Every spring when the first hot and sunny days of June arrive, I am mistaken in thinking that summer will last forever. The balmy summer of southern Vermont is unlike any other I have experienced. My wintery New England ferocity vanishes with every dip in the river, with every juicy strawberry I pick and eat, with every Dari Joy chocolate cone and every lazy afternoon spent basking in the sun. . God, I think to myself, how nice to leave behind my icy, muddy life of sweaters-inside-with-extra socks for this one!
But there, in the blink of an eye, I find myself here. September. The days are still warm and the nights a little cooler. I’m starting to panic that the end is near. But then I settle down. Sweaters at night are not so bad! As fall arrives regularly, I find myself taking every opportunity to take advantage of the abundance of local produce available at our local farm stalls and growing all around us.
This salad is my ode to southern Vermont and our local farmers. My love letter to vegetables!
The Viridis Montis salad is my riff on a classic NiÃ§oise salad, a traditional summer salad from Nice, France. Do we dare to take a French classic and turn it over to embrace our local products? Why yes, yes we do.
The beauty of the NiÃ§oise Salad is that it highlights fresh and bright produce in the simplest way possible. It’s served cold or at room temperature and isn’t loaded with salad dressings or heavy flavors. The vegetables work together, with a little salt and acid, to create a lovely flavor that tastes like it should be summery, with enough hearty ingredients to fill us up for those chilly fall days.
I kept some of my raw ingredients (cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, peppers, etc.) and cooked others (boiled my fingerling potatoes and blanched my green beans). I made sure to chill my cooked ingredients before mixing them with the others so as not to cause wilting.
The ingredients in this recipe are flexible. I’ve done most of my shopping at Walker Farm in Dummerston, but feel free to use whatever you have in your yard or on hand. If you have so many zucchini that you can’t see them directly, cut them up and roast them with olive oil, salt and pepper and let them cool completely before adding them to the mixture. If you are a corn lover, cut it on the cob and add the kernels to it! If you hate alliums, leave them out completely. You do you. My only requirement is that you let the products shine. If you are cooking an ingredient, don’t overcook it and make sure it has cooled completely before involving it with raw ingredients.
This recipe is, in my mind, a salad for two. That being said, you know your audience better than I ever will – feel free to increase or decrease certain things depending on your situation and preferences.
Will it be a side dish or a main dish? If you serve it with other dishes, this supposed salad for two could end up feeding four!
Are you going to add a protein like fish, hard-boiled eggs or chicken? If so, maybe reduce the ingredients in other areas.
And now, without further ado, I would like to introduce you to Salad Viridis Montis, my Green Mountain riff on the classic French nicoise salad.
IngredientsFor the salad:Â½ lb baby potatoes, cut in half. I got mine from Walker Farm in Dummerston and highly recommend it.
Â½ pint of cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Â½ peeled (or not) and sliced ââcucumber
Â¼ lb green beans, ends cut off
Â¼ of a red onion, very thinly sliced
1 head of leafy green lettuce of your choice, washed and chopped
Optional: hard boiled egg, grated hard cheese (I like the Brattleboro Food Co-op Grana Padano for that!)
For the dressing:Combine the following ingredients in a canned jar with a lid and shake well to combine.
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. Red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. sea ââsalt
1/8 c. fresh cracked black pepper
1 C. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 C. Vermont maple syrup
Instructions1: Make the dressingCombine all dressing ingredients in a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake well to combine. Alternative: mix the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine (shaking is more fun).
2: Cook the potatoesCut Â½ lb of potatoes in half, lengthwise.
Place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons of salt in a saucepan and cover with 1.5 liters of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium to maintain a boil. Cook until you can easily pierce the potatoes with a fork. The timing varies depending on the size of the potato. Remove from heat and drain.
While the potatoes are hot, toss them with your minced red onion and a little of your vinaigrette. The heat wilts the onion a bit to make the spicy flavor more subtle. It will also give the potatoes a chance to absorb some of the flavors in your delicious dressing!
Let the potatoes cool.
3: Blanch the green beans:Bring 1 liter of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Cut off the ends of the green beans. Once the water is boiling, add the green beans and cook until they are bright green and just tender. Drain and add to the ice water bath to stop the cooking. Once they are cold, drain them and dry them. Drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of black pepper.
4: Assemble!Take half of your dressing and mix it with your lettuce, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes. Place it in the center of your plate. Arrange your potato / onion and green bean mixture on the edges of the plate. Drizzle the potatoes and green beans with additional dressing. Grate some of your Grana Padano on top (optional) and feel free to add any additional optional ingredients that suit you (as long as they’re not hot!) Favorite canned tuna (drained).
Whitney Barlow Packer is a former restaurant cook, current home cook, and lover of all things food. She lives in Putney.