There’s such a profusion of seasonal deliciousness in the summer that it makes me dizzy just to think about it. I’m constantly trying to come up with ways to cram as much fresh produce into my meals as possible.

I like variety, simple preparation, and ingredient combinations that are filling, but don’t weigh me down. These salad recipes are my go-tos whether I’m enjoying a solitary meal on the terrace at the end of the day or have a house full of visitors from away.

This time of year, I do the bulk of my grocery shopping at the farmers market and especially love when an enterprising gardener with an over-abundance of tomatoes and lettuce sets up a makeshift stand at the roadside. I’m more than happy to drop my dollars into the honor-system receptacle and come away with dinner.

Panzanella, or what I call, “Bread Salad” is high on my menu list when tomatoes are in season. There are so many way to make this! Just start with bread and tomatoes and go from there. This is best served at room temperature after the bread soaks up the tomatoes’ juices.

Another favorite is Yoga Salad, which I make all through the year, but I like it best with the addition of fresh Maine blueberries. I first discovered this nutty salad when I spent time at a yoga retreat at the Kripalu Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. I remember I couldn’t get enough and vowed to recreate it as soon as I returned home. I have made this salad in more ways than I could ever count including the addition of chopped apples and even chunks of butternut squash when autumn comes around.

In case you’ve never used wheat berries, they’re nutritious, delicious and can be found at the grocery store with rice, or in the bulk section of the produce department.

Both the panzanella and Yoga Salad can take on the addition of chicken or sausages if you want to make it more of a substantial main dish.

The story about Bowdoinham Salad takes me back to when I was a young mom in the ‘70s and received a beautiful cookbook on my birthday. It contains a stunning photograph of a platter of sliced cucumbers, watermelon and strawberries.

With that combo in mind, I developed Bowdoinham Salad, named so because when our family moved to Maine in 1982, we settled into a Bowdoinham farmhouse where we had the most wonderful garden and enjoyed the fine tradition of picking at the fields on the shores of the Kennebec River. To this day, we still pick strawberries in those same fields.

Yes, Bowdoinham has a special place in ours hearts and this salad celebrates all that this town means to us.

Greek Panzanella

Croutons:
1/4 cup olive oil

1 loaf sourdough bread, cut in cubes to make approximately 6 cups

Sea salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan and add bread. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, tossing frequently until browned.

Salad:
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced

2 red and/or yellow peppers, seeded and diced

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 small red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced

6 ounces feta cheese, diced

1/2 cup black olives, halved

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar

3 teaspoons garlic, minced

1-2 tbsp. fresh oregano

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup olive oil

For the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients except olive oil in a glass measuring cup and blend together. Whisking constantly, slowly add olive oil to make an emulsion.

Combine vegetables, olives, and feta in a large bowl and set aside.

Add vinaigrette and bread cubes to vegetables and toss. This is even better if you let it sit for about 30 minutes so flavors are enhanced. Season to taste and serve at room temperature. Yield: 4-6 servings

Yoga Salad:
1/3 cup wheat berries

1 cup uncooked brown rice

2 1/4 cups water

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup blueberries or raisins

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup grated carrot

1/4 cup scallions, chopped

2 tbsp. fresh parsley and/or cilantro, chopped

Dressing:
4 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tsp. sesame oil

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously.

Rinse wheat berries and soak for a minimum of 1 hour in water to cover. Drain and set aside.

Rinse and drain rice. In a medium saucepan, combine water, salt, wheat berries and rice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes, until the wheat berries and rice are tender. Transfer to a bowl, fluff with a fork, and allow to cool.

Stir in blueberries or raisins, carrots, scallions, and herbs. Toss with dressing. Yield: 4-6 servings

Bowdoinham Summer Salad:
4 cups watermelon, cut in 1-inch cubes

4 cups strawberries, halved

4 cups cucumbers, halved and sliced

1 5-ounce package baby spinach or other salad greens, optional

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup white wine or white balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tbsp. honey

For the vinaigrette, combine ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously.

Toss together all ingredients except greens. Add a splash of vinaigrette. Serve on greens if you would like. Yield: 6-8 servings

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