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The Salad Days of Summer

Farmers’ markets have kicked into full gear. And if you’re anything like me, then a trip to a farmers’ market on a sunny Saturday morning is the perfect start to the weekend. My kids love watching the musicians and meeting up with friends. I love looking at the produce: the colourful carrots, funny looking tomatoes, and lettuces that look like bouquets.

A trip the farmers’ market makes me crave salads with an instinctual drive towards taking all that beautiful produce and consuming it for myself.

Unfortunately my children don’t always agree.

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And I understand. Lettuce is leafy, relatively flavourless and about as appealing as eating grass. Though perhaps lettuce’s worst crime is the fact that it is nearly impossible to stab it with a fork. It makes my preschooler so frustrated as she chases it around her plate in a desperate attempt to get it into her mouth.

However, salads are still favourites at our house. And that is because I never serve a boring salad.

So if a salad evokes a picture of a pile of lettuce decorated with a variety of chopped up vegetables and a few bottles of dressing on the table, then you are missing out on the wonderful flavour options that are available.

Here’s a quick rundown of some salad toppings that turn a bland pile of greens into a mouthful of farmers’ market happiness:

Sweet flavours: chopped fresh fruit, dried fruit, berries, candied nuts.

Protein: toasted nuts and seeds, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, bacon bits, smoked fish, leftover cooked meat.

Crunchy toppings: croutons, banana chips, crispy noodles, corn chips or vegetable chips.

Last week I overheard my son talking to his friend about his favourite salads. His friend’s favourite salad was Caesar (always a classic) and my son rattled off these two salads as being his favourite. Not only does he love to eat them, he also loves to help with preparing them!

Taco Salad

Taco anything is delicious, and this salad is no exception. It’s not like the usual throw chili on top of lettuce style of salad. It is a salad that truly celebrates its saladness while still having a delicious taco flavour.

Older children can probably help with all aspects of this recipe. Young children can help with some slicing, grating cheese, measuring and mixing the dressing.

Cooked Bean Mixture:

A clove of garlic minced

Onion chopped

Green Pepper chopped

1⁄2 tsp Oregano

1 can of Kidney or Black beans

1⁄2 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

Salad Dressing:

2 tbsp ketchup

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1⁄4 tsp dry mustard ( or 1 tsp Dijon)

1⁄4 cup oil

2 tbsp white vinegar

1⁄2 tsp brown sugar

dash of hot sauce (optional)

salt and pepper


1 head of lettuce

1 coloured pepper

2 tomatoes

1⁄2 cup grated cheese

1⁄2 cup crushed corn chips

Fry onions, garlic and green pepper in a saucepan until soft.

Mix in the beans and spices. Put the lid on the pan and allow everything to simmer on low for 15 minutes. Then turn off the burner and take the lid off the pan to allow bean mixture to cool down.

Mix all the ingredients for the salad dressing in a jar and shake until combined.

Chop up lettuce, coloured pepper and tomato. Put into a salad bowl.

Toss salad with dressing, then toss in bean mixture and top with cheese and corn chips.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Salad NiÇoise

I think this is popular at my house because my kids love eggs, fish, potatoes and olives. Really, this is a flexible salad that is built in layers. Feel free to let your kids build their own salads so everyone can have a salad they enjoy. Also, this recipe is not like the posh French restaurant version of a Niçoise. But it is easy enough that kids can make it themselves!

Scale the ingredients so that each person gets 1 egg, some fish, 2–3 potatoes, etc.

Italian dressing (or other vinaigrette)


Canned fish or smoked salmon


Waxy potatoes (new potatoes are best)

Vegetables (tomatoes, green beans, asparagus, carrots, coloured peppers, I used farmers’ market garlic scapes for the photo. Really any veg will do.)

Niçoise olives (or black olives)

Put potatoes and eggs in a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 10–15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked.

Wash and dice all the vegetables. If using beans and asparagus, then add them to the pot of potato and eggs for the last 2–3 minutes to cooke them slightly.

Rinse eggs and cooked vegetables until cool. Peel eggs and slice them.

Build the salads on the dinner plates. Start with a bed of lettuce then arrange potatoes, eggs, fish, olives and vegetables in piles on the plate. Top with the dressing and enjoy!

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