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sunday dinner: best of summer salad & avocado feta toasts.

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It’s that time of year, folks. The dog days of summer — that perfect time when the days are long and the sun is high and clouds are sparse. The summer in New York has been glorious, GLORIOUS I tell you, which is completely unexpected and I thank my lucky stars each and every day for such atypical temperatures. This is my kind of polar vortex, people.

This time of year also means that when I food shop, I’m spendin’ my dollahs at the farmer’s market, y’all. The farm stands are positively bursting with fresh produce around here, and it is divine. You haven’t really eaten a tomato until you’ve eaten a farmer’s market tomato in the month of August. Real talk.

If you’re doing it right, meals this time of year require little cooking (if any) and they should heavily feature fresh vegetables (mostly tomatoes, the tomatoes in these parts are unreal this time of year). And this little ditty fits the bill just perfectly. The salad is fresh and bright (the addition of parsley and mint to the salad greens takes it to another level, promise), and the toasts round out the meal with creamy and salty and a little crunch. Roasting lemons was new for me, but it added such a lovely citrus flavor to the salad and also provided a bit of crunch — a new age crouton, if you will. If I had a back patio, I’d be enjoying this with a bottle of wine, a little Glenn Miller Orchestra Pandora station, and a summer sunset. Sososo good.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Best of Summer Salad with Roasted Lemons & Avocado Feta Toasts

Best of Summer Salad (adapted from Bon Appetit)
1 carton mixed small tomatoes, halved
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, torn if large
1 cup arugula or other fresh salad greens
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roasted Lemons
1 lemon, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced, seeds removed
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lemon Vinaigrette (adapted from Martha Stewart)
juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon course salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Avocado & Feta Toasts (makes 4 toasts)
2 slices multigrain bread, cut on the diagonal
½ avocado, sliced
4 slices feta cheese, preferably bulgarian feta but french or greek will do
8 arugula leaves
olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

First things first. The lemons and the toasts are going to take the longest, so we need to get those going so we can focus on everything else. For the lemons, preheat the oven to 325 and at the same time, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil on the stove. Once boiling, drop the lemon slices in the water and cook for two minutes. This takes the bitterness out of the lemons so when they roast, they’ll take on a sweet, citrus flavor. While the lemons are cooking, quickly chop the sage. Strain the lemons from the water and spread onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toss thoroughly with the sage, sugar and olive oil, then season well with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes until dry and slightly browned.

Once the lemons are in the oven, grab another baking sheet and lay your toasts out in a single layer. Brush each toast with olive oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper. Place the toasts in the oven with the lemons and cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until the toasts are nicely brown and crisp.

While the lemons and toasts are in the oven, slice the tomatoes and onions and throw ’em in a big bowl with all of the greens (parsley, mint, arugula). Season veggies and greens with freshly ground salt and pepper and set aside.

Next, let’s make some vinaigrette. Now, you can totally use your favorite store bought dressing if you don’t want to go through the trouble of making your own, but the freshness of this vinaigrette is the perfect compliment to the veggies and greens, so I highly recommend taking the time. The easiest way to make the dressing is to combine the lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a jar or lidded container and shake to combine until the sugar and salt are dissolved into the liquid. Then, add the olive oil and shake again until combined. Taste and adjust ingredients if necessary.

When the lemons are fully cooked, remove from oven and allow to cool for approximately 10 minutes. Once cool enough to touch, remove from baking sheet and add to the bowl with the veggies and greens.

Finally, just before the toasts come out of the oven, slice the avocado and feta and set aside.

Dress the salad with your preferred amount of lemon vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper.

Place one piece of feta and 1-2 slices of avocado on each toast, then top each toast with a few leaves of arugula. Drizzle each toast with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Serve toasts along side the salad, and don’t forget a big ol’ glass of wine (it’s summer, so rosé is the obvious choice). This meal is light but filling, the perfect celebration of summer’s best ingredients. Enjoy!

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