Summer and salad are synonymous in my kitchen because salad is my staple warm weather food. I adore salads of every description, but throughout the years, one has emerged as a favorite.
Making my Mediterranean Vegetable Salad is a yearly ritual, one I recently repeated on my first weekend at the beach. A Sunday lunch of barbecued chicken just did not seem complete without it, and even the teen-agers ate it approvingly.
Baked onions give the salad a special mellow flavor that is complemented by a vinaigrette made with Italian balsamic vinegar. This special mahogany vinegar has a concentrated flavor and should be used more sparingly than other vinegars. Increasingly available in supermarkets, balsamic vinegar also can be found in gourmet food stores and department store food shops.
When the onions are baked and the peppers are roasted and sliced, the food processor's medium slicing disc efficiently handles all the tedious slicing chores.
The slicer will give perfect results, even with mushroom slices. The trick to slicing mushrooms is to insert them properly in the food chute. Always pack mushrooms in the chute on their sides, and with caps alternating directions, so they do not twist or turn during processing. Be sure to exert gentle pressure on mushrooms--just enough to evenly pass them through the disc.
Wide-mouth food chutes facilitate positioning the mushrooms properly. However, even narrow food chutes will accommodate two interlaced mushroom stacks.
Broccoli stems, onions and zucchini also are quickly sliced with the same disc. If your machine has a large capacity container, a majority of the vegetables can be processed without stopping, and it may not even be necessary to empty the container as you work.
MEDITERRANEAN VEGETABLE SALAD
2 large onions, unpeeled
3 sweet red or yellow peppers
3/4 pound broccoli, rinsed and stems peeled
1/2 pound mushrooms, wiped clean
1/2 pound small zucchini
1 small clove garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup mild olive oil
Wrap onions in foil and bake at 350 degrees 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until they can be easily pierced with knife. Let cool.
Roast peppers on gas stove burners or under broiler, turning until skins completely char. Transfer to plastic bag, then close and set aside 15 minutes. Remove pepper skins by scraping with knife. Slit peppers open, remove seeds and core. Cut peppers lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips and transfer to large serving bowl.
Place broccoli in vegetable steamer basket. Steam in large saucepan with enough water to barely touch bottom of steamer until tender-crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove and rinse with cold water, then drain well. Cut off broccoli florets and add to bowl. Set stems aside.
Unwrap, peel and quarter onions, adding any cooking juices to bowl with broccoli florets. Insert medium (4-millimeter) slicing disc in food processor. Insert onion sideways and slice with gentle push. Slice broccoli stems upright with gentle push. Stack mushrooms in chute with caps alternating and slice with gentle push. If space in container permits, insert zucchini upright and slice with firm push, then add contents of container to serving bowl. Otherwise, empty container before slicing and adding zucchini to bowl.
For vinaigrette, change to metal blade. Mince garlic by adding to machine with motor on. With machine running, slowly drizzle in vinegar and drop in mustard, salt and pepper. Add oil within 20 seconds. Process 5 seconds longer.
Mix vinaigrette thoroughly with contents of serving bowl. Let stand 2 hours, then adjust seasoning. Serve at room temperature. Makes 6 to 8 servings.