Every so often, we try to get the neighbors together for a peripatetic dinner. We start with appetizers in one apartment, dinner in another, dessert in the third, etc. The changes in decor, mood and wine as we progress through the evening can make the whole experience mildly kaleidoscopic. ...A couple of weekends ago, after around a hundred emails, we managed to get four families together and it proved, as always, to be congenial, relaxed and a gastronomical adventure. My neighbor Betsy whipped up some divine salads this year, and I asked her to share them. Below is her email....
"The recipe quantities are very informal because these are really just farmers' market recipes...I figure it out as I go along.
seedless watermelon (enough to yield chunks to fill your salad bowl 3/4 full)
goat cheese (you can use fresh chevre, or feta, or a firm goat cheese like a crottin - 1/4 pound is plenty)
fresh mint (3-4 sprigs - do not use dried mint! - washed and patted dry)
arugula (2 big handfuls, washed and spun dry)
Making the salad:
Chop the fresh mint leaves finely and place in your salad bowl.
Slice as much melon as you want to use, peel it, cut into bite-size chunks, and toss the melon gently in the salad bowl with the mint.
Crumble the cheese into the salad bowl, add the arugula, and toss gently.
Season with as much or as little sea salt as you like; I use sea salt because the crunch adds a nice texture.
Serve promptly because otherwise you will have watermelon-cheese soup.
(I call this "flat salad" because of how it's served, not because the flavors are flat!)
the most flavorful heirloom tomatoes available at the Greenmarket (taste and choose)
fresh corn in the husk
fresh shelling beans (cranberry beans, sometimes called borlotti beans, are what I used)
sweet red onions
red wine vinegar
and a large serving platter.
The quantities will vary depending on the size of the tomatoes, how many people you are feeding, and the size of your serving platter. For the six of us, I used four big tomatoes (2 red/yellow, 2 red) and 2 or 3 smaller green tomatoes, plus 1 ear of corn, about 2 cups of beans (shelled - that would be around 1 pound of beans unshelled), and one red onion.
Making the salad:
First, make the beans. Put some water on to boil while you shell the beans, but don't salt the water because it will make the beans tough. Drop the shelled beans into the water with some peppercorns and 2-3 crushed garlic cloves, turn the heat down to medium (a slow boil), and cook the beans for 15 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and taste a bean to check for done-ness. They should be soft inside but not sloppy-squishy-soft. If they need more cooking, check for doneness every 5 minutes or so. When the beans are done, drain them and pour 1 tbsp olive oil over them while they're warm; season with sea salt and set aside.
While the beans are cooking, slice the tomatoes horizontally into circles about 1/2" thick and arrange them on the platter. Husk the corn, rinse the ears, put each in a plastic bag, and microwave for 1 minute; turn the ears over and microwave for another minute; then take them out of the plastic so they don't steam, and let them cool till you can handle them. With a sharp knife, shave the kernels off the cobs and scatter the kernels over the sliced tomatoes. Mince as much basil as you like, add it to the beans, and scatter the beans and basil over the corn. Slice the onion into very thin crescents and put the slices in a bowl. Over them, pour 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar and 1 tbsp olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 2 minutes. Taste and if they're still bitter, cover the bowl and microwave for another 1 or 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, add 1 tbsp peanut oil, and pour the onions and the dressing over the tomato/beans/corn platter. Serve with bread to mop up the tomato juice.
There are, of course, variations on this theme. Barry likes to arrange the tomatoes on top of a bed of chopped romaine lettuce. When fresh shelling beans aren't available, I leave them out and add a second ear of corn instead. And so on. It's really a Greenmarket salad because you choose the ingredients based on what looks good to eat."