist. “I might sound clichéd, but fresh, crisp, simple is what speaks of summer to me,” he says. “It’s a time where we are all squeezing into our bikinis, bathers or mankinis, so we want to eat well.”
North Bondi Italian Food’s classic summer salad, according to Marchetti, is air freighted fresh Buffalo Mozzarella from Campania, Italy with grape tomatoes (the little whole ones so they pop in your mouth), spearmint for coolness, butter lettuce (crisp and cold), good extra virgin olive oil, a fresh squeeze of lemon, sea salt and lots of pepper. Serve with a mandarin spritzer for the perfect beachside combination.
Moving inland to Surry Hills, pizzeria Vacanza, which is aptly named after the Italian word for vacation, offers a small but perfectly formed selection of salads, including the classic Insalata Caprese. Owner Nick Gilbert says the Caprese salad “oozes Italian summer”. “Named after the beautiful island of Capri, this salad is made with buffalo mozzarella from the Campania region, sliced roma tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and extra virgin olive oil.” Jonathan Alston, group head chef at Jones the Grocer, shares his favourite summer salad recipe below, which includes an Italian blue vein cow’s milk cheese for indulgent creaminess and Italian balsamic vinegar for tang. Buon appetito!
Gorganzola, fresh pear, witlof & rocket salad with caramelised walnuts
• 50g gorgonzola dolce latte
• 1/3 fresh pear (must be ripe)
• 80g washed rocket leaves
• witlof salad leaves
• 20g walnuts
• 5g sugar
• 50ml olive oil
• 10ml balsamic vinegar
• salt and pepper
In a mixing bowl, whisk olive oil and balsamic with a pinch of salt and two turns of fresh black pepper. Set aside. In a non-stick pan, add sugar and walnuts, lightly caramelise on low heat. Allow to cool. Slice the fresh ripe pear and combine in a mixing bowl with the rocket leaves, witlof, walnuts and lightly dress with balsamic dressing. Garnish with the gorgonzola cut in to five pieces.