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September salads — who needs lettuce?

Zucchini, cucumber, pepper and tomatoes (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

September brings the waning days of summer. It also brings lots of veggies: plentiful tomatoes and peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, corn. These veggies make great salads.

When most people picture salads, they think lettuce — or maybe spinach or kale. But summer vegetables like peppers, corn, tomatoes and cucumbers can be the main part of the salad, with some fresh greens like arugula, parsley or dill thrown in for spice.

Nothing compares to the taste of a tomato eaten straight off the vine: fragrant, juicy and warm from the heat of the late afternoon sun. Colorful, glossy bell peppers, in their rainbow of colors, are crisp with rich flavor that doesn’t compare to peppers shipped from California in winter. Garden cucumbers, or those locally grown and available at the farmers market, are also a far cry from their store-bought counterparts, which are waxed for better storage, watery and lack the flavor of those freshly picked. Zucchini is plentiful and cheap at farm stands and farmers markets. Though we usually eat them cooked, they are delicious raw in salads. Even corn can be stripped from the cob and added to a delicious salad. Who needs lettuce?

Summer vegetables are plenteous and healthy. They’re an excellent source of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants — even more so when eaten raw rather than cooked.

Many ethnic salads use tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers or zucchini. Some Middle Eastern and central European salads add pickles to the summer veggie mix. One example is made with sweet bell peppers, sweet onions and pickles; sometimes, tomatoes, zucchini or cucumbers are added. You only need the pickle juice and a little olive oil for dressing!

A veggie salad (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern vegetable salad made with tomatoes, bulgur wheat and parsley, seasoned with salt, olive oil and lemon juice. Mizeria is a central European salad made with cucumbers, scallions or onions, salt and sour cream or yogurt. Tomatoes or corn may be added. Shirazi is the Persian cucumber-tomato salad popular in Iran. Kachumber, from India, is made with cucumbers, tomatoes and cabbage. In Algeria, Salatat Khiyar is made with cucumber, bell pepper, green olives, mint and coriander seasoned with a light vinaigrette. A popular Greek salad combines zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers and onions with feta cheese, fresh mint, olive oil and lemon.

Traditional or modern, there are so many ways to combine these end-of-summer delights into delicious salads.

Colorful Veggie Fiesta Salad

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 small clove garlic, crushed or grated

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

1 large sweet onion

1 small yellow zucchini, sliced thin (about 1/2 to 1 cup)

1 small green zucchini, sliced thin (about 1/2 to 1 cup)

1 small cucumber, sliced thin (about 1/2 to 1 cup)

1 avocado, peeled and chopped, optional

2 Tablespoons crumbled feta cheese, for garnish

2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions:

Crush garlic with salt in mortar and pestle. In bottom of salad bowl, combine olive oil, salt, pepper lemon juice, and crushed garlic. Whisk well.

Wash and seed the peppers, and cut into thin strips. Peel the onion and cut into thin half-rings. Rinse zucchini and cucumber and slice thin. Toss vegetables into the dressing; stir well to combine. Allow to marinate in the dressing at least 30 minutes. Garnish with feta cheese and fresh minced parsley before serving. Serves 4.

Main Dish Cucumber and Corn Salad

Ingredients:

1/2 cup ditalini pasta

1 cup diced cooked chicken

2 cups diced cucumber

1 cup corn kernels

1 cup diced tomato

2 scallions, diced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup yogurt

1/2 cup sour cream

Mint, dill or parsley sprigs, for garnish

Directions:

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain and cool.

Dice cucumber and tomato. Slice scallions thinly. Cut chicken into small cubes. Combine cucumber, scallions, corn kernels, chicken and cooked ditalini in salad bowl. Sprinkle with salt; stir in yogurt and sour cream.

Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com, yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook as Author Yvona Fast.

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