Say what you will about the oppressive Houston heat--our greenhouse-like atmosphere makes for some great summer growing.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, corn, beans, melons and various greens are in abundance, while traditionally fall crops like squash, brussels sprouts, grapes figs are starting to ripen and find their way onto restaurant menus.
Because of the heat outside and the multitude of fresh fruits and vegetables as we transition from summer to fall, the next couple of months are ideal for salads. Many restaurants are introducing new dishes to their repertoires to take advantage of the fresh produce, so there's no shortage of options for local, healthy cuisine. With all the varieties available in Houston, it's hard to get bored, even if you aren't a salad person.
Here are some of the best summer salads we've found in town. Catch them while you can!
Backstreet Cafe Fried Green Tomato Salad This summer has seen a bumper crop of tomatoes, and while the local, organic varieties are sweet enough to munch on without any dressings or add-ons, it's hard to resist the allure of a classic fried green tomato. Earlier in the season Backstreet Cafe was offering a special tomato menu that featured fried green tomatoes topped with a crabmeat remoulade. A lighter version is on the regular menu, though. Arugula, blue cheese, portabella mushrooms and pecans combine with the tomatoes to create a mellow southern dish with a bit of creamy funk from the blue cheese.
Coltivare Butternut Squash Salad It's baaaaack! One of last year's 100 favorite dishes, Coltivare's pickled butternut squash salad, is back on the menu after taking a spring reprieve. The previous incarnation paired the squash with a few halves of roasted, lightly browned Brussels sprouts, whole walnuts, buttery homemade croutons, balsamic shallots and a drizzle of a balsamic vinegar reduction. This season's salad has mixed things up a bit with hibiscus leaves, walnuts, croutons and balsamic caramelized shallots. There's still the same thin, crisp pickled butternut squash, though--the true star of this salad.
Holley's Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar Local Watermelon Salad Newcomer Holley's has already impressed with its comfortable but upscale seafood dishes, and the salads at the midtown oyster bar and seafood joint are just as impressive. The summer offering makes use of fresh watermelon that's compressed into succulent, ruby-hued cubes and served with a few wisps of watercress and a few crumbles of feta cheese. Rounding out the summery salad are heirloom tomatoes--a frequent partner with watermelon during warmer months--and a lemon habanero vinaigrette with just a bit of a spicy kick.
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Punk's Simple Southern Country Cobb Salad Come to Punk's Simple Southern for the biscuit bar, stay for the surprisingly scrumptious array of summer salads. You might not expect to find light, satisfying fare at a southern soul food restaurant, but the country cobb salad (as well as a slew of other veggie dishes) provide both protein and healthy, fresh produce. A sunny side up egg, corn, country ham, creamy avocados, tomatoes, mixed greens and your choice of dressing (go for the green goddess) make for a bright, easy eat that's much lighter than the fried chicken or grits.
Roost Wedge Salad The traditional wedge gets a makeover with Roost's new menu, which debuted last week. Buttery bibb lettuce is torn and dressed with slices of red endive, candied walnuts, crumbled blue cheese and a creamy dill-infused ranch dressing. This is a gourmet version of the classic ranch-dressed bib, made all the more mouthwatering with seasonal greens and rich blue cheese. Pair it with yellow corn cakes topped with jumbo crab meat for a southern meal to take you from summer into fall.
Underbelly Cantaloupe Plate Underbelly changes its menu seasonally, and one of the newer dishes coming out of the kitchen is a cantaloupe salad. OK, so it's not a traditional salad so much as it is an amalgamation of all things juicy and ripe, but it's definitely worth a trip to the Houston institution. Cantaloupe is plated with fresh, sweet figs, grapes, feta cheese, and basil along with a little sourdough bread in place of croutons. It's light, local and rich, thanks to the combination of syrupy figs and creamy feta cheese.
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