A Fresh Market Salad for Hot Summer Days

Summer Market Salad 1 1824x1368 1824x1368 1824x1368 In Brittany a few weeks ago, my husband and I had just finished gazing at a sweeping view of the Atlantic Ocean from Cap Fréhel (one of the most visited and certainly one of the most gorgeous sites in that region of France) and wanted to have lunch. If we had blinked our eyes as we drove down a narrow country road, we would have missed La Ribote, a small (think 25 seats) restaurant. The menu announced that the cuisine was prepared with local ingredients, and even listed the names of their suppliers, including fisheries and farms. The single waitress waltzed through the room carrying platters of mussels and oysters, but it was the large bowls mounded high with an incredible salad that caught my eye.
La Ribote in Brittany near Cap Frehel 1 1824x1368

The Day's Specials!

The Day’s Specials!

The chef had placed a mound of greens in the center of a bowl, then scattered uncooked peas, paper-thin slices of radishes, and other vegetables over the top. Artfully arranged around the border were slim melon wedges and crisp endive leaves. This mélange was dressed in a lemon vinaigrette and topped with shaved cheese. It was the unusual mix of ingredients (fruits paired with vegetables) and the freshness of the products that made this salad so special. That, and a distant glimpse of the ocean from the small dining room!

At home, I prepared a close facsimile. My local groceries had bins of peas in their pods and plenty of ripe cantaloupes. At our farmers’ market, I picked up a package of just picked baby romaine, and from the cheese counter at Whole Foods, I chose a firm chèvre (from Cypress Grove). The colorful, crisp, refreshing salad made a perfect main course on a hot summer day on this side of the Atlantic.

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Market Salad with Fresh Peas, Radishes, and Melon

Lemon dressing
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

2 heads Belgian endive
1 small ripe cantaloupe (see note)
6 radishes, trimmed and sliced very thinly
1 cup fresh shelled green peas (about 1 lb. in the pods-see note)
7 to 8 cups loosely packed greens such as baby romaine or a mixture like mesclun
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 6-oz wedge firm chèvre (Gouda, sharp white cheddar, Parmesan would also work.)

1. For the dressing place lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to combine, and then whisk in the olive oil. (Dressing can be prepared 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature and whisk well before using.)

2. Pull 12 leaves from the Belgian endives (save extra for another use). Halve the cantaloupe and scoop out the seeds. Cut twelve 1/2 to 3/4 inch-thick wedges from the two halves. (Save extra for another use.) You can leave the skin on the melon or cut it off.

3. Place the endive leaves, melon wedges, peas, and radishes in a large bowl and toss gently with half of the dressing. Marinate 3 to 4 minutes. In another bowl toss the lettuce greens in just enough of the remaining dressing to coat lightly, and season with salt and pepper. (You might have some dressing left over; save for another use.) Mound the greens among 4 shallow soup or pasta bowls. Stand 3 melon wedges and 3 endives leaves around the greens in each bowl. Scatter peas and radishes over the greens, and season the mixture with salt and pepper. Garnish each salad generously with shaved cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Note: When buying peas in the their shells, buy the freshest available for the best, sweetest taste. When buying a cantaloupe, push in on the stem end; when ripe it should give to the touch, and there should be a sweet smell as well.

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2014

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