Oh, the fleeting Canadian summer. We look forward to the start of the season all year long and then, in the blink of an eye, it’s gone. What seems like out of nowhere, the days get shorter and nights get cooler. For me, I think it’s summer’s short visit that makes it all the more special and all the more important to take full advantage of the bounty of healthy and delicious in-season produce. Thanks to the local-food movement, awareness of the benefits of eating food from our own backyard has increased. We’re paying more attention to the fact that food tastes better (and has more nutrients) when it’s fresh-picked versus sitting on a truck for days or weeks getting shipped from Mexico.
To honour summer, I’ve created a recipe that incorporates the best of our local produce into one beautifully-coloured salad best enjoyed outdoors with friends and family while reliving the highlights of the season.
First check out the awesome health benefits of the vegetables used in this end-of-summer salad:
Green beans contain protein, fibre, vitamins A, B complex, C and K, iron, magnesium, manganese and potassium and are full of chlorophyll (the pigment that makes them green), which is energizing, detoxifying and just super good for you! Green beans are full of antioxidants.
Since sun exposure can cause free radical damage, summer is the perfect time to load up on high antioxidant foods to protect our bodies from their damage. Think of it as eating your sunscreen! Green beans are inexpensive, easy to clean and so versatile to cook with.
When I hear beets I always think of liver health. Beets support the liver which results in better detoxification and consequently an elevated mood and an increase in energy. A healthy liver is central in disease prevention, mental health and overall well-being. Help balance out summer’s indulgences by adding beets or beet juice to your daily routine.
Corn gets a bad reputation these days for its high-sugar content and high likelihood of being genetically modified. Although corn does contain a higher-than-average amount of natural sugars for a vegetable, it still contains less than a quarter of that of an apple. It’s also full of dietary fibre to slow down the digestion of these sugars and offset its negative affects on blood sugar levels.
Corn also contains the phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, which work to protect the health of our eyes. To ensure you’re eating GMO-free corn, choose sweet corn over regular (where the incidence of being GMO is significantly lower) or opt for organic.
Nothing represents summer better than a ripe tomato. Drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, it just doesn’t get better than that for both taste and health. Pairing lycopene, the active antioxidant found in tomatoes, with a little fat helps increase it’s absorption and therefore protective qualities. And what better time of year to consume lycopene-containing foods, as its antioxidants activity helps fights free radical damage caused by UV exposure — another internal sunscreen!
Tomatoes are also high in vitamin C, fibre and water. Enjoy them raw in salads or cook them into a sauce to release even more of their antioxidant power.
This summer squash adds a wonderful nutrient profile, colour and flavour to any seasonal dish. It can easily be enjoyed grilled, steamed or spiralized to become a raw and grain-free alternative to pasta noodles. High in vitamin C, zucchini is great for healthy skin as it promotes collagen production and increases skins elasticity. Naturally anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial due to the oils found in the seeds, zucchini is an immunity-fighting powerhouse and therefore super important to disease prevention.
End-of-Summer Big Salad
½ head of red leaf lettuce (mine was quite large, use the whole if it is small)
2 cobs of corn, husk removed
¼ red onion
10 cherry tomatoes
1-2 heirloom tomatoes
2 large handfuls green beans
2 small zucchinis
5 small beets
¼ cup olive oil
3 tbsps apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1. Wash all vegetables
2. Boil water in a small pot and add beets and boil until beets are tender when you poke them with a fork (about 30 minutes)
3. While beets are boiling cut the stems off the beans and prepare a pot and basket for them to steam in (do not turn on yet)
4. Cut the zucchini on a diagonal to create even slices, then toss with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and set aside
5. Lightly coat the corn with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and set with zucchini
6. Tear the lettuce into bite size pieces and arrange in a pile on the bottom of a large platter
7. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and slice heirloom tomatoes and then slice in half. Arrange tomatoes along a portion on the lettuce (like a slice of pie)
8. Very thinly slice the red onion and fresh herbs and set aside
9. Combine all of the ingredients of the salad dressing and set aside
10. If you have a BBQ, grill the corn and zucchini until slightly charred (zucchini will take less time than corn) or if not, use a grill pan on the stove to cook the vegetables to get the same effect. When you begin to cook the corn and zucchini turn on the stove to steam the beans
11. Once the beans are tender (but still slightly crispy) quickly put them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside
12. Remove beets from the heat and let cool before you peel off the skins. Halve the beets and then slice into quarters and set aside
13. Once corn has cooked slightly use a sharp serrated knife to cut the corn off the cob
14. Arrange all the vegetables over the lettuce in sections and then top with sliced onions, fresh herbs and dressing
Tara Miller is a Toronto-based holistic nutritionist. Her educational background is from The Institute of Holistic Nutrition combined with a degree in psychology from the University of Guelph. This combination allows Tara to address the challenges individuals face when it comes to everyday healthy living. Tara is also the owner of the Health Hut Boutique in Muskoka where she offers effective and toxic-free beauty, household and specialty food items. You can follow her blog for holistic recipes and tips at taramillernutrition.com.