In-season veggies, fruit provide tasty variety
BY BETH COLVIN
Assistant Food editor
August 08, 2012
There are few better ways to beat the heat than a cool, crisp salad.
Fresh greens, hearty pastas, healthful fruits and powerful proteins all have a home in a salad. So, too, do healthy fats, such as those found in fish and olive oil. One of the best things about a salad is the sheer creativity the dish offers. Almost anything you have on hand can be thrown into a salad. Furthermore, salads are equally appropriate for either a side dish or an entrée, or even as a dessert.
Summer is a great time to explore the saladverse because so many fruits and vegetables are in season, widely available and inexpensive.
Greens like arugula, cabbage, chard, lettuce and spinach are available, as are a profusion of peppers, squash, beans, herbs, cucumbers, radishes, peaches, blueberries and other delicious salad toppers.
Tomatoes, quite possibly the most popular salad companion, are perfectly ripe and sweet right now, and farmers’ markets and supermarkets alike have bushels of many varieties available, as do most backyard gardens. To add a punch of protein, a basic grilled chicken goes a long way, but don’t forget about Louisiana’s great fresh seafood, a sprinkling of a good quality cheese or a boiled egg.
Potato salads are a popular choice for many summertime meals, particularly those that center on the grill. Get creative by exploring different kinds of spuds, like fingerling potatoes or bright purple potatoes, or the small, tender new potatoes available during summer months. Lighten up your next potato salad with an olive oil-based dressing rather than the traditional heavy mayonnaise dressing, or kick up the flavor with a handful of fresh herbs.
Speaking of dressings, be particular about the amount and type of dressing you use. Olive oil, which is full of good-for-you fats, is a wise and tasty base for a dressing, and, when used in moderation, lets the flavor of the salad ingredients shine through.
A recent study by Purdue University found that leaving some fat in a salad dressing can help the body process carotenoids, compounds in the vegetables that help fight off cancer, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration.
“If you want to utilize more from your fruits and vegetables, you have to pair them correctly with fat-based dressings,” said Mario Ferruzzi, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of food science at Purdue. “If you have a salad with a fat-free dressing, there is a reduction in calories, but you lose some of the benefits of the vegetables.
“Overall, pairing with fat matters. You can absorb significant amounts of carotenoids with saturated or polyunsaturated fats at low levels, but you would see more carotenoid absorption as you increase the amounts of those fats on a salad.”
Ferruzzi’s study found that salads topped with monounsaturated fat-rich dressings, like olive oil dressings, required the least amount of fat to get the highest absorption of the helpful compounds.