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Freshen summer salads with vinaigrettes

Ahh, the month of June. The songbirds have returned with warmer temps, and bees are buzzing in the first blooms of the summer season. Farmers are hustling to get the last of the warm weather crops in, and struggling to stay ahead of the ever-present weeds. With warm weather here, a fresh, crisp salad is the perfect way to complete your day. Salads and dressings are the theme of the month here at the Carlton County Farmers Market.

A very basic recipe for vinaigrette dressing can be adapted to fit just about any meal. With the variety of flavorful oils and vinegars available these days, use your imagination to create your own special dressing. To begin, start with 1 cup of oil in your blender or food processor. With motor running, slowly add 1/4 cup of vinegar to emulsify. The amount of vinegar should be adjusted to fit your taste. At this point, let your imagination go wild! Whisk in freshly grated parmesan cheese and finely chopped Italian herbs (basil, parsley, oregano, thyme) for an Italian version. Try using fresh lemon juice and grated zest in place of the vinegar in your basic blend and whisk in freshly chopped chives and tender garlic scapes for a delicious salad bed. Top with grilled fish, chicken or pork. Garnish with fresh chive blossoms and additional lemon zest for a delicious and beautiful presentation. Or make a gourmet wedge salad. Start with a quartered or halved lettuce head (dependent on size) and top with crumbled blue or gorgonzola cheese. Drizzle a small amount of honey over cheese. Add strongly flavored herbs to your dressing, such as rosemary, savory or chervil. The wedge salad is a wonderful companion to grilled beef steak or lamb chops. Remember to dress your salad just before serving to prevent wilting. Vinaigrette dressings also make excellent marinades.

The Carlton County Farmers Market has a huge selection of garden plants still available at very reasonable prices. Heirloom tomatoes and peppers abound to fill the gaps in your garden. Or pot up a pepper plant for your deck or patio and add some spice to your life. Check with your market vendor for varieties best suited to pot culture. New at the market this year are sliced homemade bread and all natural beef and lamb. Wool products, alpaca yarn, homemade soaps, whimsical planter pots and plaques are just a few of the interesting craft items we have to offer. So check us out Tuesday afternoon in Carlton and Saturday morning in Cloquet. You’ll be greeted with a smile! Happy gardening!

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