Originally published in the August 2011 issue of CWN.
In the baking Hudson Valley summer days, one cannot help but notice the beautiful crop of vegetables and fruits lining the winding roads. From perfectly sweet peppers to the full and almost floral flavor of a vine-ripened summer squash, our area is an abundant cornucopia of beautiful produce. Town after town offers farmers’ markets and roadside farm stands that provide the foundation to any farm-fresh meal.
For a refreshing and seasonal summer lunch straight from the farm, make your own Mesclun Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette.
Begin by mixing together a quarter cup of finely minced shallots, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (available at many Hudson Valley wineries). Next, slowly pour in 1/3 cup of olive oil while briskly mixing with a fork or whisk. Mix until the oil and vinegar look properly combined and finish with a pinch of salt and pepper. Next gently fold in 1 pound of local Mesclun green mix, making sure to avoid bruising. After combining salad greens, mix in 1 cup of crumbled goat cheese and 6 or 7 roughly chopped leaves of fresh mint, which can be found wild throughout our area. (If you would rather avoid the scavenger hunt, pick it up at your local farm stand or marketplace).
From the initial crunch of the greens to the tangy bite of the vinegar and mustard to the balancing creaminess of the goat cheese, this meal is simple yet wonderful. It combines for a symphony of flavor and texture. Serve with a piece of freshly grilled chicken from the barbecue and you have yourself a tasty and energy-packed meal that will keep you going throughout the rest of your day.
Find a shady place outside with a nice breeze, pour a glass of ice-cold white wine, leave your cell phone inside, and simply enjoy. To me, taking the time out of your day to relax and eat a good meal is a cure-all for the world’s problems. Thoughts of the debt ceiling and that bill you need to pay will slowly melt away as you kick back and enjoy the beauty and perfection that is summertime in the Hudson Valley.