Lemon Cucumber Greek Salad

Lemon cucumbers and one gherkin cucumber from our garden.

I was lucky enough to travel to Greece with my family when I was a teenager and since then, Greek salad (I think they just call it salad there) has been one of my favorite ways to enjoy cucumbers.  These lemon cucumbers from our garden add a lot of bright color to this crisp summer salad.  The lemon cukes are named for their appearance, inside they look and taste like the cucumbers you are used to.  Their skin is thinner than traditional cucumbers which is why you don’t see them in grocery stores, they need to be eaten or preserved with in about 48 hours of picking them!

Sliced lemon cucumber, slightly green and familiar insides.

Ingredients:

3-4 small-ish cucumbers, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/2 of a medium white or red onion, chopped

a handful or more Kalamata olives, pitted (canned black olives have their place, and it is not in Greek salad!)

1/2 cup chopped peppers (green, yellow or red)

1/2 cup  chopped fresh tomato or halved grape tomatoes

Feta, goat or sheep’s milk, crumbled to cover the top of your salad

Red wine vinegar

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Dried or fresh thyme, oregano and basil (Dana used the lemon basil from our garden which was perfect in this salad!)


Assemble the salad and toss just before serving.

Procedure:

Prep all of your veggies, the amounts are not super important, if you want mostly cucumbers, go for it.  Or use an even amount of each, it’s salad, not rocket science, use what you’ve got, it’ll be good!

Sprinkle equal amounts of the herbs over the top of your mixed veggies.

Add salt and pepper and as many olives as you like.

Drizzle olive oil, you won’t need much, toss to coat and then add half as much vinegar, toss again.

Taste and adjust seasonings.

Crumble enough feta cheese to cover the top of your salad.

Mix and serve!

I would suggest that you be generous with your servings of this salad.  Feta cheese is naturally low in calories compared to other cheeses.   Cucumbers are a more nutrient dense form of water and the amount of olive oil needed in this recipe is relatively low.  What I am saying here is that this dish is high in nutrients, large in size and low in calories.

A colorful way to enjoy the fresh veggies of late summer.

Lately I’ve been able to eat as many green vegetables as my heart desires as they are growing freely in our garden.  I’ve been eating huge dinner plates full of collards and kale and lettuces, several times a day.  And they make me feel full.  Why?  They are highly nutritious and thus feeding the cells of my body that which they need to function optimally.  And my stomach is literally full of food.  Food that contains fiber and fat, which will take me a while to digest, thus I am full for hours.  Conclusion: eat more nutrient dense foods more often!

So may times I’ve been asked, how can I eat such a restricted diet?  No one seems to understand: I eat a diet restricted to the foods that make me feel energized, satiated, happy and healthy, most of the time.  Everything in moderation, including moderation. We shouldn’t all eat everything all the time just because it’s available and conveniently wrapped in non recyclable garbage with a far off expiration date on it.  Seriously, have you seen these?!  A healthy diet is one that contains the foods that make you feel your best and limits everything else to the occasional indulgence.  Sure, you have to do some research (aka paying attention to what you eat and how it makes you feel) and then you’ll have to eliminate some foods and add in new foods.  It’s worth the effort.  It’s pretty amazing how far you can go on a “restricted” diet!

Asparagus and Mushroom Herb Salad

Hadley Grass, looking good.

I have learned to love asparagus.  As a kid, it was my least favorite vegetable.  I’m pretty sure I made my little sister eat most of my share, sorry Elise!  Then one day I had baby asparagus, the thinnest, most tender little stalks lightly steamed and tossed with butter, lemon and salt, perfection!  Larger asparagus is great for the grill and you can even take a peeler to the ends to get rid of the toughest fibers.  This recipe from New York Times writer Martha Rose Shulman is an awesome summer salad.  Asparagus is an excellent, low-calorie source of vitamin K, folatevitamin C, vitamin A and such nutrients as tryptophan, manganese and fiber.

If you live in Massachusetts then you know that we also refer to asparagus as Hadley Grass as the area is famous for its abundant and superior asparagus.  This is a link to a Saveur article on what was once the asparagus capital of the world!  It’s worth the read and the trip to Hampshire County.

Asparagus, herbs, mushrooms and cheese, LOVE! I totally boosted this photo from The New York Times

Asparagus and Mushroom Salad

1 pound asparagus (Both thick and thin stems will work)

1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon and chives

1 cup baby arugula

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (to taste)

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 small garlic clove, minced or mashed

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 ounce slivered Parmesan

1. Steam the asparagus for three to five minutes, depending on how thick the stalks are. It should be tender but still have some bite. Rinse with cold water, and drain for a minute on a kitchen towel. Cut into 1-inch lengths. Place in a salad bowl, and toss with the mushrooms, herbs and arugula.

2. Whisk together the lemon juice, salt and pepper, garlic and olive oil. Toss with the asparagus mixture and the slivered Parmesan, and serve.

Yield: Serves four to six.

Advance preparation: You can assemble this several hours ahead through Step 1 and refrigerate. Toss with the dressing shortly before serving.

Nutritional information per serving (four servings): 222 calories; 4 grams saturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 13 grams monounsaturated fat; 6 milligrams cholesterol; 8 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 5 grams TOTAL carbohydrates; 115 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 7 grams protein

Nutritional information per serving (six servings): 148 calories; 2 grams saturated fat; 1 grams polyunsaturated fat; 9 grams monounsaturated fat; 4 milligrams cholesterol; 5 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 3 grams TOTAL carbohydrates; 77 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 5 grams protein

Martha Rose Shulman is the author of “The Very Best of Recipes for Health.”