created at: 2013-07-11I tend to get in a rut when it comes to summer salads. I forget that “salad” doesn’t mean it has to have a base of leafy greens. Sure, some of the good ones do, but that definition just limits your options. The term is much more broad and becomes even more far-reaching in the summer, when you can find all the makings of a vegetable salad, herb salad or fruit salad right at your fingertips (or at your local farmers market).

I was most recently reminded of this while out to dinner a couple weeks ago at Island Creek Oyster Bar. The chef’s special that night was a crisp salad of snap peas and fava beans in a minty, light dressing. Every bite had great crunch, and the citrusy dressing kept everything together but didn’t overpower it. And there wasn’t a leafy green in sight.

Until this point, I’d really only had snap peas in stir-fries and dipped in hummus; I had discovered how perfectly their sweet crispness works with hummus’ creaminess at a restaurant in Israel years ago. But I’d never thought of incorporating them into a salad. After making a few iterations of my own in an effort to replicate Island Creek’s original dish, I found that the best way to get the same appealing crunch was to slice them raw. This was a time-saving discovery, as I’d originally figured they’d been blanched and shocked (that is, quickly boiled and then plunged into an ice bath to stop the cooking), which softens them and preserves their bright green color. But leaving this step out turned this salad into a no-cook dish that can be prepared and served in minutes.

It might just redefine the term “salad” for you. It certainly has for me!

Snap Pea Salad with Mint and Ricotta Salata

Serves 4

8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed and strings removed
½ small purple cabbage, halved, cored and sliced thin
6 ounces crème fraîche (or substitute Greek yogurt)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest from one lemon
4 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled fine
Salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup mint leaves, roughly chopped

1. Cut snap peas into thin slices on a bias. In medium bowl, combine sliced snap peas and purple cabbage.

2. In small bowl, whisk together crème fraîche, lemon juice and lemon zest to make a light dressing. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss to combine. Add crumbled ricotta salata, reserving some for garnishing. Season to taste with salt and pepper and more lemon juice, if desired. Add mint, reserving some for garnishing.

3. Transfer salad to serving bowl. Garnish with reserved ricotta salata and mint. Serve immediately.