This time of year, I’m so tempted to just throw a simple green salad tossed with lemon juice and olive oil alongside whatever main I’m serving for dinner every night. When greens are so fresh and flavorful, why make life more complicated? Well, I’ll tell you why: Because the addition of a little dynamic duo — cheese and fruit — takes your salad to the next level, with very little energy expended. Here are four of my favorite combos:
Strawberries + Feta
“You can always, always, always rely on feta to make a gorgeous salad out of practically any summer fruit,” says Emily Nunn, author of the wildly popular Department of Salad newsletter. “The salty, slightly creamy tang is perfect with watermelon or cantaloupe, stone fruit (peaches, plums, nectarines), tomatoes, or all the berries.” Personally, I am partial to the way feta pairs with the sweet acidity of strawberries. Try: Toss gem lettuce with cooled roasted beets, strawberries, torn mint, crumbled feta, scallions, and crushed pistachios. Dressing: In a small jar or measuring cup, shake or whisk 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 1/2 teaspoon honey, salt and pepper. Once mixed, shake or whisk 1/3 cup olive oil into jar in steady stream until emulsified.
Blueberries + Goat Cheese
The tang of goat cheese has always benefited from a touch of sweetness — think how often you see it paired with things like honey, jam, or dried fruit — so it makes sense that it’s a natural partner to summer blueberries. (Shown are July Maine blueberries, but I’m not holding you to that high a standard.) Try: Toss romaine (or mixed greens), goat cheese, blueberries, scallions, and toasted pecans. Dressing: In a small jar or measuring cup, shake 1/4 cup sherry vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, salt and pepper. Once mixed, shake or whisk 1/2 cup oil into jar in steady stream until emulsified.
Peaches/Nectarines + Blue Cheese
Juicy stone fruits — peaches and nectarines, in particular — are a classic match for a savory, pungent blue. It sounds strange, but mold loves sugar! You just want to make sure you have the ripest fruit you can find — an unripe, tart slice of nectarine or peach doesn’t work here. Try: Toss together tomatoes (any kind, but cut into bite size pieces if not grape or cherry), chunked peaches, and crumbled blue cheese. Greens: optional. Dressing: A little olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Figs + Halloumi (or Parm or Blue or Almost Anything)
There’s a reason why fig jam has been appearing on cheese plates across the internet and IRL in the past decade: Figs pair well with almost all flavors from sharp (Parm) to stinky (blue) and, as Ripe Figs author Yasmin Khan reminded last year, to salty (halloumi, above). “For me, the best food combinations are as much about texture as flavor,” says Khan. “In a fig and halloumi salad, the contrast between the sweet, sticky fruit and the salty, squidgy fried cheese gives you the perfect mouthfeel.” Try: Yasmin’s salad! Or arugula with crumbled blue cheese, quartered ripe figs, scallions, chives. Dressing: In a small jar or measuring cup, shake or whisk 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, salt and pepper. Once mixed, shake or whisk 1/2 cup oil into jar in steady stream until emulsified.
(Photo of figs and halloumi for Ripe Figs by Matt Russell.)