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I spent hours weeding yesterday. I think it was approximately 400 degrees out. There were four of us weeding my great-aunt’s former vegetable garden at Tulipwood that I ambitiously thought we should “plant” this year. All of it. I don’t think anyone has ever successfully completed the task of  taming all of that garden. It is big. There are many deer. Many woodchucks. A 7-foot deer fence and underground fence wire still doesn’t seem to deter some mysterious critters that have been feasting on whatever they please, whenever they please.

But I wanted it all this year. I was going to do it. So we ordered about 25 varieties of fruits and vegetables, rototilled that thing and seeded away.

Needless to say, it has been a battle against Mother nature of epic proportions.

My shoulders are a cherry red color, and my hands sore from the weeds.

But yesterday, we tamed the jungle and I can see my vegetables again.

Things are even thriving in certain cases, in others, they are just little nubs of unrealized potential.

Yes, I was too ambitious. But can you blame a girl for wanting her vegetables?

I had this summer salad over 4th of July weekend and I found it so inspiring that I wanted to share.

My friends in Arkansas made it… it’s the epitome of living off the best their hands can produce. Except I should add that they have some serious farm equipment down there that I lack… we’re talking crop dusters and things. Like little yellow planes that fly around and drop “mist.” I like to pretend it’s mist in my own head at least.

But then the farmers have their own kitchen gardens of sorts that also do so well. I’ve never seen so much basil in one place as at my friend Paul Michael’s front door. So this summer salad was an inspiration because it was literally what everyone gathered from their garden and brought to the party.

I think that is such a fun way to make a salad… see what your guests bring and throw it all together.

In our case, we had beautiful fresh basil.

And thin shavings of a hard Italian cheese.

Some banana peppers. Which we pickled quickly just for fun, but were also delicious raw because they had a little kick.

Then some thin slices of eggplant, quickly grilled until tender.

Nice thick raw slices of Vidalia onion.

Then of course thick slices of tomato from a town called Warren.

Did you know that Warren, Arkansas is called the “tomato capital of the world?”

Warren puts magic potion in their tomatoes because they were seriously delicious.

Cucumber goes well here too. Along with some fresh raw corn cut from the cob.

Do you ever dress your salads with lemon juice? I’m kind of into that this summer. It is a little less harsh than vinegar and doesn’t require as much oil to balance it out which makes it a lighter salad.

A nutty oil is fun too… hazelnut or walnut. It has a strong flavor so you don’t need as much.

And of course salt and pepper.

Here’s another trick I learned in the cheffy world: salt and lemon juice balance each other. So if you put too much of one, add more of the other and it will salvage your dish.

Layering a salad on a platter, is such a fun way to present all of the summer ingredients that come through your doorway. And it’s a fun interactive way to have a salad at a party. Everyone bring their own vegetable… even if it’s just purslane from their sidewalk cracks!

Give it a try sometime guys.

“Summer Salad”

Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Servings: 8 servings


  • 4 ears of raw corn cut from the cob
  • 3 large tomatoes cut into thick slices
  • 1 large white onion cut into thick rings
  • 1 large cucumber peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup Manchego or another similar hard cheese cut into shavings
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • Optional: 1 eggplant thinly sliced and grilled
  • Optional: banana or bell peppers thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive hazelnut, or walnut oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


  • Lay the corn, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, Manchego and basil (plus any other vegetables) on a platter, alternating so that each ingredient is evenly distributed.
  • Drizzle with lemon juice, oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve!


  • Lana @ Never Enough Thyme
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    This looks like one seriously delicious salad! I’ve got so much basil, thyme, oregano and dill in my garden right now plus banana peppers and cubanelles. And, yes to the lemon juice! Love a little lemon juice and olive oil dressing. Hungry now 🙂

  • Allyn
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Lemon juice is seriously the key ingredient of my favorite salad dressing of all time, especially right now when it’s a billion degrees and the thought of a heavy dressing makes me want to hurl.
    I just moved about two months ago, so my garden is very limited this year, but I’ve got BIG plans for next year!

  • Amanda
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    I love how you challenge me to think differently about salad! You are so creative!

  • Tickled Red
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    I know what you mean about conquering weeds darlin’. Our garden was simply a mess this year compared to last year but you are right. The veggies are so worth it 🙂 Fantastic summer salad!!

  • susan
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    you say Manchego cheese and you’ve sold me! I love layered salads and generally use just lemon juice on my arugula or thinly sliced artichokes. yet, I can see it totally working with this. I love all the components of this salad and my have to create something similar tonight.

  • Lucy Lean
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Nancy Silverton uses lemon juice in her rucola salad at Mozza – always love this in a dressing – perhaps more so than vinegar – that is one BIG salad!

    • Post Author
      Posted July 22, 2011 at 6:28 am

      Yes, everything is “big” at the Arkansas parties, haha.

  • Deliciously Organic
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    What a creative salad! Hope your sunburn fades quickly. I’m sure those vegetables will be worth it!

  • Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    I like that idea of a vegetable garden party, what a creative way to throw a get together.

  • Laurie @SimplyScratch
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Nothing like using ingredients straight from your own garden! Congrats on your garden… I hope to have one of my own someday… until then, I steal from my moms! 🙂

  • Kathleen
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Oh my gosh! This salad is a work of art!

  • Marla
    Posted July 22, 2011 at 4:30 am

    This interactive salad idea is so fun! You are very ambitious with that huge garden & I think you should ask my son if you could borrow his John Deere tee.

    • Post Author
      Posted July 22, 2011 at 6:30 am

      Haha, yes, I need one of those shirts! I bought my brother a “Farmers Rock” t-shirt for his birthday yesterday in a similar bright green color. They are a good motivator in the garden ; )

  • HeatherChristo
    Posted July 22, 2011 at 5:28 am

    Seriously- that is so cool. My mouth was hanging open at how fantastic that idea is. Too bad I am the only one of my friends that has a vegetable garden. Maybe I have enough for everyone…..

    • Post Author
      Posted July 22, 2011 at 6:30 am

      Yeah, and you could always make them forage or get creative, ha!

  • Nancy@acommunaltable
    Posted July 25, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    So glad to have found another lemon juice/oil/salt dressing fan!! This is pretty much my “go to” dressing during the summer – simple, basic and doesn’t mask the flavors of whatever I put it on!!

    I think “potluck” salad is a fabulous idea – will be great to try at our block party!!

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