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3 flavorful salad recipes featuring summer fruits and vegetables

Photo Credit: Lauren Booker

Grilled Eggplant and Fig Salad


3 flavorful salad recipes featuring summer fruits and vegetables

With a vast selection of amazing fruits and vegetables in season, summer salads in the South can be about more than just leafy greens. Keeping in mind that often what grows together goes together, you can create unique flavor combinations that will leave a lasting impression.

Before we get started, here's a tip: When paired with salty or spicy components, sweet summer fruits can integrate nicely into a savory dish. Using the grill to impart a char onto one ingredient in a salad can add a smoky depth of flavor and also keep the sweetness of the fruit in check. Try that on any of these three sensational salads made from the summer’s bounty.

Grilled Eggplant and Fig Salad

While the flavor of eggplant can often be subtle, grilling it brings out both its creaminess and a faint bitterness that complements the sweet figs. Available in late summer, fresh figs offer mild sweetness and acidity that make them a natural addition to salads. I tend to favor the Black Mission and Brown Turkey varieties, as they are most readily available in the supermarkets; however, if you’re lucky enough to have a fig tree in your back yard, this would be a great outlet. The salty ham and the bright balsamic tie all of the components together -- especially the figs -- with the creamy ricotta. If possible, try to find a prosciutto-style country ham that’s been aged from 22 to 24 months. If not, I'd opt for prosciutto over a younger country ham, as younger hams tend to be a bit chewier.
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Summer Melon and Crab Salad
When the heat becomes nearly unbearable outside, you'll be glad to have this refreshing salad that's full of cooling components. Even though crab has a subtle sweetness, presenting it in a dish with melons highlights its briny, oceanic qualities. A bright, clean vinaigrette of lime, olive oil and a touch of habanero truly wakes up the melon and cucumber flavor. Don’t be afraid of the big bad habanero -- after the seeds have been removed, it offers a nice fruitiness with just a pin-prick of heat, which is also tempered by the cooling melon and cucumber. I’m often not a fan of raw onion in salads; however, it really makes the salad a savory dish in this case. If you’re sensitive to that raw onion bite, try soaking your sliced onions in ice water for 15 to 20 minutes to remove some of the bitterness.
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Peach and Bacon Salad
Deceptively simple, each of this salad’s components bring a big boost of flavor to the party. The sweetness of the peaches, the salty-smoky notes of the bacon, and the spicy punch of the serrano chiles all offer distinct voices that harmonize well with each other. To cool down the heat of the serrano, add fresh mint and chopped, toasted peanuts. Feel free to omit the chiles if heat isn’t your thing, or swap out the serrano for something milder, like a banana pepper. Any stone fruit would be a fantastic substitution if you can’t find ripe peaches, so feel free to try this out with nectarines or plums instead.
Get the recipe here

Author image

Chef Jeffrey Gardner is a native of Natchez, Miss., and a graduate of Millsaps College and Johnson & Wales University. He lives in Atlanta and has served as sous chef for popular restaurants South City Kitchen Midtown and Alma Cocina. In 2013 he became executive chef for East Cobb restaurant Common Quarter and was named one of ten “Next Generation of Chefs to Watch” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. He has appeared on TV shows including Food Network’s Chopped and Cooking Channel’s How to Live to 100, and also filmed a series of healthy cooking videos with retired pro wrestler and fitness guru Diamond Dallas Page. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling the world with his wife Wendy, watching game shows and “spending all his money on Bruce Springsteen concerts.”

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