Seasonal Cooking | 11 Simple Beautiful Summer Salads

Sometimes we forget that simplest is bestest.

Elizabeth David Tomato Simply Dressed, Cucumber Simply Dressed

I ran into a lady today from Northern France and we chatted about France and French food. I have spent some time living and working in the North East of France, so it was great to chat to such a beautiful lady.

Coincidentally, I have just started to re-read, Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking. I love the simple approach to food and the reverence she shows to food and eating.

Simple is Best

For those of us who love cooking, it is easy to get carried away with the complexities of creating flavours and tastes, of cooking slow or fast, of whether we should chop, grind, blend or mince.

Sometimes we forget that simplest is bestest. We no longer live in an age where the food is not fresh or of good quality and must be hidden with sauces and gravies, spices and herbs.

We live in an age where we have access to food of incredible quality.

You can Ottolenghi your salads all you want, or Bittman them, or simply Elizabeth David them. But you do need the  very best of ingredients for Elizabeth David’s.

Thank you, Elizabeth David, for reminding us of this. I want to share with you her thoughts on simple ways with vegetables and salads.

You might also be interested in our Salad recipes here.  Or perhaps browse our French recipes here. Find some inspiration from our Summer recipes here.


Raw Vegetables

The following is from French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David. The bolding, numbering and paragraphing is mine, so you can locate information easily.

Radish Salad

  1. Sliced very firm raw tomatoes, dressed with the minimum of oil, lemon and seasoning, sprinkled with finely chopped parsley.

Tomato and Radish Salad with Dill

  1. Cucumber sliced very thin and dressed in the same way.

Elizabeth David Tomato Simply Dressed, Cucumber Simply Dressed

  1. Radishes, washed, trimmed of excess greenery but left otherwise as god made them, rather than disguised as water lilies.

Radishes with Sea Salt

  1. Raw Florentine fennel, the outer leaves removed, the heart cut into quarters, and sprinkled with plenty of lemon juice to prevent it turning brown. Or alternatively, cut into fine strips. Dress with oil, salt, lemon.

Fennel and Apple Salad | Autumn | Salads | Vegetarian | A Life Time of Cooking

  1. Celery treated the same way.

Simple Celery Salad

  1. Very young broad beans, piled on a dish in their pods, to be eaten a la croque au sel i.e. simply with salt.
  1. Raw red and green peppers, cut into the thinnest of rounds, all seeds and core carefully removed, dressed with oil, prepared in advance and perhaps mixed with a few black olives.

Sweet Peppers and Olive Salad

  1. Raw carrots very finely grated, the red part only, the yellow core being discarded; the resulting preparation almost a puree, is mixed with a very small amount of finely chopped shallot, a little oil, lemon juice, salt and a pinch of sugar if necessary, depending on the quality of the carrots.

This salad is particularly delicious – sweet and light. In a hurry I make it with the whole, peeled carrot rather than removing the core.

Elizabeth David's Carrot Salad

  1. Celleri-rave remoulade, [i.e.] peeled and washed celeriac, shredded on the special crinkled blade of the mandoline into match-sized strips, put straight into a bowl of acidulated water to preserve its colour; blanch a few seconds in boiling salted water, drained very dry, mixed with a thick [yogurt] mayonnaise very highly seasoned with salt, mustard and a good deal more vinegar than is ordinarily allowed.

I also love to mix celeriac with a fennel puree and tahini dressing. It can be made tart and mustardy too, if desired.

Celeriac and Carrot with Fennel Tahini Dressing

  1. A salad of cooked vegetables supplies the soft element of an hors-d’oeuvre; it may be potato salad, white haricot beans, beetroot, leeks, french beans. Boil them, in the case of potatoes and beetroots, in their skins. Keep them firm; drain them carefully. Always skin and season them while still hot with a dressing of oil, vinegar or lemon, salt, pepper; a little mustard if you like. According to taste add a little chopped shallot or garlic; parsley, chives or tarragon.

Potato Salad | Salads | Summer | Vegetarian | Life Time of Cooking

  1. A rice salad, mixed with a few strips of sweet pepper, comes into the same category; again, keep the rice on the firm side; season while hot, not forgetting a little nutmeg and tarragon vinegar as well as oil, salt and pepper. (Other grains can be used – freekeh, coarse burghul, couscous, buckwheat etc.)

Rice and Sweet Pepper Salad

Simple Tomato Salad

Cucumber Salad

Capsicum Salad

Celery Salad

Kohlrabi and Celery Salad, Elizabeth David style

Broad Bean Salad with Fennel Flowers, Mint, Tiny Green Peaches

Carrot Puree Salad

Fennel Salad

Drizzling the fennel with garlic infused olive oil in place of the normal evo adds another dimension to the salad. Delicious!

Fennel salad with white and red radishes from the garden, olive oil and lemon juice, with some watermelon rind pickles.

Green Bean Salad with Mustard Dressing and Pickled Watermelon Rind

This salad is also very good sprinkled with some brown mustard seeds roasted in a little oil till they pop. Use your olive oil to pop them – it will become mustard seed-infused, then mix the oil and mustard seeds with a little mustard paste, vinegar and seasoning.

Beetroot Salad with Black Pepper, Black Mustard Seed and Cumin Seed

I love black pepper with beetroot, so it is liberally used here, along with black mustard seed and cumin seed that have been roasted in a little oil until the mustard seeds pop. Vinegar, oil, salt, chives.

Grilled Leek Salad with Peaches and Walnuts

Roasted or char grilled leeks combined with poached leeks for flavour variation, with toasted walnuts and grilled peaches (optional). Dressed with lemon or vinegar, oil and salt and white pepper. Can be strewn with chopped parsley or tarragon. Even nice with feta and dill.

White Bean Salad

Simple white bean salad with chopped parsley and chives, lemon or vinegar, oil and salt and pepper. Add a little mustard or garlic if desired. Today I topped it with chopped radish and watermelon rind pickle. The tart pickle lifts the salad and pairs well with the creaminess of the beans.


26 thoughts on “Seasonal Cooking | 11 Simple Beautiful Summer Salads”

  1. in chez panisse, alice waters’ restaurant in berkeley, the appetiser is often just a pear, or another seasonal fruit or vegetable in its perfect organic state. those are things we’ve forgotten how to savour and appreciate.

  2. first time here….love the write up, pics are fabulous and yeah we have forgotten to savour simplicity….cheers!!

  3. wonderful post. its simple food which works best for me. thank you for dropping in my blog and leading me to ur beautiful blog 🙂

  4. Welcome sia – love your blog. Thanks for commenting on the vege photos – they are from Borough Market in London. I fell in love with the market and would travel often across town to it when I was in London in January.

  5. Elizabeth David is my cookbook idol. Do you know Edouard de Pomiane? He was an idol of Elizabeth David. Some of his cookbooks from the 1930s are back in print. He’s really delightful and very informative.

  6. I loved your pic of the radishes! Vegetables are so colorful and vibrant! I also heard that Chef Waters serves a single radish with sea salt as the first course depending on season. Lovely, isn’t it? I have also added you onto my blogroll.

  7. Hi rockyroadoflove. No I don’t kow Edouard, but I will certainly look him up. His books sound wonderful reading.

    Lydia, thank you for your comments. I am slowly ever so slowly re-reading Elizabeth, one recipe at a time.

    Hi Alpha, aren’t those radishes sublime? It could almost be a photo from India with that vibrant blue in the background. I love the concept of 1 radish with the best salt available (Celtic Sea Salt for me). It makes us so much for mindful of our food.

  8. ED’s “French Provincial Cooking” is one of my all-time favorites. And as Rocky Road of Love mentioned, Pomiane is a treat to read. (I gave copies away of his “French Cooking in Ten Minutes” for a little contest I ran months ago.) Likely you would enjoy him given your regard for ED.

    Those radishes! I want to take up bunches of them and grate them into slaw.

  9. Indeed, there is no need to do anything much other than treat such snappy, vibrant produce any other way. I have a copy, somewhat dusty, lying around. Will dig it out again and lie around reading it this afternoon.

    Those artichokes are spiky and stunning. From a recent market visit?

  10. Your site is a pleasure to visit. Thanks a ton for dropping by my blog & leaving such nice comments! ED’s “French Provincial Cooking” sounds like such an interesting read….wonder if I’ll ever find it on my spot on the globe?? Cheers

  11. It really looks like I should get Pomiane! Thanks Susan for endorsing the recommendation. It does sound so good. Lucky us, who read cook books like others read novels.

    Hi Lucy, the photos were taken in London in January this year, at the Borough Markets, a very very favourite spot of mine.

    Hello Passionate Baker. I made your ginger cooler today and sit here sipping it in the heat. How wonderfully nice is that? ED’s books are wonderful to read. Hope you can find them there – where are you in India?

  12. Hi, your vegetables look out of this world! I ate a beetroot curry yesterday at this curry house and I didn’t realize it was beetroot at all. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we had some fresh lovely vegetables served more often that really taste as it is?

  13. Great post. I think this is exactly why I like gardening so much. The food is so pure when you get it from your garden. I’m not familiar with Elizabeth David, but will definitely keep an eye out for this book.

  14. Hi Nadine T. Lovely to have you visit. Glad you like this blog. You are right, I don’t eat any flesh or eggs.

    Kalyn, I agree with you about gardening. So different in taste when food is straight from the garden and still warm from the sun. ED’s books are wonderful – written in around the 60’s I think. They are classics so keep an eye out for them.

  15. Hi Laurie, i just looked at your blog and I love it! I love the photos of making Hilopites. They are amazing. I will visit again. Thanks for your comment, and yes, get those ED books down off the shelf again.

Welcome! I hope you are enjoying what you see here. Thank you so much for your comment and your thoughts.

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