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Mediterranean Fresh: Bowls Full of Goodness

Greek country salad, peach and tomato salad, oregano garlic vinaigrette, citrus and black pepper dressing

Mediterranean Fresh is a collection of one-plate salad meals, plus a variety of dressings. The book is full of lovely, fresh offerings: green salads with sauteed mushrooms or poached eggs, parsley salad with tahini, roasted red pepper salads, figs with almonds and greens, you name it. Chef and author Joyce Goldstein draws on the flavors of southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, and the results are gorgeous.

This book seemed like an excellent choice for August. Not only is salad a great choice for a warm night (well, today was a bit cooler than we’ve been, but still warm), but the Greenmarket is teeming with choices. I settled on two salads to try — Greek country salad and peach and tomato salad — and hit the Wednesday market near work during my lunch break to find tomatoes, green peppers, peaches, red onions, lettuce and cucumber.

You may recall that I made a tossed salad the other week. I do not usually toss salads together, because I hate it when the cucumbers go bad and spoil the rest of the bowl. That’s exactly what happened to the Supper Salad Bowl, so I determined not to let it happen again, and kept the ingredients separate to combine only at the plate level. I’m not sure I had to worry as much this time, though; we’re going to want to polish off the Greek country salad a lot faster.

The Greek country salad is fairly simple: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, red onion, kalamata olives, and feta. The oregano garlic vinaigrette is pretty easy as well: olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. The recipe recommends that if you have time you should warm the dressing slighly to intensify the flavors; this would probably make them very intense indeed, as the dressing at room temperature is really flavorful and a good complement to the salad. Even my husband liked it, and he’s not usually a fan of salad dressing, though this is clearly superior to any bottled, preservative- or sweetener-filled concoction.

The peach and tomato salad is also simple to make, but presents very complicated flavor combinations. The salad itself has only four ingredients — tomatoes, peaches, red onion and fresh basil — and is topped with a dressing of orange and lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and coarsely ground black pepper. The contrasting flavors play off each other. A mouthful of peach and onion together is exciting; a taste of peach and pepper is revelatory. It’s the kind of salad that deserves to be slowly nibbled and savored, but that you can barely stop yourself from gobbling down, it’s so good.

Verdict: Success. I’ve been doing a good job of bringing leftovers for lunch this week but tomorrow will definitely win the prize.

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