Photo: Flickr user roses&pearls
There are some things that taste so good on their own that they need little preparation, and during the dog days of summer this statement is true for me.
Salads are a favorite summer dish, and I eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Typically, breakfast has never been my favorite meal. Mostly they are carb heavy, or intensely greasy, and both carbs and grease tend to make me feel a little queasy. But with summer heat, I find fresh breakfast alternatives are right in my local farmer's market.
Since cucumbers and tomatoes are in abundance right now, I use both as the base to my creations instead of lettuce. Late summer is too hot for lettuce, and if going to buy local, that means looking for a different kind of base ingredient for my greener breakfasts. Cucumbers are comprised mostly of water, so they very helpful in keeping the body hydrated while the heat is on. Tomatoes come in a multitude of colors and shapes and add wonderful color as well as flavor to any salad. Also, as a health note, tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which has been shown to help with bone and blood health.
RECIPE - Simple Cucumber and Tomato Salad: Slice a couple of cucumbers and a couple of tomatoes into chunks and toss in a bowl with white balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. This should be enough to feed two people for a main dish or four people as a large side. White balsamic vinegar is very clean and somewhat sweet, so it doesn't really need other ingredients to spice it upor tone it down. You can always use a simple fresh lemon, fresh ground black pepper and olive oil-based dressing, too. Add-ons: black beans, feta cheese, parley, cilantro, or watercress.
A fellow Type 1 blogger, Jessica Apple, has a website called A Sweet Life and has turned me onto a breakfast salad using portabella mushrooms and a poached egg. What I like about this recipe is that is has a bit more substance to help me get my day started off right. The bed of the salad is an herb medley. You can use parsley, chervil, basil, or dill, and I usually throw in some baby lettuces, like arugula. A time saver may be to buy an herb salad from the market if they are available.
RECIPE- Roasted Beetroot and Vanilla Yogurt: Use about a ½ cup of roasted beets, cut into chunks, and add about a cup of vanilla yogurt. You can add additional flavors by adding wheat germ or fennel seeds. If you want to reduce the sugar from vanilla yogurt, you also can use plain yogurt, and sweeten it with a touch with stevia, honey, or your favorite sweetener. This is another of my favorite breakfast options. It is simple and a great low carb alternative to granola and yogurt. A half-cup of cooked beets is about six grams of carbs. Beets are a very earthy flavor and many people don't like them, but I'm a huge fan of fresh roasted beets. They are a rich source of antioxidants, magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin c.
More on beets
Beetroot also is a great source of dietary nitrate. Nitrates from plants help reduce blood pressure. An American Heart Association study showed that drinking 500 ml of beet juice reduced blood pressure in patients within one hour, and continued to reduce participants' blood pressure for the next three to four hours.
Beets come in several varieties and one of my personal favorites is the golden beet. If the earthy flavor of the red beet is too much for you, you might like golden beets. They are sweeter and caramelize when you roast them, which is a perfect partner to plain yogurt!
How to prepare
Fresh beets can be wrapped in tinfoil and roasted in the oven for about an hour. The foil is really to help with the messy stain left from a red beet. However, golden beets can be peeled and sliced or cut into chunks and roasted on a cookie sheet. Once they are cooked and left to cool, then it's time to think about flavors to combine with the earthy goodness of beets. A salad that my husband and I love includes beets and goat cheese on a bed of arugula, or rocket. You can use both red and golden beets together or substitute golden for red in the recipe.
Summer gives us so much opportunity to find new tastes and new ways of using fresh food, so don't be afraid to sample ripe, fresh fruits and vegetables. Bon appetit!