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Simple Sides: Summer Salad

While many of these recipes may seem very basic, this is by design. It is hoped that these preparations will lay the culinary foundation necessary to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as confidence in the kitchen grows. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to decide the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where help might be especially needed.

The competing schedules of today’s busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together; it is not impossible and, with a little planning, can even be fun. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a great way to teach your children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your kids will build memories that remain in all of your hearts forever.

“I’ll bring the salad” is an often heard mantra of the summer season, when the barbeques-per-person ratio is at its peak. The bounty of summertime fruits and vegetables make it a great time of the year to teach your kitchen helpers the basics of salad making. What they will learn by being on salad duty for the next family barbeque will be remembered and built upon for years to come as they develop their own culinary styles.

The key to a good salad starts with the dressing. The most basic of dressings is vinaigrette, which is a simple mix of oil and vinegar. In fact, the only thing that your aspiring cooks need remember for this dressing is the cardinal rule: THREE measurements of oil to ONE measurement of vinegar. This is the sweet spot for any vinaigrette. Of course adjusting these ratios a little depending on the specific types of oils and/or vinegars used will make for a tarter or sweeter taste. However, leave that up to the kids to discover on their own over the next several decades; for now, keep it simple as the 3:1 will turn out a tasty dressing every time.

Recipe I is an example of that basic salad, consisting of just a few common ingredients and a traditional Italian vinaigrette formula. This one can be done by your youngest kitchen helper, who can accomplish the entire recipe without any knife work if the supervising adult does the onion slicing. There is a lot of practice measuring in this one that even the youngest child can do. Take the time to emphasize the importance of taste-testing during preparation. Your kitchen crew should taste the oil and vinegar being used separately, then again once all the ingredients have been blended. The taste testing should also come into play when adding of salt and pepper, which is a whole conversation unto itself! Tasting along the way gives the directions of a recipe more meaning when each step is linked to flavor changes. Plus, it’s just a good habit to taste what you are doing at any age!

Recipe II also has relatively few moving parts, though the preparation is a bit more complex and will need the help of an adult to handle the process of skinning of the peaches. However, this little trick of dunking the peaches in boiling water and then an ice bath is another great lesson that should be demonstrated to your kitchen crew rather than done ahead of time. This recipe also takes full advantage of the summer fruit season and puts a tasty blueberry dressing in your child’s culinary repertoire at an early age!

Recipe I
Red Leaf Salad with Italian Vinaigrette
Serves 4
Image of Red Leaf Salad with Italian Vinaigrette

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Italian fresh parsley, chopped or torn into small pieces
1 tsp Italian seasoning (Melissa’s Organic Grinders)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 cups Organic Red Leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup organic grape tomatoes
1 cup organic red onions, sliced and rough chopped
½ cup walnuts

What Kids Can Do:

  1. Measure oil, vinegar, parsley and seasoning into a blender and mix thoroughly for about 10 seconds.
  2. Transfer dressing to a glass bowl, salt & pepper to taste with adult supervision
  3. Let stand for 30 minutes to let the flavors blend.
  4. Give the dressing a good whisk just before serving.
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Toss with dressing until all ingredients thoroughly coated.
  3. Serve on individual plates. Simple salad!
What Supervising Adult Should Do:
  1. Supervise all stages of the preparation process.
  2. Slice onion for younger child.
  3. Definitely be involved in “salt & pepper to taste” or suffer the consequences.
Recipe II
Peaches and Blueberries Summer Salad
Serves 4
Image of Peaches and Blueberries Summer Salad

1 cup fresh organic blueberries
¼ cup vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil

½ cup sliced organic red onion
¾ teaspoon salt
3 fresh organic peaches slices
1 cup fresh blueberries
4 Romaine lettuce leaves

What Kids Can Do:

  1. In a blender, combine the fresh blueberries with the vinegar.
  2. Once blended, mix in the olive oil and set aside.
  1. In a large mixing bowl, toss the lettuce with one half of the blueberry dressing until thorough coated. Then place one leaf in the center of each serving plate.
  2. In the same bowl combine the remaining blueberries, onion, peaches and left over half of dressing.
  3. Spoon this mixture over top of lettuce leaf.
What Supervising Adult Should Do:
  1. Skin and slice the peaches.
  2. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a saucepan.
  3. Prepare an ice bath that will fit all the fruit.
  4. Using a paring knife, make a criss cross incision at the top of each nectarine.
  5. Drop the fruit gently into the boiling water for about one minute.
  6. Using a slotted spoon, gently remove the fruit and place it into the ice bath. Allow to cool completely for a few minute then strain.
  7. Use a paring knife to peel the skin easily off the fruit.
  8. Half each peach and remove pits, then cut each half into ½ inch wedges.
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