Yes, I know, technically it’s not summer yet.  But it’s warm and beautiful, and the air is heavy with promise, so I declare it summer.
Summertime is a time when I love eating cold foods – not just for the obvious reasons of “I don’t want to have to heat up my kitchen” and “it’s hot out so we should eat cold things to cool off” but also because there’s a sense of rightness and joy about eat crisp, cool foods on hot days.  I think it hearkens back to childhood, and cookouts with fruit salad and/or popsicles, and that feeling of innocence and that feeling that you can conquer anything ahead of you.  But I digress.

Darren doesn’t particularly enjoy eating cold foods when it’s cold out, so while I am pretty much always in the mood for salad, summertime is when we really enjoy eating salads together.  In the winter, he’ll eat a salad, but he won’t enjoy it nearly as much as I do.

The latest hot trend is to have a sweet salad instead of a heartier salad; have you noticed that?  I started noticing several years back that more and more people were eating “harvest salads” which were mostly fruits, dried berries, and nuts over salad greens, rather than “chef salads” which involve deli meats and cheeses, and general a creamy dressing rather than a vinaigrette.  I happen to like both types of salads (though I prefer chef salads, to be honest with you) and you can still find both types at most restaurants, but I’d never really thought about putting fruits and veggies together until then.  Which is just ludicrous, really.  One of the better known salads out there, the Waldorf, is mainly apples, raisins, and mayonnaise, sometimes served on lettuce, which pretty much breaks all the major salad conventions (if there are any – they may be all in my own crazy head.)

So where am I going with this?

About a year or so back I was feeling experimental, so I threw some diced apples and pears into a bowl with some salad greens, a light and sweet vinaigrette, some raisins and feta, tossed it all around, and served it to Darren and myself for dinner.  It was not completely new; we’d had that type of salad before at Panera and as starters at a few weddings.  But it was the first time I’d made one at home for us.  And it was magic.  The crispness of the apples balances what I consider to be a buttery texture from the pears, and then there’s the sharpness from the feta, the sweetness from the raisins… and of course, some nice organic field greens for some extra filling and yet another balance point – I always buy a salad mix that has some nice peppery arugula in it (I love arugula) so there’s all these different textures and flavors mixed in and you would think it would be chaos but somehow it comes together and … it just works.

I did it again most recently tonight for dinner, and accompanied it with some crusty garlic bread (store-made, I was feeling lazy) and you just couldn’t ask for more.  Summer – salads, fruits, all fresh things that make you feel good about life. Embrace it!