early summer vegetable love

my favorite new summer salad

Danny’s at the kitchen counter, chopping and humming, the sunlight flooding in. Little Bean is standing at her wooden stove, just behind him in her room, banging out a rhythm with a wooden spoon. I’m bustling around them, rinsing the dishes or putting something on Twitter or opening the refrigerator to see what I can make for dessert. Our living room and kitchen are one big space, which flows into her room, so we are all together.

And then something shifts. Danny looks down at the food beneath his hands. He looks up at me, his eyes wide. He says, “This is going to be good.”

I look over to see a new salad he’s created, a melange of snap peas, English peas, green beans, corn kernels, and the fava beans he has blanched and skinned. The feathery pile of fresh dill on the cutting board has disappeared, chopped into fine pieces, mingling with the vegetables. I can smell the fresh lemon zest meandering through the room. And the jar of buttermilk ranch dressing we made a few days before is empty now.

Of course I move toward him, for a kiss, and then a bite of food. He has cut all the vegetables into the same size pieces. Even though I’m experiencing a new combination with each chew, it feels right. The salad tastes of early summer: long days, eating late, light lingering into the evening. The first real farmers’ market of the season, suddenly more choices than kale and radishes, again. The garden packed with full heads of lettuce, instead of stared-at dirt, willed to grow, dammit. Our skin warm from the sun, finally.

I had never eaten this salad before. After two bites, I thought, “Why haven’t I eaten this every summer of my life?”

That first bite happens as the golden light arrives.
“Will you read Bean that book she loves right now?”
He moves toward her, smiling.
I find the camera and race outside to grab the last scraps of sunlight.

When I return inside with a dozen photographs to choose from, I give the salad to Danny. It’s time for Bean’s bath, soon. But first, I turn to the computer and ask him to tell me exactly how he made it. Within a few moments, the recipe is saved, the photographs are downloaded, and the salad is growing cold and crisp in the refrigerator.

Someday, when she’s older, we’ll explain to Little Bean that not every family photographs its meals and writes down the steps before they eat.

my favorite new salad

Early Summer Vegetable Salad

This salad only appeared on our plates because we were trying to use up all the vegetables we had bought at the farmers’ market a few days before. This time of year, we go a little crazy at the market: beans! peas! arugula! spinach! And then the crisper drawer in the refrigerator bulges with too much green.

The lovely Kim O’Donnel, who writes A Mighty Appetite for the Washington Post, has been hosting the Eat Down the Fridge challenge again this week. It’s such a great idea. We’re often too tempted by the allure of a new recipe, an idea for dinner that requires another trip to the store. It’s a slippery slope around here — food is what we do. And then we are shocked, again, by how much we spend on groceries every month.

We’re trying to save, just a bit, and appreciate what we have, instead of always yearning for a new ingredient. And what we have discovered lately shouldn’t come as a surprise, since this happened when I had to cut out gluten. A little deprivation breeds creativity. Without the determination to use what we had, this salad would not have been born.

1 cup fava beans
1 cup English peas
1 cup green beans, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup snap peas, topped and tailed, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 ears corn, roasted and kernels cut off
sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh dill
zest 1 lemon

Blanching the beans. Set a pot of water, with a pinch of salt, to boil. Put a bowl of ice water in the sink. As the water is coming to a boil, shuck the fava beans. Snap the shell and extract the 3 or 4 beans per pod. Shell the English peas as well.

When the water has come to a boil, plop all the shucked fava beans and English peas into the pan and let them bob in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Immediately drain the pot of water and plunge the beans in the ice water. After a moment, take them out and let them chill in the refrigerator for a few moments.

Composing the salad. Combine the fava beans, English peas, green beans, snap peas, and corn. Season with the salt and pepper. Toss in the fresh dill. Stir. Zest the lemon over the salad. Stir.

Toss the salad with the dressing of your choice. We enjoyed this with the buttermilk ranch dressing we have been eating all spring. I think it might also be delightful with this creamy lemon chive dressing. A simple vinaigrette might do the trick, as long as you don’t use a big-tasting vinegar like balsamic.

Feeds 4.

27 comments on “early summer vegetable love

  1. La Niña

    "Peas and beans, cabbages and greens"… what song is that from? (It's "The Vegetable Song" by Hank Sapoznik! I must play that for Little Bean sometime on my guitar.)

    "Little carrot top did the backward flop
    And the cabbage shook and shimmied til she couldn't stop…
    Little red beet stopped and shook his feet
    While the watermelon died of the cockeyed heat…"

    I love pea salad!

    I love it with bacon.

    Add bacon and I will follow you anywhere.

  2. Kelly

    I love getting creative when eating down the fridge! I have my own recipe for buttermilk ranch that changes ever so slightly each time I make it, but my children especially have become salad eaters since I began making all our salad dressing! I love the colors in this salad and can't wait to try it! Colors like this just sing to be tried!!

  3. alison

    Usually my frig ends up on a pizza or in pasta — seems like you can use anything you've got for those meals. Or salad, and yours looks so fresh and tasty!

  4. Rina the Mama Bear

    Heeheehee oh so true – I guess I'll have to explain that to my own Baby Bear…but it's oh so lovely to have photographic evidence of things we've eaten together!

  5. Littles

    I'm a private chef, my favorite dinners are those that I walk in with some protein in hand, and no plan. They're the mose creative delicious meals that I'm asked to repeat.

  6. Paige Orloff

    Ummm…YUMMMMMM. I will be adjusting my farmers' market shopping list accordingly. Can't wait to try this.

  7. Clare

    Omigod, that looks SO good. I cannot wait to make it.

    Thank you,Shauna, for sharing your gifts of writing, cooking, mothering and, above all else, loving, savoring, and celebrating life.
    You are inspirational.

  8. Swiss

    Looks crystalline – bright and green. I hope I can find Favas (must grow them) I have made the buttermilk dressing and we all gobble it up- really good atop a sprinkling of gorgonzola.

    I LOVE children's books, that one looks fun too. I noticed La Nina's song and it sounds like a blast. My Grandkids and I adore Laurie Berkner- check her out, Shauna.


  9. gfe--gluten free easily

    That looks wonderful. I love it when spur-of-the-moment creations come out so well. One of my favorite ways to use tidbits this time of year is to make hash. Usually there's just a little bit of protein in it, like chicken, steak, roast beef, or bacon. Because it's made on the stove top, there's little heat added to the kitchen. Our refrigerator is full to the gills right now …

    Oh, I love children's board books. That looks like a wonderful one. 🙂 Board books are my favorite baby shower gift.


  10. Marta

    These melange of fresh, seasonal veg just make the best, most versatile, most memorable salads! This one in particular is so vibrant and green, I feel healthier just looking at it!
    I'm new to your site (from Justin's recommendation) and I'm loving it! I'll continue to read you 🙂

  11. Anonymous

    Looks like a great salad. But I'm a bit confused. I live on Southern Vancouver Island. All the greens are ready in our garden, but we don't grow corn. We get local corn from a nearby farm from August to October – but I have never seen any this early. Is your corn local?

  12. La Niña

    Hey Shauna-
    Is it okay if I do this? Delete if you want!

    For those of you who LOVE children's books, especially board books for babes…

    Just click on my name above. (La Niña)

    I really need to join Blogger. Just hasn't made it to the top of the list. In my life, GF food, and cooking comes first.

  13. Amy Green

    Every time I read your blog, I'm overcome with a sense of peace and calm. I'm grounded and centered and feel as though everything is just ok.

    I go a little crazy, too, this time of year and have not one, but two, refrigerators full of produce to prove it. I've opted for freezing some, making jam, turning some into ice cream, making soups…something inside of me screams out that it's wrong to leave it at the market.

  14. white on rice couple

    This is a gorgeous melange of summer at it's best. And, why haven't we had this yet?? Thanks to Danny's genius and your writing, we now have a new dish to celebrate summer with!!
    Your daughter has amazing parents and maybe by the time she gets older, most families will have food blogs! 😀

  15. Mel in Mo

    Some of best meals have come from emptying the fridge! I always love garbage soup! Everybody into the pool! You never know what you will end up with!
    I did a clean out the fridge & garden day yesturday. I came up with green beans & potatoes, pico, augratin squash, apple crisp, cucumber & onion salad, banana muffins & cole slaw. A few burgers on the grill & we were in Heaven!

  16. Children's books fan

    Wow, I'm usually not a "bean" fan but this summer veggie salad sounds incredible – I'm inspired to start my own garden.

    Thank you so much! Helpful hint: I've found some great GF resources at this website: http://www.GlutenFreeHelp.info

  17. andothersuchthings

    ooh yum! We've been running out of ideas for all the dill in our garden. Thanks!

  18. Sprouted Kitchen

    i love your comment disclaimer, numebr one! number two, beautiful pictures of this healthy, fresh looking salad of goodness!

  19. Erin

    I'm ready to move in next door. Actually, we live over on the eastside and are hoping to find something equally lovely for a permanent home for our little family. I'm in a condo. That gets NO sunlight where I can put plants. That means no container garden. 🙁 Poo.

    I love your blog. Thank you for sharing. I don't have any food-intolerances, but I do appreciate good-for-me food, and you guys provide that in spades. Thank you.

  20. Anonymous

    Thanks for your inspirational site.
    Six months ago I discovered my intolerance to gluten. Being a life-long baker and lover of baked goods, I was devastated at first. Fortunately a friend and fellow baker told me about your site. The recipes are super but it's your up-beat can-do spirit that's the best.

    Now if I can just find someone as wonderful as your "chef" !

    Lisa in VT

Comments are closed