Story by Pamela A. Keene | Photography by Scott Rogers
Fresh, fresh, fresh: The colorful and plentiful flavors of summer from your own garden or the many local farmers’ markets create a wide palate of ingredients for tasty salads to serve as main courses or to complement a meal.
It’s time to go beyond a bowlful of spring greens tossed with tomatoes, cucumbers and onions to expand your culinary horizons and take advantage of all the fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins summer offers.
“Our goal is to use the freshest ingredients and take advantage of the season,” said Albert Lunalover, owner and executive chef at Avocado’s in downtown Gainesville. “By using locally grown and available items, you can make healthy and tasty salads that can be very filling.”
Avocados is known for its Quinoa Salad, added to the menu last fall.
“It’s very popular with our customers and it’s very easy to make,” Lunalover said. “Quinoa is considered a superfood that adds crunch and texture to salads. And when you combine it on a bed of mixed greens with other ingredients, it’s excellent. Part of the secret to keeping any fresh salad crispy is to add the dressing right before you serve it.”
Another of Avocados’ popular salads, the Artisan, is a light dish that can be served with or without a portion of protein.
“You can add grilled or fried shrimp, grilled chicken, salmon or steak to make it an entrée salad, or you can serve it as a side dish,” Lunalover said. “It’s also fun to experiment by adding a bit of fresh fruit or some toasted nuts. And chickpeas are another good source of protein.”
Strawberries, citrus, blueberries and other seasonal fruits can add a punch to salads, both in taste and visual appeal.
Lunalover, who opened Avocados six years ago on the downtown square, says he likes to focus on ingredients that are healthy, locally sourced and seasonal. Avocado’s now serves Springer Mountain Chicken.
“It’s all about eating fresh and healthy,” he said. “Be choosy about what you use in your salads and other dishes. It’s always better to buy fresh, and it’s much better for you.”
For the freshest greens, make sure the packaging maintains its vacuum seal when you purchase it from the store. If the greens are purchased loose or fresh-picked from the garden, wash them, pat them dry, then put them in the refrigerator in a large plastic bag with a paper towel.
“The paper towel will help absorb the excess moisture and keep them crisp,” he said. “It will also help them last longer.”
Georgia’s largest economic driver is agriculture and summer is the peak growing season. That being said, there is plentiful supply of fresh vegetables and fruits right in our own backyards in North Georgia. Plan a trip to a farmers’ market to pick out the ingredients for your next salad.
Mixed greens, including romaine
Crumbled or sliced feta cheese
Cook enough quinoa according to package instructions to accommodate the number of people being served. Once cool, toss the quinoa with the mixed greens, diced cucumbers, pecans and feta. Add your choice of protein and/or seasonal fruit, if desired. Serve with Cilantro Dressing.
Avocados’ House-made Cilantro Dressing
White wine vinegar
Combine dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender until blended. Place in refrigerator until well chilled. Pour over salad just before serving.
Avocados’ Artisan Salad
Artisan mixed greens, washed and spun or patted dry
Crumbled feta cheese
Alfalfa bean sprouts
Chopped cilantro to sprinkle on top
Use the greens as the foundation of the salad, mixing in a large bowl, adding the feta and bean sprouts. Serve onto plates then top with slices of avocado and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Add your choice of protein for an entrée. Lightly drizzle with Cilantro Dressing.