Easy Fall Salads with Cucumbers, Fennel and Cabbage

I love fall vegetables — their earthy flavor seems so appropriate to the season. These 4 simple recipes for salads are great for September and October when the weather is still warm. They all use vegetables that are local and seasonal for New York, where I live, and the Northeast generally.

Sliced cucumberSpicy Cucumber Salad
Servings: 4 side dishes

2 medium cucumbers, preferably unwaxed
1/4 c finely chopped red onion
Hot red pepper flakes
1/4 c rice vinegar
A few mint leaves — or use cilantro instead

  1. Peel the cucumbers if they’re waxed or bitter, then thinly slice them and put them in a bowl with the chopped onions.
  2. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp pepper flakes and 1/2 tsp sugar, plus salt to taste. Add the rice vinegar and stir.
  3. Tear the mint leaves into pieces and sprinkle on top. Taste and adjust the seasonings. The salad should be tangy and salty-sweet.

Mideastern Cucumber-Yogurt Salad
Servings: 4 side dishes

1/2 c shelled walnuts
2 medium cucumbers (preferably unwaxed)
1/2 a small clove of garlic, minced
1 16-oz container Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper
A handful of dill or mint, chopped
Olive oil

  1. Put the walnuts in a small pan (not non-stick) over medium heat for a few minutes until they’re lightly browned on the bottom. Give the pan a small shake (or use a utensil) to turn the walnuts and toast them on the other side for a couple of minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Remove them from the pan and let them cool for a couple of minutes, then chop them coarsely.
  2. Peel the cucumbers if they’re waxed or bitter, then chop them and put them in a bowl with the yogurt and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, add the dill or mint and mix. Add the walnuts and mix again.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil.

Fennel and Parmesan Salad
Servings: 4 side dishes

1 large fennel (or 2 medium)
A chunk of parmesan
Olive oil

  1. Cut off the tops of the fennel. (Reserve a few fronds for garnish if you’d like.) Trim the base. Pull off the outer layer if it has brown spots or looks dry. Thinly slice the fennel from top to bottom. Arrange on a platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Thinly slice the parmesan. You want enough slices to more or less cover the fennel (6-10 slices depending on size).
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon on top. Garnish with the fronds, if you kept them.

Variations: Mix a cup of chick peas (skins removed) in with the fennel for a hearty salad that can serve as a main course, with crusty bread on the side. Leave out the parmesan for a vegan version.

Tangy Slaw
Servings: 4-6 side dishes

1/2 small cabbage (Napa if available; otherwise any kind)
2 sliced scallions (both green and white parts)
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
Hot red pepper flakes
Cumin (optional)
2 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1/4 c chopped cilantro (optional)

  1. Lay the half cabbage on the chopping board, cut side down, and thinly slice. Cut the slices crosswise once or twice for smaller pieces if you like. Put in a bowl.
  2. Prepare the dressing: Put the scallions in a separate, small bowl with the lemon juice. Add 1/4 tsp pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp cumin and salt to taste. Mix together. Add the sour cream and mayo and mix again. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  3. Pour the dressing over the cabbage and mix. Sprinkle with cilantro if using.


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