The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Family

May 31, 2014

COOKING WITH SIMON: Green with envy over homegrown lettuce

PALESTINE — Looks like summer is almost here and fortunately, the temperatures have been mild and we’ve been getting a good amount of rain. And with that rain comes lots of growth in the vegetable garden.

I planted several types of vegetables, but so far I have only been harvesting some great mixed lettuce, which makes for a wonderful salad, but alas no tomatoes yet. They will be here soon as the plants are growing tall and blooming.

With five varieties of tomatoes and flowers beginning to set, it won’t be long until tomatoes can be added to that salad bowl.

One of the plants I am growing is a New Zealand apple cucumber. It looks like a Granny Smith apple, but a cucumber on the inside. After picking, I like to chill the cucumber, thinly slice and lay on a plate. A simple mixture of malt vinegar, fresh ground black pepper and kosher salt with a spoonful or two of avocado oil gives a light and flavorful dressing. We ate this most days in the summer, but the dressing can make or break the dish.

So what makes a good dressing? There seems to be a lot out there but simple is best so the flavor of the salad come first.

Homemade dressing is easier than most people expect it to be. And you can change up the flavor profile with different types of oils and vinegars.

From olive oil to nut oils – walnut, peanut or sesame – just look through the seasoning aisle at the grocery store. There are so many oils to choose. And then there’s the vinegar – malt, red or white wine, champagne, balsamic. Try tasting a few and see what you like. They are all different. Even apple cider vinegar gives you a hint of apple cider flavor.

When seasoning your dressing, salt and pepper are crucial, but adding some dried or chopped fresh herbs and minced garlic or shallots can round out the dressing.

I can’t wait for the first big, juicy tomato from the garden with my dressing drizzled over it. If, after all this, you still don’t want to make dressing, but are tired of grocery store versions, I have begun bottling the dressing I use here at the restaurant so it’s always available for anyone to have at home. Call me if you would like to try it.

I’m always here for questions. And I hope you enjoy all of the season’s fresh flavors. Enjoy all of it and most of all enjoy it in a new light.

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Simon Webster is the Executive Chef of Sabor a Pasion Country House & Bistro a multi-faceted dining destination just outside Palestine. For more information go to www.saborapasion.com

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