Summertime–The Garden of Eatin’!

chef tableSummertime is the best time to buy fresh produce at the peak of its season, when flavor is optimum. Farmers’ markets are the perfect place to find a super selection of ripe flavor-packed locally grown fruits and vegetables that are fresh from the fields. Juicy tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, leafy salad greens, fresh herbs, sweet golden corn, big juicy melons . . . the choices are absolutely incredible. Your local supermarket shelves are also overflowing with seasonal fresh produce. It’s easy to be inspired by nature’s beautiful bounty!

Yields 4 servings

Leftover grilled chicken breasts make a wonderful addition to this scrumptious salad. Make an extra batch or two of chicken breasts the next time you cook on the grill. Freeze or refrigerate the extras in a single layer in resealable freezer bags. Thaw, slice, enjoy!

4 grilled chicken breasts (see recipe on the next page)
6 cups mixed salad greens
1 firm ripe mango, peeled and sliced
2 red bell peppers, halved and thinly sliced
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, grated
12 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

3 tablespoons balsamic or rice vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Oriental sesame oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut grilled chicken breasts crosswise into 1/2-inch strips.

Wash salad greens and dry thoroughly.

Arrange salad greens on individual dinner plates. Arrange chicken strips on top of greens.

Top with mango, red peppers, onion, carrots and tomatoes. (If preparing the salad in advance, cover and refrigerate until serving time.)

In a glass jar, combine vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, orange juice, honey and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cover tightly and shake well.

Drizzle the dressing over salad and serve.

Chef’s Secret
Time-Saver Tip: Wash and dry salad greens in advance. Wrap in paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and place in a large resealable bag until needed.

Yields 4 servings

Make an extra batch or two of chicken breasts. The first night, serve grilled chicken hot from the grill for dinner along with Grilled Corn, Red Pepper and Snap Pea Salad (see page 80). Refrigerate or freeze the leftovers. Slice the leftover chicken across the grain and use it in the Grilled Chicken, Red Pepper and Mango Salad.

4 boneless, skinless single chicken breasts
1/2 cup Shake-It-Up Vinaigrette (below)

Combine chicken breasts and vinaigrette in a resealable plastic bag.

Marinate for at least a half hour (or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator).

Remove chicken from marinade. Discard leftover marinade.

Preheat barbecue or grill. Grill chicken 4 to 6 minutes per side, depending on the thickness. Chicken is done when it springs back when lightly touched. It should register at least 165°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Note: May be served hot or cold.

Grilled Chicken, Red Pepper and Mango Salad

Grilled Chicken, Red Pepper and Mango Salad

Yields about 1 cup

This luscious, low-calorie dressing also does double duty as a quick marinade for chicken, beef, fish or vegetables. Dress it up, dress it down, it’s a winner all around.

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup orange juice (preferably fresh) or 3 tablespoons orange juice and 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a jar, cover tightly and shake very well. Mixture will thicken as you shake it. Store in the refrigerator.

Remove from the refrigerator a few minutes before you need it. Shake well.

Note: This will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Chef’s Secret
Instead of combining the salad dressing ingredients in a jar, add the oil, then the vinegar, then the juice to a 2-cup glass measuring cup. No need to empty between additions. You’ll have 1 cup of dressing. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk well, using a mini whisk or fork.

• Substitute canola, walnut or grapeseed oil for olive oil.

• Use rice, balsamic or white wine vinegar instead of red wine vinegar.

• Instead of orange juice, use mango or pineapple juice.

• Instead of honey, use maple syrup, brown sugar or granular Splenda.

• Add 1/2 a teaspoon dried thyme, basil or rosemary for an herb-flavored version. If desired, add 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or coriander. Add 1 shallot, minced, as a flavor booster.

Yields 8 servings

This is a fabulous way to serve corn when it’s in season. No barbecue? No problem! Just boil the corn and sauté the peppers in a little oil.

6 ears of corn on the cob (discard husks)
2 red bell peppers, halved and seeded
Oil for brushing
1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat barbecue. Brush corn and bell peppers lightly on all sides with oil.

Grill corn and peppers on all sides until slightly charred, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the barbecue and let cool.

Cut corn off the cob with a sharp knife. Cut peppers into long narrow strips. Cut snap peas open lengthwise along their ‘seam’ so the tiny peas are exposed. Combine corn, peppers and snap peas in a large salad bowl.

Measure olive oil in a glass measuring cup. Add rice vinegar and maple syrup or honey and stir to combine.

Add dressing and basil to the salad. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Serve chilled.

Note: Leftovers will keep for 2 days in the refrigerator.

Yields 4 main dish servings

This scrumptious salad is ideal for a hot summer day. What a wonderful way to showcase the bounty of summer’s harvest!

1 cup quinoa (white or red)
2 cups water
1 large cucumber, chopped (do not peel)
4 firm ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
5 or 6 green onions (scallions), chopped
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and well-drained (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup black olives, pitted
1 cup crumbled feta cheese plus 1/2 cup additional feta for garnish

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook quinoa in boiling water in a covered saucepan for 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Transfer quinoa to a bowl, cover and refrigerate while you prepare the remaining salad ingredients.

Combine the chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, bell pepper, green onions, parsley and basil in a large salad bowl. (You can chop them very quickly in a food processor using a steel blade. Work in batches and use quick on/off pulses. Do not overprocess.)

Add the chickpeas, olives and 1 cup feta cheese to the salad. Add cooled quinoa and mix gently to combine.

Combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey and garlic in a glass jar. Add a dash of salt and pepper, cover tightly and shake well.

Pour dressing over quinoa mixture and toss to combine. Add additional salt and pepper, if needed. Remember, feta cheese is salty! Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup feta on top as a garnish. Serve chilled.

• Instead of quinoa, substitute whole wheat or regular couscous. Combine couscous with 1 1/2 cups boiling water in a large bowl. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.

• Instead of chickpeas, substitute red kidney beans or black beans. Instead of feta cheese, substitute goat cheese.

Watermelon and Feta Salad Photos: Doug Gilletz

Watermelon and Feta Salad
Photos: Doug Gilletz

Yields 8 servings

This refreshing summer salad will be a ‘feta’ in your cap! The combination of sweet watermelon and salty feta cheese is a perfect pairing. In Middle Eastern countries, eating watermelon with salt is quite common.

6 cups mache, mixed salad greens or baby spinach leaves
6 cups cubed seedless watermelon (about 1/4 of a small watermelon cut into 1-inch cubes)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 to 1/2 cup Shake-It-Up Vinaigrette (see earlier recipe)

Wash the salad greens and dry thoroughly.

Place the salad greens in a shallow oval or round bowl or platter. Tuck the watermelon cubes among the greens. Scatter the sliced onion on top and sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese.

Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

Prepare dressing as directed and refrigerate.

At serving time, drizzle the dressing over the salad but don’t toss. Serve immediately.

• Mache is also known as field salad, lamb’s lettuce or corn salad. It has a mild, nutty flavor. You can substitute arugula, Boston, bibb or red leaf lettuce.

• If you have time and patience, use a mini ice cream scoop or melon baller and make small watermelon balls.

Yields 4 servings of 2 slices per person

Many supermarkets sell pineapple already peeled and cored. Other fruits can also be grilled successfully—try peaches, nectarines or mangos.

1 ripe pineapple, peeled and cored
Cooking spray or canola oil

Core and slice the pineapple into circles about 3/4-inch thick. You should have about 8 slices. Spray the slices lightly with cooking spray on both sides or brush lightly with oil.
Place the slices on a hot grill and cook on medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes per side until just heated through and grill marks appear. Serve immediately.

Soak wooden skewers in water for 20 minutes to prevent them from burning on the grill.

Chop a pineapple into 2-inch chunks and push onto the presoaked skewers, alternating with whole hulled strawberries; you should have about 3 pineapple chunks and 3 strawberries on each skewer.

Drizzle lightly with honey or maple syrup and grill over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally, until the edges of the pineapple are golden brown. Serve warm.

Place firm ripe hulled strawberries in a bowl; drizzle lightly with balsamic vinegar and maple syrup or honey. Let stand 10 minutes, then thread onto the presoaked wooden skewers. (To keep the strawberries from spinning around when you turn them over, it’s best to double-skewer them.)

Grill over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until the strawberries are almost tender and grill marks appear. They’re delicious over ice cream!

Chef’s Secret
Ripe for the Picking: Pineapple must be picked ripe because the starch won’t convert to sugar once it has been picked. If pineapple isn’t quite ripe enough when you buy it, store it at room temperature for a few days to reduce its acidity.

Norene Gilletz is the author of nine cookbooks and divides her time between work as a food writer, culinary consultant, spokesperson, cooking instructor, lecturer and editor. Norene lives in Toronto, Canada. For more information, visit her web site at or e-mail her at

Copyright January 21, 2014.

This article was featured in the Summer 2014 issue of Jewish Action.