This has been a challenging year for those of us who garden and farm our food. A rainy spring followed by a wet and foggy start to summer are not ideal conditions for growing crops, in particular the sun-loving ones like sunflowers, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Some plants have not received enough sunlight to blossom or the blooms have rotted before they were pollinated and could open.
In contrast, other cultivars seem to thrive in these conditions. My lilies are majestic, growing upward and upward, some over ten feet tall. Asparagus season was well over six weeks long, parsley is flourishing and my peas are still going strong.
In the heat of summer, our dining habits adjust to what’s available in the garden; lots of kale, lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard, cutting celery, and plenty of sugar snap peas. Now that the sun has arrived, fragrant stands of basil are buzzing with bees, the bright red and yellow cherry tomatoes are ripening, and the peppers are starting to set fruit.
Tomato, Basil & Sugar Snap Pea Salad has become one of our new favorites for something easy to prepare, light, crisp, and cool. Crunchy, sweet, sugar snap peas, perfectly ripe, juicy tomatoes, pungent, earthy basil, and tangy feta coated with a tasty olive oil and cider vinegar blend seasoned with more basil, a perfect summer meal.
The key to this salad, just like a good marriage, is that the ingredients perfectly complement each other without any single taste overpowering the other. Plus it’s suitable for a wide range of the cook’s creative variations. No sugar snap peas? Try zucchini, green beans or summer squash. Basil not to your liking? Fresh dill, thyme, parsley or tarragon will work. No feta? Use fresh mozzarella or a local goat cheese.
Summer salads are a chance to really use your imagination while you play with combinations of textures, temperatures and flavors, all on the same plate. It’s summer, time to enjoy, while the cooking and living are easy.
Tomato, Basil & Sugar Snap Pea Salad
- 1 – pint cherry tomatoes 2 cups
- 1 – quart sugar snap peas 4 cups
- 1 bunch fresh basil with blossom tops
- 2 ounces feta cheese
- ¼ cider vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 clove finely chopped garlic or 2 tablespoon chopped garlic scapes
- Maine sea salt & fresh pepper
- Lettuce leaves to line salad plate
- Edible flowers nasturtiums, pansies, basil blossoms for garnish (optional)
- Assemble ingredients and tools.
- Chop the sugar snap peas into bite-sized pieces. Add to a medium bowl.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in halves and add to the bowl.
- Remove the blossoms from the top of the basil, and finely chop. Set aside.
- Roll the basil into a log, and thinly slice it. Add the chiffonade* basil to the bowl.
- To prepare the dressing:
- Add the cider vinegar and olive oil to a two-cup measure or a small bowl. Whisk in the chopped basil. Season to taste with Maine sea salt and fresh pepper.
- To assemble:
- Pour about ¼ cup of the dressing over the salad and gently mix. Line a salad platter with lettuce leaves and mound the salad on the top. Garnish the salad with edible flowers and serve.