Maine Dish: fruit salads for warm evenings

During the hot summer days, our eating style becomes more casual and relaxed. The gardens and farmers’ markets teem with fresh fruit and veg, a treat in the intense heat. The fresh produce has the added benefit of being healthy for your body.

My favorite summer food is the juicy season of berries: juicy strawberries, ripe raspberries, and wild blueberries. These fruits are packed with flavonoids that help fight many serious diseases. They increase blood circulation in the body, regenerate the skin and reduce photosensitivity, making the skin look brighter and improve texture. For added nutritional value, berries are also packed with fiber — about 8 grams per cup.

The Summer Fruit Salad recipe is just a guide to creating your own easy and delicious blast of good food. Start with a base of leafy greens: spinach, arugula, tender baby lettuce leaves, or crisp romaine lettuce. Then add some chopped fresh vegetables. This season we had a bumper crop of sugar snap peas. Bright yellow summer squash, tender zucchini pieces or crunchy green cucumbers also fit. Enhance the flavor of this tasty vegetable with a few leaves of fresh mint, basil, parsley or cilantro.

Then add the berries of your choice.

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The raspberry canes I planted two years ago were full of fruit and very easy to pick. The wild blueberry harvest is in full swing. So go wild with Maine’s signature healthy and intensely sweet fruit!

The finishing touch to your creation is the cheese. We enjoy the contrast of salty and creamy cheese with the deliciousness of the fruit. Blue cheese, local soft goat cheese, and even grated hard cheese all add a different flavor component. A dressing of balsamic vinegar and Maine maple syrup completes this addictive salad.

We enjoy our summer fruit salad for lunch, served with piping hot popovers or crusty French bread. For dinner, it’s a simple and elegant accompaniment to fish or chicken on the grill. Stock your fridge with lots of fresh fruit and veg and chill, it’s summer food and it’s fun!

Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. She welcomes questions and comments about food below [email protected].

Summer fruit salad

Makes four servings

For the salad:

4 cups lettuce leaves

¼ cup fresh mint leaves

2 cups of fresh fruit; Raspberries, wild blueberries

1 cup snow peas

2 ounces. crumbled feta

Edible flowers (optional)

For the dressing:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

2 TBSP. maple syrup

½ tbsp. grainy mustard

Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste

Gather ingredients and tools.

To make the dressing, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Maine maple syrup, and grain mustard in a small bowl. Stir until emulsified. Season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper. Put aside.

Wash and dry the vegetables for the salad. If necessary, tear them into small pieces. Remove the mint leaves from the plant. Cut the stalks and strings off the sugar snap peas and cut into slices.

Pick over the berries.

Place the vegetables and mint leaves in a salad bowl. Add the chopped snow peas. Scatter the fruit on top and add the crumbled feta. Decorate the top with the edible flowers. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.

Nutritional Analysis per 2 tablespoons dressing: 77 calories, 0 grams protein, 4.3 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fat, 51 mg. sodium, less than 1 gram of fiber.

Nutritional Analysis per serving of salad (without dressing): 85 calories, 4 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fat, 170 mg. sodium, 5 grams of fiber.

Cheryl Wixson

Maine Dish columnist Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. Her passion for organic Maine produce led to the founding of her business, Cheryl Wixson’s Kitchen. She welcomes questions and comments about food below [email protected] or www.cherylwixsonskitchen.com.

Cheryl Wixson