Get ready for the perfect summer “picky” meal: summer vegetable salad with tapenade. Mix-and-match parts of the salad with crusty grilled garlic bread for an outrageous meal!

Summer Vegetable Salad with Tapenade

I might be stating the obvious here – in fact, I know that I am – but the summer vegetable scene is rockin’! And while I feel like I’m kind of a snob about local produce, the reality is that we don’t get local farm corn or tomatoes here in New England until late July and early August.

Peaches don’t arrive until mid- to late August. And THAT kills me!!

Summer Vegetable Salad with Tapenade

So for now, in these early months of the hot season, we snag as much Georgia corn and Florida tomatoes as we can get our hands on. I still generally wait until August for local peaches since the store peaches from out of state tend to be under ripe and flavorless. I’m in a constant state of disappointment.

Aaaanyway! This salad! Summer vegetable salad with tapenade. Sounds sorta basic, doesn’t it?

Well, hold onto your stripey, floppy sunhats, my friends! I’m willing to bet you’ve never seen a combo of 6 vegetables turn into such an amazing meal before.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Tapenade

This is a super-fun “picky” meal, as I like to call it. On a serving platter, you’ll lay out roasted eggplant, quickly blanched string beans, tiny rounds of those cute Kirby cucumbers, if you can find them – or maybe you grow them! – along with tender fingerling potatoes, a simple tomato-corn salad with basil, and a little bowl of a quick olive tapenade. Then you’ll sprinkle the veggies with flaky salt and black pepper, drizzle a wee bit of olive oil, and squeeze a spritz of lemon juice over the top.

The olive tapenade – or, olive salad – may seem a little out of place but it adds this salty and briny pop of flavor to the meal and blends so so well with the fresh flavor of the veggies. You can totally leave it out if you’re an olive hater (Kyle and I used to be right there with you!) but it’s quick to whip up in the food pro and lasts months in the fridge for sandwiches, bruschetta, or to add atop cod, halibut, or tilapia or grilled red meat.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Tapenade

And while this is a meatless meal, I wouldn’t hesitate to add some grilled sausage, chicken, fish, or pork chops on the side of this salad if there were meat not-optional eaters joining us. Adding some meat would stretch the servings of the salad too, from 4 to probably 6 or 8, making it perfect a perfect meal for a summer backyard party!

Summer Vegetable Salad with Tapenade

If it isn’t already obvious, we completely flipped over this summer vegetable salad with tapenade. We grilled olive oil-drizzled pieces of baguette and rubbed them down with fresh garlic and then toppled bites of them with different combinations of veggies from the salad (the tapenade with a tiny smashed fingerling was killer!).

When the bread was gone, we munched on the veggies alone and couldn’t keep our mouths shut about what an incredible meal this was. So much for not talking with our mouths full.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Tapenade

  • Prep Time: 15min
  • Cook Time: 25min
  • Yield: 4 dinner servings

Notes

While the ingredient list looks extensive, the prep is simple. While the eggplant roasts and the potatoes boil, you’ll throw the tapenade ingredients in the food processor and pulse-pulse-pulse until done. Then slice the tomatoes and cucumbers and you’re just about done! Most of the prep time is done while the cook time is happening.

Ingredients

For the salad:
1 lb eggplant, cut into 1-inch chunks
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb small-ish fingerling potatoes
4 oz string beans, stems trimmed
1 ear fresh corn, husked
3 Kirby (or other small variety) cucumbers, cut into ½-inch thick rounds
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
Juice of ½ lemon (don’t pre-juice it)
Flaky sea salt

For the tapenade:
1 1/4 cups pitted Kalamata olives
2 tbsp drained capers
½ cup fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
1 large (or 2 small) garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 oil-packed anchovy filled, chopped, or 1 ½ tsp anchovy paste

Instructions

  • 01

    Preheat oven to 400° F.

    Toss the eggplant chunks with 3 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon Kosher salt, and a few cranks of black pepper on a large baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping once, until the eggplant is soft and golden to dark brown in spots. Once finished, allow the eggplant to cool to room temperature before adding to the salad.

  • 02

    While the eggplant roasts, add the potatoes to a large, wide pot and cover with cold water – water should be an inch or two above the tops of the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer (around medium-low) and cook the potatoes, covered, for 10-15 minutes, until fork-tender.

    Toss in the corn and beans, cover, and cook for another 2 minutes.

    Drain everything in a large colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Allow them to cool to room temperature before adding to the salad.

  • 03

    While the potatoes and eggplant cook, add all of the tapenade ingredients to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse a few times until you have a coarse mixture – it should not be smooth nor easily spreadable. Transfer to a small serving bowl.

  • 04

    Hold the corn upright with the bottom of the ear inside the bottom of a bowl. With a sharp knife, cut the kernels off in long strips down the corn, making your way around to the start point, and allowing the kernels to fall into the bowl. Break the kernels up roughly with your fingers.

    Mix in the tomatoes, corn, and basil together in the bowl.

  • 05

    To assemble: Arrange the salad components on a medium-sized platter along with the bowl of tapenade. Drizzle the veggies with some olive oil and a few squeezes of lemon juice and sprinkle with flaky salt and black pepper. Serve at room temperature.

adapted from Dinner: Changing the Game, by Melissa Clark

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