Summer is slipping by, faster than should be allowed. My children start their school year on August 20th. On that day, we will be the proud owners of a third-grader and a kindergartener. And for the hordes of us whose lives revolve around the school year, that day will be our first day of fall.
Time to break out the sweaters and boots? Oh, no. Not yet, dear friends, not even close.
The Florida weather gods have ensured that we cannot ignore the summer, even when we prefer to pretend that fall is just around the corner (on August 20th!). There is not a smidgen of cool, crisp weather to be had. The stifling heat, often accompanied by unpredictable mosquito attacks, has banished me from my beloved front porch – and back porch, too, for that matter. I’ve taken up jogging again (it never seems to stick), and each morning after running in 95% humidity this week, I feel like a sponge with asthma.
So, while I’m eagerly awaiting the cooler weather to come, I’m determined not to let this last snippet of summer sneak by me. A vacation is in order, one last summer fling. We’re soon headed to spend some days playing in the sugary white sands of the Gulf coast. There will be boogie boarding, sandcastle building, kite flying, wave jumping, game playing, book reading, and eating, lots of eating. I’m already envisioning platters of fried green tomatoes, spicy shrimp with creamy grits, and plenty of freshly caught fish (grilled or fried, doesn’t matter) – and all of this accompanied by icy- cold beverages of one ilk or another.
I’m going to own these last days of summer, folks. They’re mine.
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Summer begs for cold salads, don’t you think? In case you agree with me, and I think you do, I have one for especially for you.
In this salad, broccoli florets are blanched, quickly cooked for just a minute in boiling water and then plunged into an ice bath, so the cooking stops, the color remains bright green, and the texture stays firm. Each forkful of salad is accented with sweet golden raisins and salty bits of bacon.
This is the salad you should take to that last summer picnic you’ve been planning. Or that Sunday afternoon church potluck. Or your family reunion luncheon you’ve been debating whether to attend.
Trust me. I would never steer you wrong.
Yield: Serves 6-8 as a side dish
You can make this salad up to 6 hours in advance. Or, if you're like me, you can prepare all the ingredients (chop the veggies, cook the bacon, blanch the broccoli) the day before and toss them together with the dressing shortly before serving. Either way, the salad is a breeze to put together.
5 slices bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pound broccoli florets (approximately), cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Fresh black pepper
3/4 cup diced sweet bell pepper (red, orange, yellow, or a combination)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 large shallot, minced
1. Cook bacon in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on a paper-towel lined plate.
2. Blanch the broccoli: Bring a large pot of water to boil. In another large bowl, prepare an ice bath with equal parts water and ice cubes. Add broccoli florets to boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove broccoli with a slotted spoon and place in the ice bath immediately to cool. Drain the broccoli again and dry the florets by spinning in a salad spinner or by laying them out on several paper towels.
3. Whisk mayonnaise, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl. Add broccoli, bell pepper, raisins, pine nuts, and shallot to the bowl with the dressing, and toss to combine. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper as needed, then sprinkle with the cooked bacon. Chill until ready to serve.
Adapted from this recipe in Cook's Country.