There are no pertinent Jewish holidays in June for which we must pay attention to traditional, customary, and symbolic foods. This is a good time. We can relax and just enjoy food for food. We have just been through Passover and Shavuot. In a few months, we will have the High Holy Days. When I think of June menus, my mind pictures displays of dishes for summer: Father’s Day, graduation, weddings and wedding showers, outdoor barbecues, and beach/poolside parties, even my birthday – all marvelous, happy, celebratory occasions.
With the abundance of stunning fruits and vegetables at our produce stands and markets, we can easily assemble outstanding family and festive dishes within minutes. Use the following dishes as your framework. I want you to read them, make substitutions with your favorite ingredients, watch your budgetary limits, and simply enjoy. You can serve them at different meals or together at one large event. Accompany with a fresh fruit salad and sliced challah.
Bring on the color. Bring on the fresh taste.
MY BUBA¹S POTATO SALAD
I have grown up with this salad and have made a few personal changes. I think my grandmother was very innovative to add vinegar to her chopped celery and onions for a mild soak. I have used this same dressing for my chicken and tuna salads. Watch your Kosher needs.
Five pounds small red-skinned potatoes
Two tablespoons, plus one half teaspoon Kosher salt
Four stalks celery, diced
One half large red onion, diced
One cup vinegar (your choice; a white Balsamic is nice, as is rice vinegar)
One third teaspoon dry mustard
One cup, plus one tablespoon sour cream
Wash potatoes in cold water to remove excess red color. Place in a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Add two tablespoons of the salt, cover pot, and cook over medium heat until done. Fork test in twenty minutes for doneness. Don¹t let potatoes get mushy.
Place celery and red onion in a bowl and cover with vinegar. Drain water from cooked potatoes, allow them to get cool enough to handle, and remove skins. Cut peeled potatoes into medium-size chunks and sprinkle them with the remaining one half teaspoon salt.
Drain vinegar from celery and onions, reserving vinegar. Add celery and onions to potatoes. Add dry mustard and one cup mayonnaise to vegetables and mix thoroughly. Combine the remaining one tablespoon mayonnaise with one tablespoon reserved vinegar, add to the sour cream, and toss mixture with the potatoes, celery, and onion. Add more salt to taste.
Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Yield: Eight to ten servings.
AN AMERICAN FARMER¹S SALAD
I will start with my East Coast childhood salad. Then, I will progress with a more Israeli style chopped vegetable salad. My grandmother, who was born in the United States, on a farm, used whatever vegetables (minus lettuce) she had on hand. The Israeli salad may require you to go to the market. This is not a salsa, but a country salad.
One carrot, peeled and chopped
One cucumber, peeled, or one half hot house cucumber, not peeled, chopped
Six tomatoes, chopped
Three bell peppers, one of each of red, yellow, and green, seeded and chopped
Four green onions, chopped
One fourth cup chopped Italian parsley leaves (flat leaf parsley)
Two teaspoons each of fresh mint leaves, cilantro, and dill, minced
One fourth cup olive oil
Juice of one and one half lemons, or one fourth cup vinegar
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Combine all the vegetables, place in a bowl with the herbs, pour in the olive oil and lemon juice, and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper; chill.
Variations: Other veggies can be substituted or added, such as chopped olives, radishes, beets, potatoes, even cheese, such as small cubes of Feta.
Yield: Four to eight servings.
A CLASSIC SALADE NICOISE
A rustic, country French salad, featuring a variety of fresh seasonal vegetables and herbs, the tuna is the centerpiece, surrounded by vegetables and condiments. You can make this several hours in advance, with the dressing on the side. I have even enjoyed leftovers several days later.
One head Romaine lettuce
Three medium red-skinned potatoes
One half pound haricots verts (very thin French green beans), or regular fresh green beans, ends trimmed and sliced into two to three inch lengths, (or, frozen, defrosted haricots verts, which you will not re-cook)
Three medium tomatoes
Two five-ounce cans tuna, packed in olive oil (for flavor!), drained
Ten Kalamata olives (Greek black olives; I prefer the taste with pits)
Ten large pimiento-stuffed green olives
One green pepper, seeded, and sliced into thin rings
One half cup chopped celery
Three hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered
One two-ounce tin anchovies, drained and patted dry
One small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
Two green onions, chopped
Two tablespoons minced fresh thyme or other fresh herbs, such as tarragon or basil
Two tablespoons minced fresh flat leaf parsley
(This yields approximately three-fourths of a cup. You may wish to double the recipe. Do not be surprised by the amount of oils in comparison to the vinegar. This is a classic French dressing, and is delicious.)
Three tablespoons red wine vinegar
One clove garlic, finely minced
Two teaspoons Dijon mustard
Five tablespoons good quality salad oil
Five tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Wash the lettuce several hours ahead; cut off the core end and separate the leaves. Pat dry with paper towels. Wrap in dry paper towels and refrigerate for several hours to crisp up.
Boil potatoes in salted water until barely tender, about twenty minutes. Drain, allow to slightly cool, then peel, cut into thin slices, and set aside. If using fresh beans, boil in salted water until barely tender, only a few minutes, Drain and rinse in cold water, adding ice to set the color; set aside. If using frozen beans, simply defrost. Cut tomatoes into wedges.
To assemble the salad: Use a large wooden salad bowl (for presentation). Tear lettuce into nice-size pieces and put in bowl. Place large chunks of tuna in the center. In a circular fashion, surround with tomato wedges, green beans, potatoes, olives, green pepper, and egg. Place desired amount of anchovies on top of the tuna. Reserve remaining anchovies in a covered container in the refrigerator for another recipe or snack.
Scatter red onion rings over the salad, and finally sprinkle with the green onions and herbs. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until serving.
To make the dressing: Place vinegar, garlic, and mustard in a medium-size bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the oils, until dressing is smooth and thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
At serving time, allow guests to pour dressing over their own salads.
Yield: Four to eight main course servings.