5 summer salads
The summer heat in Charleston can be brutal, but at least it brings delicious seasonal produce with it. Enjoying sweet melons, peaches, corn, juicy tomatoes and more in peak season is worth leaving the comfort of the air conditioning and venturing out into the world. Summer salads allow these staples of the season to shine, and these five Charleston restaurants are making summer produce the star of the plate.
babas on cannon
When husband and wife team Edward Crouse and Marie Stitt conceptualized the menu for babas on cannon, they drew inspiration from family recipes. Before they were married, Crouse attended one of Stitt’s family reunions, and her mother’s pickled shrimp was a favorite of the gathering. At the party, the shrimp was served with crackers, but Crouse and Stitt wanted to serve their own take on it.
“I never have it in a salad necessarily, but I think when we thought through the fare we wanted to offer at babas, we wanted it to be clean and fresh, but still filling,” said Crouse.
While the recipe for the pickled shrimp came from Stitt’s mother, Frances, the concept of the dish was also inspired by Stitt’s father, Frank. Frank Stitt is a restaurateur in Birmingham, Ala., and serves shrimp louie at a few of his restaurants, which features a large pile of shrimp, whole avocado and beautifully dressed greens.
The pickled shrimp salad at babas combines both of these inspirations and features local shrimp from Tarvin Seafood, half an avocado, greens from Limehouse produce, fresh parsley, shallots and the dressing is a mix of the shrimp pickling liquid and champagne vinaigrette.
“The season for shrimp started about a month ago, so everyone associates this salad with summer,” added Crouse.
The “Summer-ish” salad at The Daily proves that salads don’t have to be boring, and can even be a little indulgent. Executive chef and kitchen manager Mark Fivecoat wanted to step outside of the typical salad and vinaigrette combination and brought something fresh to the table for summer.
The “Summer-ish” salad features lettuce from Vertical Roots, Cherokee heirloom tomatoes, roasted rainbow carrots seasoned with aleppo pepper, sumac-chive yogurt dressing, za’atar pita crumble, benne seeds and The Daily’s signature whipped feta.
“The inspiration for me was growing up and being Italian. I have a big love for cheese and feta is one of my favorites,” said Fivecoat.
The combination of the whipped feta and sumac-chive yogurt already brings a richer flavor than the average vinaigrette, but Fivecoat adds in lemon and sherry vinegar to keep the flavors vibrant.
Instead of serving the salad with large pita chips to imitate croutons, Fivecoat prefers to pulverize the chips to get a little crunch in every bite. The juicy heirloom tomatoes scream summer, but the salad is called “Summer-ish” because of the difficulties with sourcing certain ingredients with ongoing supply chain issues. Adding the “ish” leaves room for flexibility in ingredients, but the balance of flavors in this hearty salad will remain.
Frannie & the Fox
The dishes at Frannie & the Fox are inspired by the cuisine of Italy, but incorporate ingredients from the Lowcountry. When executive chef Tim Morton was adding a seasonal item to the menu, panzanella salad was the perfect vehicle to incorporate summer produce.
Frannie & the Fox’s take on a panzanella salad is a rustic mix of toasted homemade bread, basil, tomatoes and Georgia peaches. The peaches are charred in a wood-fired oven prior to being added to the salad for an extra depth of flavor, and a portion of it is reserved to be used as the sweetener in the balsamic vinaigrette.
The remainder of the peaches are chopped in larger pieces to match the size of the bread, which is made in house using a Roman style dough. The same dough is used to make the house bread at the restaurant, and the leftovers are used to make the salad, which is how the salad is traditionally made in Italy. The rough chop of ingredients is also traditional, and for good reason.
“You only get two to three components per bite, so as you’re eating through the salad you’ll have three to four different experiences,” Morton said.
If a bread salad sounds like a salad you can get down with, head to Frannie & the Fox before peach season is over, or you will have to wait until next summer.
“Seasonal menus are usually unique every season, but I think the panzanella will come back every summer,” Morton added.
Visiting the back patio at Huriyali is like stepping into a tropical oasis, and the menu items match the summer vibes. Owners Tom and Ruchi McFall ensure that the menu is packed with veggie-centric dishes that are light enough to enjoy in the Charleston heat, but satisfying enough to keep you fueled for the rest of the day. The cafe’s signature salad is the Goddess Salad, which packs your daily serving of vegetables along with a punch of flavor from the dressing.
“We are always looking for ways to add extra umami to replace the richness of meat while keeping the dish healthy,” said Tom McFall. “We accomplish that goal by mixing things like gluten free tamari, tahini, aromatics and quality organic olive oil.”
The salad keeps you interested with a variety of textures, from the crunchy shredded beets and carrots to the juicy tomatoes and soft bed of pumpkin seed pesto rice at the bottom. To bulk up the salad even more, the cafe offers a variety of protein add-ons that are vegan and carnivore friendly. To really kick up the flavor, try adding the curry cauliflower or chicken.
If you would rather enjoy your salad between two pieces of bread, check out the veggie banh mi. The sandwich features a sourdough baguette from Tiller Baking, local pickled veggies, fresh herbs, roasted mushrooms and a spicy tangy sauce.
Church and Union
Typically a wedge salad is loaded with ranch dressing, bacon and bleu cheese, but Church and Union has a lighter take on this classic that is perfect for summer. Instead of a chunk of iceberg lettuce, the New American restaurant utilizes little gem lettuce from Vertical Roots right here in Charleston.
The wedge salad has been a staple on the menu for so long because of the variety of textures and toppings. Church and Union accomplishes this with crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds, tender braised red and gold beets, juicy grapefruit segments and crumbled cotija cheese, with a creamy, but light dressing.
“The salad dressing is a copycat of my favorite salad at my favorite Mexican restaurant from my hometown of Simi Valley, California,” said executive chef Alex Spencer. “It closed down a few years ago and it’s nice to have that taste of home while I’m at work.”
The dressing is a mix of cilantro, jalapenos, lime juice, red wine vinegar, pumpkin seeds, cotija cheese and a touch of mayonnaise for creaminess. To plate it, the little gem lettuce is simply cut in half, the toppings are scattered on top and the dressing is draped over the lettuce.
“It’s enjoyable in the summer because of the bright balance of flavor from all the toppings and the nice crisp crunch from the lettuce,” Spencer said.
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