Summer’s the time for fresh, fruity, salads

Everybody rightly raves about the delicious garden vegetables produced by the Garden State’s soil. But the “garden” first offers us fruit, sweet, plump, plentiful and healthy fruit from trees, bushes, vines and cranberry bogs. We love the freshness and variety of our locally-grown fruits, yet we relegate them to secondary status as snack, dessert, afterthought and side dish.

But fruit can be the star of any meal when paired with a source of protein and a little imagination. Fruits offer carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and some protein as well as fiber and hydrating liquids. Use them liberally in fast and easy, no cooking needed, filling summer salads for lunch and dinner, and even breakfast.

The second salad recipe becomes a cereal salad with the omission of the cheese and the addition of a little more oatmeal and milk to fully moisten.

Give the fruits of summer their due and see what they can do for you.

Basic Green Fruit Salad

Anything with lettuce automatically becomes a green salad

1 head romaine or bib lettuce, torn or chopped

1 can (11 ounces) mandarin oranges, drained

1 cup seedless red grapes, halved

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

  For the dressing:

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Dash salt and pepper

In a large bowl, gently toss the lettuce with the fruit and almonds. Place the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Drizzle over salad and toss to coat. Will serve 10 people.

Note: There are many variations to explore using this salad as a sort of blueprint. For instance:

Fruit, Lettuce and Oatmeal Salad

Adding oatmeal flakes adds healthy fiber and keeps you full longer

Half a head of bibb or Boston lettuce

1/2 cup each fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries and strawberries

1/2 cup seedless red or black grapes

1/4 cup walnuts, glazed or plain

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon craisins, your choice of flavor

1/4 cup of your favorite cheese, cut to bite-sized cubes or chopped from slices

Handful or two of old-fashioned oatmeal flakes, or more if needed

Salad dressing (See first recipe)

Wash and shred the lettuce and place in a medium bowl. Cut the walnuts in half or thirds and add to the bowl along with the almonds. Wash and cut the strawberries into thirds or quarters, depending on size. Do the same for the grapes. Add both, plus the blueberries and the craisins to the bowl. Add the cheese.

Toss the ingredients in the bowl lightly to mix. Add a handful of oatmeal flakes and toss again. Add another handful if the oatmeal seems scarce. Toss one more time. Cover and set in refrigerator until ready to serve, but remove a half hour to warm in room temperature before bringing to the table. Warming enhances the flavors after refrigeration. Makes four to six servings. Serve with the salad dressing from the above recipe, or with your own choice of dressing. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Tip: To stretch the salad, also mix in one large or two small fresh apples, unpeeled, cut into bite size chunks.

And if you have grapes or strawberries you didn’t use in a salad, here’s a quick and welcome use for them on a hot summer afternoon.

Strawberry or Grape Cocktails, Anyone?

No alcohol, just refreshing fruit drinks

The idea is to pair fresh fruit, and almost any kind will do, with something bubbly and cold and tasty to revive you in the summer heat. Grab 3 or 4 large strawberries or large, sweet seedless grapes and cut the fruit into four pieces. You want fruit big enough to be quartered but small enough to fit several pieces into a cocktail or other glass.

Fill your glass just past the halfway mark with anything you enjoy that bubbles. It can be ginger ale, seltzer water (plain or flavored – experiment) or any not-too-sweet soda. Add an ice cube or two.

Add the cut-up fruit, one type for each glass so the flavor dominates. Save out a piece or two of the fruit to garnish the glass. If using seltzer water, add a teaspoon or less of sugar to enhance flavor.

Let sit about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice to swirl the fruit and distribute the flavor. Serve with a spoon for bringing out and savoring the fruit when the glass is empty of liquid.

You can use any high-flavored fruit for your cocktails. Try blackberries, cherries, pineapple chunks or orange sections, for example. Serve in a fancy glass and snap! You’re partying.  

By Jean Redstone

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