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Maine Dish: Fruit salads for warm evenings

During the hot, dog days of summer, our dining style becomes more casual and relaxed. The gardens and farmers markets are bursting with fresh fruits and vegetables that are a delight to devour during the intense heat. The fresh produce comes with the added benefit of being healthy for your body.

My favorite part of summer eating is the juicy season of berries: succulent strawberries, ripe raspberries and wild blueberries. These fruits are filled with flavonoids, which help fight many serious illnesses. They increase blood flow throughout the body, regenerate skin and decrease sensitivity to light, making the skin look brighter and improving texture. As an added nutritional benefit, berries are also packed with fiber — about 8 grams per cup.

The recipe for Summer Fruit Salad is merely a guide to create your own easy and delicious burst of good eating. Start with a base of leafy greens: spinach, arugula, tender baby lettuce leaves or crisp romaine. Then add some chopped, fresh veggies. This season we had a bumper crop of sugar snap peas. Bright yellow summer squash, tender chunks of zucchini or crispy, green cucumbers work too. Enhance the flavor of those tasty greens with some leaves of fresh mint, basil, parsley or coriander.

Then add the berries of your choice.

The raspberry canes I planted two years ago were packed with fruit, and very easy to pick. The wild blueberry harvest is at full tilt. So go wild with Maine’s signature, healthy and intensely sweet fruit!

The finishing touch to your creation is the cheese. We enjoy the contrast of salty, creamy cheese with the lusciousness of the fruit. Blue cheese, local, soft goat cheeses, even grated hard cheeses all add a different flavor component. A dressing prepared from balsamic vinegar and Maine maple syrup completes this addictive salad.

We enjoy our Summer Fruit Salad as a luncheon, served up with piping hot popovers or crusty French bread. For dinner, it is an easy and elegant complement to fish or chicken on the grill. Stock your refrigerator with lots of fresh fruit and veggies and relax, it’s summer eating and it’s fun!

Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. She welcomes food-related questions and comments at [email protected].

Summer Fruit Salad

Makes four servings

For the salad:

4 cups salad greens

¼ cup fresh mint leaves

2 cups fresh fruit; raspberries, wild blueberries

1 cup sugar snap peas

2 oz. crumbled feta

Edible flowers (optional)

For the dressing:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp. maple syrup

½ Tbsp. grainy mustard

Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste

Assemble ingredients and tools.

To prepare the dressing, add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Maine maple syrup and grainy mustard to a small bowl. Whisk until emulsified. Season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper. Set aside.

To prepare the salad, wash and dry the greens. If needed, rip them into small pieces. Remove the mint leaves from the plant. Trim stem ends and strings from the sugar snap peas and cut into slices.

Pick over the berries.

Add the greens and mint leaves to a salad bowl. Add the chopped sugar snap peas. Sprinkle the fruit over the top and add the crumbled feta. Decorate the top with the edible flowers. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.

Nutritional analysis per 2 tablespoons dressing: 77 calories, 0 grams protein, 4.3 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fat, 51 mg. sodium, less than 1 gram fiber.

Nutritional analysis per serving of salad (without dressing): 85 calories, 4 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fat, 170 mg. sodium, 5 grams fiber.

Cheryl Wixson

“Maine Dish” columnist Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. Her passion for organic Maine products led to the creation of her business, Cheryl Wixson’s Kitchen. She welcomes food-related questions and comments at [email protected] or www.cherylwixsonskitchen.com.

Cheryl Wixson

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