three summer salad recipes

July in San Francisco is cool and foggy, but I have been hearing cries of “too hot to cook!” from friends on the east coast. (The Texans, one presumes, are blithely air-conditioned.) These minimal-heat recipes might help; they’re even useful to San Francisco summer chefs, since we have all of this glorious fresh produce to use up.

Carrot and blueberry salad: Grate three medium carrots. Add a handful of blueberries. If you can stand the heat, toast a half teaspoon of cumin seeds and then a handful of slivered almonds and add these to the salad. (If not, omit the toasting.) Chop the leaves from a dozen or so sprigs of parsley and add them, too. Zest half a small lemon, add the zest to the salad. Put some salt in a glass or jar, then juice the lemon over it. Stir to dissolve the salt, then add extra virgin olive oil to make a dressing. Mix the salad and dressing and let sit a while. You can add a dollop of strained yogurt to this when it’s time to eat. Yield: my lunch yesterday. Good for two as a side salad.

Watermelon and cherry tomato salad: Cube a small watermelon. Halve a pint of cherry tomatoes. Add slivers of red onion, crumbles of feta, and a good handful of spearmint, chopped. Season with coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper. J-P and I gorged ourselves on this last night; you could probably serve it as a side salad at a dinner for 4-6 people.

Green salad with cheese, mint, and honey: I had a version of this at the Fountain Inn on the Isle of Wight. Combine mixed greens, cubes of cheese (they used Wensleydale; I’m going to try it with feta tonight), and cherry tomatoes. Add a generous helping of chopped spearmint and some sweet fruit (they used grapes; I’m trying nectarine tonight), and dress the whole thing with just a little honey. Season with salt and black pepper.

In other news, we tried Montezuma’s milk chocolate with nutmeg last night. With five flavors tried, this is the first that we haven’t absolutely loved. It’s not bad at all–it’s just a good but unremarkable milk chocolate with the tiniest hint of nutmeg. We wished the nutmeg was bolder.

As to what makes good versus bad milk chocolate: Montezuma’s ingredients list implies that, although sugar is the dominant ingredient by weight, it can’t make up more than about 42% of their milk chocolate bar. Cocoa solids are 34%, and milk solids clock in at 22.5%. For comparison, Hershey’s milk chocolate is 53.5% sugar, leaving the cocoa matter and milk solids to fight it out for most of the remaining 46.5%. Hershey’s ingredients list indicates that there’s more milk in Hershey’s than either cocoa butter or “chocolate” alone, but whether the latter two combined make up more weight than the milk is an open question. The short answer seems to be that good milk chocolate has a higher percentage of cocoa matter and a lower percentage of sugar than bad milk chocolate.

Pictures from our trip to England and Finland here and here.

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